BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
HOW TV MADE LORRAINE KEANE HORRIBLE TO BE AROUND
‘It got me wondering,” says Lorraine Keane, of her husband Peter Devlin's move into radio presenting earlier this year. “He got that and I got a bit jealous. I thought, ‘Hmm, I wouldn’t mind a bit of that.’ And it’s such a strong medium, especially in this country, so I think, yeah, a radio show might be a great idea.”
The day we meet, it is almost exactly four years since Lorraine Keane quit as anchorwoman of Xpose on TV3 and she’s starting to give some serious thought to what she wants. She’s not laying out her stall, exactly, or pitching for a specific job — though she jokes that a weekday-morning radio show, while daughters Emelia, 9, and Romy, 6, are at school would be ideal, thanks — but she’s at a point where she can see a shift on the horizon. With Emelia turning 10 in September, and with 10 years of being a parent under her belt, Lorraine knows that the teens are going to gallop up and that the days of the girls wanting to be with her all day, every day, will disappear. And she knows also that her desire to perform is still there. It has been fed to some extent, since she left Xpose, with writing a book, with a great deal of charity work and with last year’s foray into musical theatre, but now, Lorraine can feel her appetite for some real action reasserting itself.
“But now that I’ve had a life, I wonder what it would be like to go back working full-time again,” Lorraine says, with a laugh. “I wonder what it would be like to just hand over my life again? And it’s only really since the beginning of this year that I’ve thought, ‘I do miss it, I do miss that part of me.’ But that makes me glad, too, because it’s a privileged position to be in where I still like what I chose to be my career.”
The last time I interviewed Lorraine, six years ago, she had landed her fantasy job. Af ter 10 years as enter tainment correspondent on TV3, her dream of a dedicated entertainment show, with her at the helm, had been realised in the form of Xpose. She was excited, but in a way that seemed calmly confident. In that regard, she was not much different the first time I encountered her, maybe 16 years ago, when she was but a girl working for AA Roadwatch and being slagged off for her pronunciation of “raahnd-abaaht”. As part of a feature I was writing for an Irish magazine, Lorraine took cooking lessons from a Cordon Bleu cook and hosted a dinner party to show off her newly acquired skills. She was utterly unacquainted with the workings of a kitchen, but Lorraine was gregarious, game, good fun and going places. She was ambitious and she didn’t apologise for it, and while that drive was undimmed as she embarked upon Xpose in 2007, there was one major alteration. In 2007, she was a mother with two kids.
“Xpose wasn’t just working full-time,” says Lorraine, “it was overtime, too. It wasn’t just Monday to Friday, there were things to cover at the weekend, because it was a monster to feed with material and it was under-resourced, for what it was. I was a wreck. And it was a case of be careful what you wish for, because I had wanted that for so long.
“And the first year was fine, but the second year was tough. The first year, Romy was just a teeny-weeny baby, and when they’re that small, they just need someone to change their nappy and feed them and entertain them occasionally, but in the second year, when she started to get more aware that I was going to work, that was when the problems started. Romy’s a very different child to Emelia. Emelia is more like Peter. She seems shy, but she’s ac tually quie tly confident. Romy’s more like me — insecure and needy. She loves love and we feed each other’s insecurities all the time.”
It was a case, perhaps, that their similarities allowed Lorraine to understand very clearly what Romy wanted — which was Lorraine. Then, Lorraine could understand, in turn, what she needed, which was Emelia and Romy. “The whole thing tipped pretty drastically in the wrong direction,” Lorraine explains. “I was cross and I was stressed and even when I was with the kids I wasn’t enjoying them. I was a wagon to Peter and I was horrible to be with. My career mattered to me, but if everything else was falling apart, then what was the point?”
At the time, none of the other Xpose presenters had children. This didn’t mean that they didn’ t appreciate Lorraine’s position, though — she concedes no one really gets it until they’re living it — but she felt that it meant she had more to prove. “I was nearly volunteering for overtime,” says
Lorraine, who is currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, with an attitude of “whatever works for you”.
“I think women are the most amazing creatures in the world,” says Lorraine, “but just because we can do everything, that doesn’t mean we have to. I’m a control freak. I love to be busy. I give everything 110 per cent. Peter says I think there are 28 hours in the day and it’s true. I think I can do six things in a day, when really I can only do three and a half, and then I’m always late, always rushing, always apologising. But I think I like stress — I think I feed off it.”
Back at TV3, however, something had to give. She stresses that there was no pressure from the management to work as hard as she did and Lorraine insists that any pressure was self-administered, but she just couldn’t do it any longer.
“I have this lovely wardrobe of clothes, you know?” Lorraine explains, “And it’s trivial, but that’s what I love, I love clothes and dressing up and fashion and all of that. But back then, looking at my wardrobe of gorgeous dresses, it made me angry. I almost became allergic to the thing I love.
“I suppose it was because the job was allowing me to afford all those clothes, but it was a huge trade-off. And I was ridiculous, I never wore the same outfit twice in two seasons of Xpose, and that was my own crazy decision. But I had all this material stuff and so little of what was important.”
When Lorraine’s husband, musician and producer Peter Devlin — of The Devlins — started to get work as a musical director, on RTE’s Class Act and The All-Ireland Talent
Show, she saw a chance to make a change. “I saw a gap and I squeezed through it,” says Lorraine, “because I could see that if I didn’t the girls would suddenly be 12 and 15 and I’d be full of regret.”
The clothes shopping had to slow down, obviously, Lorraine says, but she had squared that with herself long before she quit Xpose. It was strange when the salary stopped dropping into her bank account, she admits, as someone who had worked full-time since she was 18, but it was OK. “I’m Lorraine Keane until my bank account is
‘Back then, looking at my wardrobe of gorgeous dresses, it made me angry. I almost became allergic to the thing I love’
empty,” she says with a laugh, “but then I’m Mrs Devlin, no problem.”
The summer of 2009 was heaven, Lorraine says. The four of them went to Disneyland and spent a stretch in France, where Peter’s parents lived at the time, and she loved the long break, after, “you know, 20 days’ holiday a year for so many years.”
But September came quickly, and Emelia went back to school at the Lycee Francaise near their home in south Co Dublin and Lorraine had a momentary panic of ‘what next?’ The school wanted to take in Romy that autumn — the French way is for children to start at the age of three — but Lorraine wouldn’t hand her over. As any mother will testify, with the second, the handing over is harder, because you know what you’re giving up.
Lorraine wanted to prolong the time with Romy but, she admits, she gave a huge sigh of relief when a contract with Garnier hair colour came through. She hadn’t intended working at all, she says, but it has worked out that she has been tipping away for the past four years and that has suited her.
“Women have tough decisions to make, all through their lives,” says Lorraine. “I remember asking my friend Caroline Downey once, if it’s really possible to have it all,” Lorraine continues. “And she said, ‘Yes, you can.’ And I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m a failure, I’m a bad person, I couldn’t manage.’ But then Caroline followed on, ‘You can, but not all at the same time.’ And she’s so right. It probably argues with the Lean In rule, but I think it’s more true.”
So, Lorraine hasn’t had it all, but she’s had her fingers in a lot of pies over these past four years. There’s the supermarket voice-over work; her book about her days on the red carpet; a line of clothes that she is designing; and the charity work, which means a huge amount to her.
She began travelling to the developing world with Trocaire almost four years ago — “when I couldn’t say I was too busy with work and had to put my money where my mouth is” — and she is currently finishing a documentary about her trip, earlier this year, to Guatemala. Further, Lorraine is involved with L auralynn House, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and World Vision. “How could you say no to any of them?” she says.
Then, last year, came musical theatre, a move that few would have predicted for Lorraine, even though she is keen to point out that in the UK and the US, television personalities regularly try out the theatre. “I think I was the first to take that chance
over here,” she observes, “and the reaction was a bit, like, ‘The state of her.’”
Lorraine was the bawdy Liza, aka Bessie Botox character in Girls Night: The Musical and she loved it, although her singing-anddancing debut on The Late Late Show wasn’t the highlight of the experience. “Performing on the Late Late was never a box I wanted to tick,” she says. “Being interviewed on the
Late Late, I have done that over the years and, fine, love it, it ’s a huge honour. But performing? Jesus Christ, it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my whole life and I don’t think I enjoyed it. But it went OK, I think, even if at one stage I went left as the others went right.”
The four-month tour of Ireland was fantastic, though, Lorraine says, and it gave her a taste of something she liked and something she had forgotten a little bit. “The live buzz was amazing,” she confesses. “And the standing ovations! Wow! They’re seriously addictive. I can see how people lose the run of themselves. Peter used to say afterwards that even when I made the dinner I expected a round of applause.
“I did it for me,” adds Lorraine. “I knew there’d be loads of people out there saying loads of things, some of them unsavoury, but you have to get on and live your own life. And that’s one of the best things about getting older, the fact that you don’t care any more what other people think. Within reason, obviously.”
If that’s the aspect of getting older that Lorraine likes, what does she dislike, then? “The rest!” she exclaims with a laugh. “All of it. But as much as there are bits of me that I’d like to change and enhance and lift, I wouldn’t want my girls to think that was the thing to do. So you look at Helen Mirren and you look at Joan Rivers and you think, ‘Who would I rather be?’”
The idea of having more children is also ver y much something that Lorraine considers. She’s young enough and she’s broody enough. Her mother had seven children — Lorraine is the second eldest and her youngest siblings are in their 20s — so it’s not inconceivable to her. That said, she’s hoping that an offer to babysit her sister’s four daughters, including the four-week-old baby, for a weekend will get the broodiness out of her system. “We’ll see,” says Lorraine. “If it happened, and I was pregnant, I wouldn’t be disappointed at all.”
Lorraine says she’d go back to sleepless nights and changing nappies in the blink of an eye, and I don’t doubt her, but, at the same time, she’d go back to broadcasting just as easily and happily. She talks about how much she loves that her fanbase includes kids her daughters’ ages and women her granny’s age and, while Lorraine says she has no fear of being forgotten, she can’t but be aware that, in her business, memories are short.
Peter Devlin’s radio gig, with Radio Nova, came out of a co-presenting job he did with Lorraine last year, when they stood in for Sean Moncrieff on Newstalk. “It was brilliant. I loved it,” says Lorraine, “though you’d have to ask Peter for his side of that.” She admits, however, that she thought that she’d be the pro, showing Peter the ropes, while he trailed in her years-in-showbiz wake. “But there he was, quietly confident again,” she jokes. “Took to it like a duck to water and got his show off the back of it. But it’s a great show and he’s brilliant at it and it’s Saturday e venings, so we still have our family weekends.
“Perfect, really,” Lorraine says with a laugh. “If I had the weekdays slot, now it would be just perfect.”
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