AMANDA BYRAM: ‘I was drinking for the sake of getting drunk, then I quit and found Mr Right’
Amanda Byram was for years, in her own words, ‘the champion for single people’, but after going through a dark patch and making her peace with being alone, she chanced on the real thing with her now husband Julian Okines. As the TV presenter launches an a
SO HAPPY: gym gear’. I realised that I was really, really comfortable in it. And also that if I put it on in the morning, I feel like I’m ready to go for a run at some point. If I’m in my jeans and pair of heels, I’ve got to get changed. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing to create a range that you can go to lunch or the cinema or for dinner in, or pick up your kids at the school gate and feel like you’re actually really stylish, but at the same time you can turn around and go do something active afterwards?’” She tried to get things moving at the time, but was advised there wasn’t the market for it. Fast-forward half a decade and she’s diversified into being a health and fitness spokesperson and has a level-three personal trainer qualification. So it seemed like the right time to revisit her big plan. It’s been both an adventure and a labour of love. “I’ve lived in activewear for so many years... and I’m obsessed with the fitness industry,” she says. But clothes designing and manufacturing is something that she’s had to learn from scratch. “That feeling of being out of your depth isn’t something I had felt for a very long time,” Amanda explains, “because I do what I do and I’ve been doing it for so long... I mean, there’s apprehension before a TV show, and that’s normal. There’s a little bit of anxiety or nerves before a show, but this was way out of my depth on so many levels.”
Growing up in Dublin, the half-Irish, half-Iranian Byram was always an independent spirit, a “gypsy” at heart. This was something that was nurtured by her supportive family and her father, from whom she learned that “I don’t have to do what everybody else is doing. It made me feel free to do what I wanted to do”.
Her pragmatic side also comes, most likely, from her father, a mortgage administration manager who has been influential in advising his kids financially. “And mum,” she says “is the emotional strength. She’s a rock. We’re like best friends. We’re a very close family. My sister and I are very close. Although we had our sibling rivalry in the early days, we’re really tight.”
Byram started her career as a model in Ireland before landing a gig presenting Ireland AM. From there, she moved to The Big Breakfast on Channel 4 and then broke America as the host of the controversial plastic surgery makeover show The Swan. She spent eight years living in LA until Hollywood wore her out. She moved back to London, where she’s been ever since.
Amanda’s default positivity escapes seeming glib or hollow, probably because she’s open about the years of uncertainty, self-questioning and doubt she’s been through too. Yes, she’s a fitness pin-up, but only because she spent the best part of two decades struggling with poor body image herself, addicted to yo-yo dieting and obsessed with being thin.
Last year, she married her Mr Right, Julian Okines, but only after an awful lot of turmoil and heartache and years of soul-searching, which culminated in the quiet acceptance that, if needs be, she would be just fine by herself.
“I was the champion for single people for so long,” she says. “I was single and happy. Everyone was always saying, ‘Oh, you’re getting to an age now... and not getting married and not having kids. I was, like, actually happy being single. There were moments when I definitely was not happy being single, but I had to make peace with the fact that I may never find the love of my life. I may never have children, I may never get married. That was the hardest part. That was the hardest part of turning 40, actually. Because I was single and you just kind of see into this deep abyss of 40 and go...” — she acts out hollering into the void — “...is there anybody out there?”
In her late 30s, she’d called off a wedding to handsome Australian rugby player Craig McMullen at the 11th hour. At an age when mounting pressure to settle down often causes women to make a frantic grab for the
Amanda and hubby Julian Okines on the red carpet together at an awards event