The TV icon on pregnancy, handling 2020 and how she’s 'unblurring' the lines between her professional and private life.
Laura Whitmore has joined your Zoom meeting. It’s a Monday morning and the TV presenter is about 7 minutes early for our call. I’m caught a little off guard. No one is ever early! When I finally manage to connect, she’s sitting calmly in her home-studio, looking fresh-faced and unphased.
Even through the grainy Zoom video, I can sense that there’s something disarming about her nature. Her personality is the kind that was made for interviewing the likes of Rihanna and Yung Blud, just a couple of names in a long list of guests that she’s had the pleasure of speaking to over the course of her career. Her nature tricks you into believing you’ve known her for years. There’s a feeling of familiarity, but I guess that’s the famous Irish charm!
This year has been a bit of a whirlwind for the 35-year-old. Between presenting Love Island at the start of the year to finally finishing the book that she’s been working on for the past four years (No One Can Change Your Life Except For You), the presenter is also poised to take on her next big role: motherhood! “It feels so strange actually talking about it!” She says after months of keeping her news under wraps (or oversized jumpers!)
For her exclusive HUNGER interview, she wanted to share her news on her own terms…
To start off with, maybe you could tell me a bit about what this year has been like for you!
It’s mad when you think about it. It’s been the longest year. Love Island happened at the beginning of this year, and that felt like a lifetime ago. It’s been a really hard year. Throughout the tragedies and really hard life experiences that have happened, I have tried to stay positive and take the best out of it. For me, and for people in my life, I feel resilience is something that has really come through this year. Being at home a little bit more isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially when you’re pregnant. I moved to London 12 years ago, and I feel like it has been a rollercoaster since. You never really feel like you’re present, you’re always thinking about the next interview, or the next thing you have to do. You just never look back. Someone said that 2020 is about hindsight, and it really is. It’s allowed us to look back on tough times but also good times. I’m trying to take this year as a real learning curve.
It’s given me a fresh perspective and the chance to think about my plans for the future and my goals. Have you found something similar?
Big time. I started writing a book four years ago. I had loads of ideas and it was always on the backburner and I’ve finally finished that project during lockdown. It’s got a publication date, it’s coming out in March, we even just this week signed off on the front cover. I don’t know if I would have finished that if it wasn’t for lockdown. Also, even though I can’t see my family, or go and meet people, I’m talking to people more. Even cooking dinner! That has become a routine in our house. We never had that before. We’d just eat if we were hungry or you’d eat on-the-go, I’m just finding these things where it’s like ‘I really want to do this’.
One of the big positives from this year; you’re pregnant! Congratulations. How does it feel?
It’s really surreal. It’s mad. Nothing and no one ever tells you that it is your own personal experience. One thing I’ve learned is that everyone has an opinion: what you should be doing, or how you should be feeling. I found the first three months really hard because I was very sick and nauseous. There were a few times on live radio where I actually got physically sick during the show. I had one guest in the studio and to this day she still doesn’t know that I’m pregnant, and I think she just thought I was hungover. I had to run out of the studio and she had to ask herself her own question live on air because I had disappeared! I can’t even describe it because every week is so different. And just trying to do everything! I’m someone who doesn’t like to stop so work has been busy. We were filming Celeb Juice in the studio. When we film that show, it’s such a show that feels like a night out. Everyone is drinking around me. I’ve filmed a whole season of Celeb Juice sober, and nobody knew!
Is this something that you’d be planning for a while?
What I’ve learnt in life is that planning doesn’t work. Things just happen. Nothing this year has been a plan! I think everything happens for a reason, as soon as you try to control things, in some ways that is out of your hands. I feel very lucky and blessed. As a timing thing, it probably wasn’t something that we thought about, it was a nice surprise. So I’m due at the beginning of next year and I think things just fall into place. Winter Love Island was never going to be able to happen in Cape Town next year because of COVID-19, Iain [Stirling’s] tour was postponed, he was supposed to be away the whole year, and now everything has been moved back until after March. We couldn’t have planned that. So we’re going to be a home a lot more for this particular time. Even the radio show that I do every week, and now I’m doing it at home. I can wear my slippers which is great!
Has everything gone smoothly so far?
Yes! I just feel so lucky to live in this age. We found out [the sex] quite early because they can do a test called a Harmony test, which basically looks out for things that could be possibly wrong with your baby and I think, like most expectant parents, we were quite anxious and worried so we did that and they were like ‘do you want to find out the sex’ and it was like ‘what!?’ so we found out quite early. For me it wasn’t about the sex, it was just about whether the baby was OK. You constantly have that fear. I think there are a lot of things that are important to keep to yourself. Even with my miscarriage, it took me a year before I wanted to speak about that, and that’s OK because you need to get your head around things as well. I think there are a lot of things with our relationship that we’ve chosen to keep quiet and chosen to share with friends. Having a baby is very hard to keep quiet because your body and your lifestyle changes. It’s really hard at the start for anyone. Not just me because I wanted to keep it out of the public sphere, but any woman who is worried and trying to keep it quiet until she’s 12 weeks. Those three months were so hard because I was still working so much and people wouldn’t understand why I was tired or why I was sick, or why I wasn’t drinking. You’d be in situations where everyone is having a few drinks and you can’t have that drink or people don’t trust you because you’re not drinking and that pressure is really hard.
Every woman has the right to privacy, especially when it comes to pregnancy, but that is somewhat compromised when you’re in the public eye. I imagine it’s been quite hard to handle at points.
I think for anyone! I’ve got friends who got married in the past year or two and everyone asks them ‘when are you going to have a baby?’ I just think that is a really private question and you have to be really careful asking that. People have asked me that for years. I’ve also been misquoted. There was an article I saw when I knew I was pregnant that said that I didn’t want kids! I’ve never said that! And I’m sitting here knowing I’m pregnant! I think we need to be really careful about putting words into women, and mens, mouths. I think if someone has been married or someone hasn’t had kids, you don’t know what someone is going through privately. I’m extra cautious because I guess my job is a little bit more public. My job and personal life gets blurred some of the time. It’s made me think twice. So if you’re out and your friend isn’t drinking, don’t just go ‘oh are you pregnant!?’ because maybe she is or maybe she’s been trying and she can’t, so we have to be really careful about different things that we assume.
With regards to speaking openly about your miscarriage, I imagine that was very hard for you but has helped a lot of women.
I was actually quite overwhelmed by the response. I just had so many DMs, and women coming up to me in the street and even women in the industry. I can say it because she spoke on my podcast, but Katherine Ryan had gone through a similar experience after me and she said that when she was googling she said that she found my article and that it was really helpful to her. Similar to pregnancy, people don’t really tell you what really happens in a miscarriage. No one tells you how long it takes, or what you go through, everyone’s experience is different and so hearing all of those different voices is really important as well.
Speaking about privacy in general, how do you think we protect people in the public eye a bit more than they have been in the past?
It’s a real tough one because I have this really weird love/hate relationship with it. I think when I first started out in the industry, I accepted a lot. Even from girls being upskirted, that was so common. There were so many pictures of girls getting out of cars. I remember getting out of a car once and seeing a photographer on the ground, and I remember thinking ‘well I’ve seen this happen to everyone, this is just part of the business, so you kind of have to get used to it’, and it took me a long time before I was like ‘hold on! That’s fucking shit! Like, that’s not on!’ There’s a brilliant girl called Gina Martin who ended up changing the law and bringing in the voyeurism act bill. Sometimes it takes women talking to each other to induce change.
Finally, what’s on the agenda for 2021? Aside from motherhood of course!
It’s hard to plan! I wrote the book before I knew I was pregnant so I’ve written a different introduction for it now. So that is out in March which is around the same time that I am due, which wasn’t planned but, you know, it will be a busy month! I’m not very good at sitting still and doing nothing! Hopefully we will do the next series of Celeb Juice! I’m looking forward to being able to have a drink again. Love Island is back. All the prep is happening for the summer. I know there have been so many applications for it. I loved watching I’m a Celebrity in Wales, but it just wouldn’t work with Love Island!
No One Can Change Your Life Except For You by Laura Whitmore is out March 4th 2021.
17 December 2020