Erin shows her fighting spirit
Erin Mcgregor went from a crisis of confidence to lighting up ‘Dancing with the Stars’. She talks to Liadan Hynes about winning a role in panto and introducing brother Conor to ‘The Secret’
ILAST met Erin Mcgregor a few days before it was revealed that she would be a contestant on 2018’s Dancing with the Stars. It was her first big shoot. She was excited, she confided on the day, but also terrified. “I was a nervous wreck,” she declares now with a smile. Erin was coming out of maternity leave to perform on the RTE show, fulfilling a secret life-long dream to become a dancer.
Erin, now 37, is tiny, dressed in Balenciaga sock trainers, black joggers and a hoodie. The eldest of the three Mcgregor siblings (Conor is the youngest, sister Aoife is in the middle), she can do loud and showbiz-y when the occasion requires, but oneon-one she’s a real girls’ girl, a cosy chatty sort. She’s the type of woman with whom it is easy to get quickly intimate in conversation, to compare wardrobe notes, parenting struggles, body insecurities.
“I think when people see me on telly, the showbiz side of me might come out, and they don’t realise that I suffer from anxiety a lot,” she reveals now, curled up in her seat over her coffee. “Because they’re seeing this image that might not look anxious. But I hold those nerves up until the last moment, this feeling of ‘can I do it? I can’t do it’. With a mental strength her brother knows a thing or two about, Erin talks herself back down. “In those few seconds I’ll say ‘come on Erin, it’s going to be OK. This is what you want, let’s do it’.”
She is an extrovert, she says, but then wonders if that is something she does “to try and mask the insecurity; ‘Oh look at me, this is great’, so nobody actually says ‘ look at her, she’s really nervous’. But I do love dancing, love showbiz. Live audiences, the nerves, the adrenalin.” After the birth of her daughter Taylor, now 18, Erin, then 19 herself, had gone back to work (a hairdressing apprenticeship) after three months. “When I had Harry (now two), I was older, I was in a very loving relationship, and I just thought ‘I want to be with my baby’.” As many women can testify, being home all day with a small child is exhausting and isolating, and often leads to a sort of loss of one’s sense of self. By the time DWTS came up, she had lost her confidence. “When you’re in a rut like that it’s very hard to get yourself back out there. Especially after having babies; it’s all about the baby, and you don’t really know who you are. I remember the first time going out after having Harry, and feeling like I was an alien that had been dropped in. Everyone else was talking about all this other stuff, and I was thinking ‘I’m so disconnected with the outside world’.
It wasn’t the physicality of DWTS that scared Erin. “For me, it was definitely more of an emotional journey. It was conquering the fear,” she explains.
Anxiety wasn’t a particular issue when she was younger, she reflects. In fact, it seems to increase with age. “I think as you get older you become more aware of the dangers of life. Youth can be carefree. When you’re older, you’ve other people, more responsibility. You realise that bad things do happen.”
Unsurprisingly, given her lineage, Erin is not one to be vanquished by fear. It was in fact she who originally gave her brother Conor, then a teenager of around 15, a copy of Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret. She is, she says, a big believer in the law of attraction. “He lives by it,” she says of Conor. “You can see, you can tell.”
Of herself, she says fear is probably something she will always live with, but the point is now that she knows she can deal with it, and would never let it stop her. Her biggest regret about
‘It was on a visit to Las Vegas for a fight of Conor’s that Erin met her partner’
the show is worrying about what other people thought of her. “DWTS was huge for me, because I learnt how to let go, and not really give a s**t any more.”
The first few weeks were stressful; Erin was trolled online. Then one night, something clicked. She had had a bad dress rehearsal, and was now in the dance-off. “I remember standing on the stage and hearing what people had said on Twitter, in my mind. It had been a hard week. And so I chose my guilty pleasure; It’s Raining Men. That to me is kind of my fun personality. I thought ‘Just let go, have fun’. Life is hard enough for everybody. I just thought feck it. Feck this.”
It seems to have become something of a motto. “It’s OK to move on. I held on to things in my life for way longer than I should have, instead of going ‘ let go, try something new’. The ‘feck it mentality’.” Getting to the semi-finals meant performing in the finals, so Erin was involved for the whole run. She cried for the entire last week. “Because I had finally found something that was just for Erin. I’ve always wanted to be a dancer. Somewhere I had put it out to the universe. But I never knew how it was going to come about. I was a woman at this stage, how would I ever be a dancer? With DWTS I had fulfilled that dream. And now it was over. It