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

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - REPORTAGE -

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

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