ALL GROWN UP

HOW GLEN­ROE’S YOUNGEST STAR RE­TURNED TO SHOWBIZ

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - RISING STAR -

Blath­naid Treacy has a good look. The 27-year-old ra­dio and TV pre­sen­ter, face of RTE2’s Two Tube and rov­ing re­porter at Elec­tric Pic­nic, does all her own styling, and the day we meet, she is work­ing a 1970s kind of vibe, with a camel­coloured suede jacket, retro striped T-shirt and a denim mini. It’s Sofia Cop­pola’s Vir­gin Sui­cides, with an edge.

In gen­eral, there is a bit of edge to Blath­naid. You don’t spot it im­me­di­ately — it’s half-hid­den be­neath her good man­ners and gen­eral en­thu­si­asm — but it’s there al­right, and a good thing too. It sets her apart, makes her be­liev­able when she says she wants “longevity” in her ca­reer, and keeps things in­ter­est­ing as we chat our way through her life and work so far. I get the im­pres­sion that, for all her smiles and fresh-faced talk of “amaz­ing”, “in­cred­i­ble” op­por­tu­ni­ties, this is some­one force­ful, some­one to be reck­oned with.

First, we deal with Glen­roe. Blath­naid, at the age of three months, be­came the new­est star of the long-run­ning drama, play­ing Biddy and Mi­ley’s daugh­ter, Denise Byrne. “I think there was a na­tion­wide search for this baby,” she says when I ask how that all came about. “It was in all the pa­pers; I know tons of peo­ple in my class au­di­tioned for it. They were film­ing it in Ard­more stu­dios in Bray, and in Kil­coole down the road, so I think they were look­ing for a lo­cal kid. My mum brought me in for one of the au­di­tions, and the rest is history. I had a curl on the top of my head, and Mick Lally, who played Mi­ley, had curly hair, and I wasn’t cry­ing. All the other ba­bies were cry­ing, and I wasn’t. They must have thought ‘we can work with this’.”

Blath­naid car­ried on for 13 years, work­ing her way through var­i­ous sto­ry­lines. “By the end, I was do­ing one or two days a week, af­ter school,” she re­calls. “I was up in the li­brary in RTE re­cently and found some old episodes, and there I was . . . I was cring­ing!” But at the time, she says, “It was re­ally, re­ally nor­mal for me. And it fin­ished at a good age, just while you’re get­ting pretty awk­ward, com­ing into those teenage years.”

Be­cause she was ever un­com­fort­able with the in­evitable recog­ni­tion. “Be­ing in

the show, be­ing on the set, was so much fun. The thing I found hard about it was peo­ple recog­nis­ing me on the street. I re­ally hated that. I was only a kid, and quite a shy kid. I didn’t know how to han­dle it at all. We’d be on hol­i­day in Por­tu­gal, at the pool, and word would get around the com­plex, and then it would start. At pri­mary school, peo­ple would slag me — this is Ire­land, we’re a na­tion of slag­gers. It was an­noy­ing, but they weren’t bul­ly­ing me, it was just an­noy­ing and repet­i­tive. And the theme tune has fol­lowed me around for­ever. I love it now, but it used to be so an­noy­ing.”

And so, when the show fin­ished, “for the next 10 years I just wanted to be a nor­mal per­son, I didn’t like be­ing recog­nised”. She fin­ished sec­ondary school — first, Co­laiste Iosagain, then switch­ing to Loreto in Bray — then UCD, where she stud­ied Ir­ish and Ar­chae­ol­ogy. She knew she wanted to get back into pro­duc­tion, “but I wasn’t sure what area”.

A friend asked her to lend a hand as a run­ner on a short film he was mak­ing. “I went to the set and went, ‘Oh my God, I love this, I want to come back to it’. The ca­bles run­ning across the floor, peo­ple say­ing ‘Be quiet on set!’ — it brought me back to that time in my life. It’s so ex­cit­ing, es­pe­cially if it’s live. You can’t get that adren­a­line any­where else.” Yes, I say, and that’s partly why most peo­ple don’t want to do it, to which Blath­naid an­swers with a laugh, “I love that kind of pres­sure”.

And so she did a year’s course in film-and-TV pro­duc­tion in Bray, then ap­plied for a job on TG4’s O Tholg go Tolg, a couch-surf­ing travel show. “They needed two girls who knew their way round a cam­era and spoke Ir­ish. I ini­tially went for the cam­era-op­er­at­ing role. Even­tu­ally, they said, ‘We want you to present it. We think you’d be great . . .’ ”

And so she did. “My­self and Laura O’Con­nell, the cam­era op­er­a­tor and co-pre­sen­ter, went off and trav­elled all over. We went to Mace­do­nia, Sara­jevo, Mon­tene­gro; we stayed in Ger­many with a load of clowns, and on a farm in Ro­ma­nia where we had to make our own din­ner: lit­er­ally, pick our own peas and car­rots, kill a chicken. That was men­tal. I couldn’t do it, so the guy we were stay­ing with did it. He killed it, and you know the way peo­ple say ‘run­ning around like a head­less chicken?’ It’s ac­tu­ally true — it was run­ning around for about half an hour with­out its head.” Did she still eat it? “Yes. It would have been a waste oth­er­wise.”

When that fin­ished, Blath­naid won­dered about mov­ing to Lon­don, but de­cided to wait un­til O Tholg go Tolg aired, “to see if any­thing came from that. It did, thank God”. The day be­fore the show went out, she got a call from RTE, ask­ing her to au­di­tion for Two Tube. “I did the au­di­tion on a Wed­nes­day, O Tholg go Tolg aired on the Thurs­day, and RTE rang on Fri­day and said ‘Can you start to­day?’ ”

She is now into the fourth year of Two Tube, a weekday en­ter­tain­ment show aimed at teens, which she co-presents with Stephen Byrne, and she’s lov­ing it. “I got to in­ter­view Jim Car­rey last year,” she says, “and Har­ri­son Ford — that was in­cred­i­ble, be­cause I’m ob­sessed with Star Wars — Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, Jen­nifer Anis­ton.” Us­ing Two Tube as a plat­form, Blath­naid has man­aged to lever­age her un­doubted tal­ent — on-screen she is very watch­able, fizzing with energy and fun, al­ways able to ask the smart ques­tion — into spots pre­sent­ing one-off mu­sic events, such as the Me­te­ors with Eoghan McDer­mott, the Euro­pean Bor­der Break­ers Award (EB­BAs), hosted by Jools Hol­land, and Elec­tric Pic­nic.

“I was knock­ing on doors in RTE,” she says frankly. “It’s your own ca­reer, you’re the only one who’s go­ing to do any­thing with it. You’ve got to put your­self for­ward, peo­ple aren’t go­ing to come run­ning to you. The first thing was the Elec­tric Pic­nic show last year, where I was a rov­ing re­porter. It’s the per­fect job for me, I heard they were do­ing it, and I said ‘I need to be on that show . . .’ I don’t know if that twisted their arm or they al­ready had me in mind, but then the pro­ducer got in touch.”

Fes­ti­vals, she says, are “my thing. All my friends are mu­si­cians, my fam­ily are mu­si­cians. My broth­ers are in a band called Columbia Mills, they’re very up-and­com­ing at the mo­ment.” Her boyfriend, Char­lie Mooney, is also a mu­si­cian; he plays jazz. But more than that, she will not say. “I’m not go­ing to talk about my boyfriend, if that’s cool,” she says. “I’ ll keep it pri­vate.” So she doesn’t wish to be part of a celebrity cou­ple, I take it? “Oh my God! Oh Je­sus! No!”

Blath­naid is the youngest of six, with four broth­ers and one sis­ter. Her fa­ther is an air­craft engi­neer, and her mother, af­ter rais­ing six kids, went on to be a sec­ondary school sec­re­tary and spe­cial needs as­sis­tant. Apart from her dad, they all sing. “My mum sings, my sis­ter sings, we’re not all in bands, but we all love mu­sic. Christ­mas is in­sane in our house — we all stay up un­til 5am, singing.” Blath­naid’s mu­sic cre­den­tials are also much in ev­i­dence in the ra­dio show she presents on Spin1038 on Satur­day nights. “It’s called Satur­day Night Takeover, and it’s on from 6.45pm to 9.45pm, so you still get the day to your­self, and it’s nice to have another string to your bow.”

So she’s work­ing Mon­day to Fri­day on Two Tube, and Satur­day evenings at Spin1038. Does it feel like a heavy work­load? “I don’t feel over­worked. I think now is the time to work your ass off. It’s a funny in­dus­try. Ev­ery show has a shelf-life, and you need to al­ways be think­ing ahead, look­ing to see what else you can do.”

And, I say, if you’re think­ing of maybe hav­ing kids later, now is the time to put the hard work in. At this ob­ser­va­tion, Blath­naid nearly vom­its. “Oh Je­sus Christ! You’re mak­ing me choke,” she says. With ex­cite­ment or hor­ror, I ask, know­ing full well what the an­swer will be. “With hor­ror! That won’t be for a long time . . . give me a few years.”And then, with a hint of steel, she adds, “I find that re­ally funny, how women are al­ways asked about fam­ily. Guy pre­sen­ters are never asked. Men are never asked. It’s weird.”

Right then, a line from In­side Out, the hit fam­ily film of the sum­mer, pops into my head: “Sir! Re­port­ing high lev­els of sass!” Yes, Blath­naid has some sass, and thank good­ness. It makes her who she is. And then, later, she tells me how hard she has worked for that sass, and the con­fi­dence that goes with it, and I ad­mire her all the more for it, but first, she lays to rest the kids ques­tion once and for all: “I’m not plan­ning on hav­ing kids any­time soon. I will, in the fu­ture, hope­fully, but not any­time soon. I’m young, I’m fo­cussing on my ca­reer and hav­ing a great time. That’s why I’m happy to be work­ing six days a week. I don’t have any other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and I love what I do, my job is my hobby, so it doesn’t feel like work.”

In the years since school, Blath­naid has re­alised she has a touch of dys­lexia. “It is some­thing I’ve come to re­alise my­self. It was never prop­erly spot­ted. It was missed in school. I wouldn’t say I’m hor­ren­dously dyslexic, it’s just that the letters move around in cer­tain words, and num­bers move around. I’ ll go to the air­port and try to find gate num­ber 13, but I end up go­ing to gate 31.”

Even mild dys­lexia can, as we all know now but didn’t un­til quite re­cently, have an ef­fect on self-con­fi­dence, and, sure

‘I find that re­ally funny, how women are al­ways asked about fam­ily. Guy pre­sen­ters are never asked. It’s weird’

enough: “I used to think, ‘I’m so bad at read­ing’, even though ac­tu­ally I wasn’t; there was a rea­son why I couldn’t. It knocks your con­fi­dence big-time. If you have to stand in front of peo­ple and speak, or you’ve to read an ex­tract from a book, you think, ‘Oh Je­sus, how am I go­ing to do this?’ and you end up mak­ing more mis­takes be­cause you’re ner­vous.”

We talk about Mal­colm Glad­well’s book David and Go­liath, in which he writes about the ad­van­tages, the de­sir­able com­pen­sa­tions, that can come about be­cause of dys­lexia. Does she see any­thing like that in her own life?

“As I’ve got­ten older, I’m def­i­nitely not as shy any more. I used to be re­ally shy as a kid, and I’m not shy at all any more. I have that at­ti­tude — screw it. So maybe that could be what hap­pened? I just have thrown that all away.

“Now I tell peo­ple ‘ Oh, I’m dyslexic, by the way.’ What’s the point in be­ing shy? In be­ing em­bar­rassed? Why give a crap what some­one else is go­ing to think about you? Do what­ever you want to do, and have fun. Peo­ple are al­ways go­ing to have opin­ions, and who cares? The mo­ment is here and then it’s go­ing to be gone, like that,” she snaps her fin­gers. “Let go of all your in­hi­bi­tions and just chill. If you think some­thing is go­ing to be re­ally em­bar­rass­ing, just do it.”

In fact, this ‘just do it’ thing is one of the ma­jor mo­ti­va­tors in her ca­reer: “If some­one asks me to do some­thing and I feel a tiny bit weird, a bit anx­ious about it, that’s the time to say yes. If I do it, I know that I’ve con­quered it and I won’t be anx­ious about it any more.”

In­creas­ingly, Blath­naid is tipped as a ‘ris­ing star’ in RTE. How does that make her feel? Any ap­pre­hen­sion?

“It’s great that I’m get­ting recog­ni­tion, that’s amaz­ing. If no one was say­ing any­thing about you, that’d be re­ally sad. It’s amaz­ing when peo­ple say that. They’re say­ing they think I’m good and that I’m go­ing to go some­where, which is bril­liant to hear. Hope­fully they’re right. And I’m go­ing to keep work­ing my butt off so that I have longevity in my ca­reer.”

What about be­ing a role model to the teenage girls who watch her on TV? “It’s kind of a weird one,” she ad­mits. “It’s a re­ally im­por­tant job that we have, my­self and Stephen. I re­spect the job that I’ve been given — we’re pre­sent­ing a show that’s aimed at teenagers and young adults. I was at an awards show and a woman came up to me, one of the wait­ers, and she said, ‘ My daugh­ter watches you all the time on Two Tube — she loved your nose ring, and she got her nose pierced.’ ” Blath­naid’s re­sponse was to say, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” although the woman didn’t mind. Just don’t get a tat­too, I say. “I have a tat­too,” Blath­naid flashes back with a laugh, adding, “Its only a small, lit­tle one.”

How­ever, what she does take se­ri­ously is her po­si­tion as a woman in the media: “I feel strongly about why women are in the media, and that it should be be­cause you’re tal­ented, not be­cause you’re tak­ing your clothes off. I have six nieces and three neph­ews, and I would hate for them to open a mag­a­zine and for me to be there in a bikini. Be­cause, why would I be wear­ing a bikini? I’m in the media be­cause I’m a pre­sen­ter and I get to speak to cool peo­ple, so why would I be in a bikini?

“I’d hate for young girls to see that and think, ‘Oh, that’s how you get fa­mous, take off your clothes’. That’s ridicu­lous, you use your tal­ent.” Then she says, “That’s just how I feel. I’m not speak­ing for ev­ery­one, only my­self. And I don’t want you to turn it into a big, huge thing.”

Be­cause re­ally, that’s not what drives her. What drives her, its clear, is the sheer, unadul­ter­ated fun of her job. “Meet­ing re­ally in­ter­est­ing peo­ple, get­ting to pick their brains. Get­ting to ac­cess all ar­eas. I ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery sec­ond of it. The ex­cite­ment hasn’t worn off at all.” twotube.ie spin1038.com Cover Dress, Zara. Shoes, Top­shop Con­tents page Top; skirt, both Marks & Spencer. Shoes, Top­shop Page 12 Dress, Self-por­trait, BT2. Ear­rings, Stella & Dot Page 14 Shirt, Alexa Chung for AG, BT2. Shorts; shoes, both Top­shop. Ear­rings, Stella & Dot This page Blouse, Marks & Spencer. Skirt; shoes, both Top­shop

Stella & Dot, see stel­ladot.com Pho­tograped by Kip Car­roll Styled by Li­adan Hynes Hair by Lee St­in­ton; make-up by Eilis Downey, both Brown Sugar, 50 South Wil­liam St, D2, tel: (01) 616-9967, or see brown­sugar.ie Pho­tographed at 37 Daw­son St, D2, tel: (01) 902-2908 or see 37daw­son­street.ie

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