Amy Huberman on feminism: People can say ‘we’ve had the debate - it’s over’. But it’s not

Amy Huberman on feminism: People can say ‘we’ve had the debate - it’s over’. But it’s not

Is Amy Huberman really as nice as her Twitter feed suggests? Yes, says Vickie Maye as she joins Ireland’s most down to earth celebrity for tea and a chat

Amy Huberman on feminism: People can say ‘we’ve had the debate - it’s over’. But it’s not

What is it about Amy Huberman? Mention to anyone that you’ve just interviewed her and they immediately smile. There follows a pause, and then, without fail, they ask: ‘Is she really that nice in person?’ There aren’t many celebrities that the mere mention of their name can bring a smile to someone’s face. But Amy, and husband Brian (they could trademark themselves as Ireland’s favourite couple), do just that. Whether it’s their Twitter banter, their down to earth demeanour, the fact they seem to be utterly unaffected by their fame – whatever it is, we just can’t get enough of them.

And here’s the thing. She’s even nicer in person.

She bolts into Newbridge Silverware’s coffee shop, flustered. “I’m late,” she says, apologising and giving me a tight hug. But she’s not really. She’s all of about five minutes behind schedule and she’s already texted the PR to apologise.

She’s just come from daughter Sadie’s school market, a young enterprise endeavour for junior infants, essentially.

We can chat here, the PR says, or in the boardroom. “Sure we’re grand here,” Amy responds, ordering a tea to catch her breath.

She’s petite (more on that later), doll like, in vintage Levi’s, black blazer and shirt (“COS, they are great on essentials”). Her hair is tied up, make up impeccable. She’s every bit the perfectly groomed celebrity, yet no one passes her a second glance in Newbridge. I can see why she opts out of the boardroom. People don’t bother her, she says it herself. And the longer I’m with her I understand why. It’s not the ‘Bono thing’, where we go out of our way to ignore a celebrity, for fear it might go to their head.

Truly, Amy Huberman just seems to have no ego, there are no showbiz notions or trappings. She’s simply having a cup of tea in Newbridge.

“I love coming down here,” she tells me. “I’ll go into Kildare Village after,” she adds conspiratorially, laughing when she hears I’ve already been.

“There’s something lovely about being in a car on your own, with no one asking you to play nursery rhymes on Bluetooth,” she says referencing her kids, five year old Sadie and three year old Billy.

She’s in Newbridge for a design meeting. The success of her jewellery line, launched in 2016, has seen the range expand, due to public demand. The big sellers are now available in silver, as well as gold.

Amy Huberman on feminism: People can say ‘we’ve had the debate - it’s over’. But it’s not

Later today she’ll meet Newbridge Silverware’s designer to discuss new jewellery. No official announcements yet, but watch this space.

“As a kid I always loved my mum’s, my granny’s jewellery box. The necklaces were all really small, you could layer them,” she says of her inspiration. She brought rough sketches, pieces of her own jewellery to Newbridge. Moons, stars, wishbones — they all feature largely in the collection.

“The symbology - is that a word? It is now,” she laughs. “We talked about the influence from the universe around us, without sounding too cheesy. I wanted it to be reminiscent of different times in your life, to have meaning.” There’s a timeless quality to the pieces, and that was her intention.

“I wanted it to have broad appeal - for a woman in her 80s or 90s, to a child.” Of course it isn’t her first foray into the world of design. There’s also her continuing collaboration with Bourbon on her shoe collection (if you haven’t tried on Huberman‘s shoes, do so immediately - they are a game changer).

“They approached me, and well, I loved shoes,” she laughs.

“But it had to have integrity, I had to ask myself would I actually wear it.” There were always two versions of the shoes she really loved - the public one and Amy’s one: “I forever wanted higher heels because I’m so short.

“I’ll give you a laugh,” she continues, giggling. “I recently found out I was two inches taller than I am. They were measuring me for film insurance and the doctor said so you are 5 4, and I said no no, I’m 5 2. And he said, ‘you are 5 4’. I rang my mum after, you know, this was a big moment for me.

“Hey, maybe I’m still a growing girl.” The self-effacing anecdotes come quick and fast. You realise quickly Amy Huberman is someone you’d just like to hang out with.

She talks honestly about life with two young kids, how she manages.

“Oh it depends on the day, if they are tired — if I’m tired,” she laughs.

And then, I raise my own little personal bugbear. Why is it that women are always asked about the ‘juggle’, about parenting, balancing work and home. Yet men never are. Is Brian ever asked how he manoeuvres work and family?

“Never!” she responds. “You get used to it but you challenge it, it’s like it’s your responsibility for the juggle.

“But Brian knows I love what I do, and he’s very supportive.”

Amy Huberman on feminism: People can say ‘we’ve had the debate - it’s over’. But it’s not

Brian is usually interviewed by sports journalists, she adds, and they wouldn’t generally ask about family and home life. Though recently, for a feature piece he was asked about his kids. It was such a one-off, he came home and remarked about it to his wife.

You get the feeling Amy is constantly tackling these prejudices and stereotypes head-on.

“I’m feminist, 100pc,” she says, earnestly and immediately her demeanour changes. Here is a determined, serious side.

“I think it’s changing slowly. It doesn’t feel like people are saying, ‘oh no, here’s that issue again’. Feminism can have waves and backlashes. People can say ‘we’ve had the debate - it’s over’. But it’s not.

“Things have been cracked open now,” she says referring to our post-Weinstein, Time’s Up world.

“People are just angry. Things won’t change unless it’s discussed.”

Will it be different for our daughters, I ask?

“Yes,” she says, and she is adamant. “Too much has happened.”

When we meet, it’s just days after the IFTAs, where she made headlines for wearing a Folkster €129 dress. It was black, of course — a way to lend support to the Time’s Up movement.

There was no official line from the Academy, telling guests to wear black.

“I asked and they said there wasn’t,” says Amy.

“I wasn’t sure - at the BAFTAs they did but at SAG they didn’t. So I texted a few people. I know Dee O’Kane – she was like, look I’m wearing black, I always wear black.”

She was proud to lend support to the movement.

“As women we’ve all experienced sexism to varying degrees. I’ve been lucky to have worked with really good people. Time’s Up tried to focus on this being pervasive — entertainment is visible and it gives it a voice. But it was good to extend it – there are plenty of people in different industries that don’t feel they have a voice or a platform.

“I’ve never felt massively compromised,” she adds later. “There are things I’ve put my foot down about and said no. This has given people the courage to say no.”

Amy Huberman on feminism: People can say ‘we’ve had the debate - it’s over’. But it’s not

Amy admits she has found herself quite good at saying no these days. Mum to two young kids, and trying to combine acting, writing and designing, there were, she realised, only so many hours in the day.

“There are times when I say no. I love what I do but I don’t want it to sacrifice everything else. Plus I’m getting too old! I’m too tired,” she laughs.

Her current routine certainly sounds exhausting. All schedules go out the window during bursts of filming. Designing jewellery and shoes also take short, intense bursts of work, she explains.

But right now, she’s writing a script for a new TV comedy that’ll she’ll also star in this year. Deadlines are tight so she’s up at the crack of dawn to write (two mornings a week she hits the gym, a recent addition to her day). She’ll work on the computer for the morning (“I’ve realised I can only do four hours good brainwork”), then pick up the kids.

How is the writing going, I ask.

“It’s going,” she laughs, adding she’s watching comedy every second she gets. “I’m really excited and really nervous. It’s what I always wanted to do. It’ll either work or it won’t.”

Much as designing, and her foray into the world of writing books were a joy, the writing and acting are the real jobs, she says – they are the descriptions she’ll put in an occupation box. Could this be the perfect life?

“Not at all.” She shakes her head. “Like anyone else I struggle with balance, feel like I’m not doing it right. Everyone has their own stuff to deal with. Once my family and friends are safe and well...”

She shrugs and smiles. There’s another hug goodbye, and a sincere nudge for me to get lunch for the road.

I find myself smiling as I walk away. It’s the Amy Huberman effect – she really is just that nice.

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