A wedding later this month, a 15-month-old baby, plus radio and TV gigs — you’d think Kathryn Thomas has enough on her plate right now. But no, she’s just decided to take her Pure Results bootcamp to Spain for the first time. Pat Fitzpatrick finds out more.
Kathryn Thomas always wanted to be an actress. “I was off to Hollywood in my little head, but I only made it to Donnybrook,” she tells me with a laugh, after breezing through a photo-shoot high above South Great George’s Street in Dublin.
The ‘only made it to Donnybrook’ is telling. Kathryn Thomas doesn’t come across as someone who is happy with ‘just good enough’, whether it’s in her impressive media career, looking after her 15-month-old daughter Ellie or organising the upcoming wedding to her partner, Padraig McLoughlin.
She chats away about the big day to the stylist and make-up guy before our talk, saying that it will be grand as long as there’s “drink, a dress and music”, but I’d say there will be a bit more to it than that. (She mentions the venue during the photo-shoot, but asks that I keep it under wraps.)
OK, Kathryn mightn’t have made Hollywood (yet), but there is a lot to admire about the way she carved out her own niche in Irish broadcasting.
After a year doing Arts in UCD, the Carlow native “knocked on the door” of every TV production company in Dublin, ending up with a job that involved holding an umbrella over Duncan Stewart when he was out on location for About the House.
And then one day, she had an epiphany.
As if presenting a TV show was the easiest thing in the world. But then, she makes it look easy, whether on the show she ended up presenting with Sherlock (Rapid), a travel show like No Frontiers which ran for 10 years after that, or Operation Transformation, which she has hosted since the death of Gerry Ryan in 2010.
It’s not every woman who can talk about seven-star hotels in Dubai or the importance of exercise, without getting people’s backs up. She’s avoided that because she has that priceless Irish quality — we look at KathrynThomas and think, she’d be great craic on a night out.
She would too, it’s not an act. She’s flirty, irreverent and full of fun. When I ask if there was hard partying at her recent hen party on Ios, she pauses and says “It was great craic”, making it clear that what happens on a Greek island, stays on a Greek island.
This fun is mixed with a steely resolve. “I’m somebody who takes risks. If you tell me I can’t do something, I won’t stop until I figure out a way to do it,” she tells me when I ask if she was always confident.
No one could question her work ethic. As a freelancer in RTÉ, she has had to carefully manage her career to make sure there is a steady flow of work.
On top of that, she also owns and runs a thriving weight-loss and fitness company called Pure Results, which is adding to its list of Irish bootcamp locations by holding one in Spain. What led to that?
“For the last four years, my clients have been saying, ‘when are going to take us away to the sun?’ And when we did No Frontiers, the crew would go home and I’d stay and do a boxing week in Thailand or a hiking retreat in Montana or a yoga retreat in India.
"I loved the fact you could be on your own, but in a group. So that’s what we’ll be doing in our new bootcamp near Alicante.”
I wonder out loud if a gang of Irish people going to Spain will want to crack open some booze in the evenings.
“There is no booze! We don’t check your suitcase — we thought maybe we’d do that at the beginning, but we don’t check them. So it’s a detox week, no sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no alcohol, no caffeine. It’s for the mind as well as the body.
"We have a nutritionist, chef, life coach, three personal trainers, a yoga teacher.
"I thought at the beginning I was setting up a fitness business to make people feel good, but it involved being a bit of a Francis Brennan at the same time.”
I ask her why does she think we have an obesity crisis, at a time when every second person seems to be on a diet or at a bootcamp.
“I think we have a long way to go. We need to look at the sugar tax, make PE compulsory in schools, putting calories in menus.
"It’s happening, but there is a hell of a lot more to do when you look at what Denmark and Finland are doing, in terms of education around food, taxes on sugary drinks and health checks for very young kids.”
She has her own young kid now, 15-month-old Ellie. She is a particular bundle of joy, given that Kathryn and her partner Padraig experienced two miscarriages before Ellie came along. Did that puncture her optimistic outlook?
“I’m a positive person, you think there is nothing that would shake you, but when you come up against that kind of heartbreak, how do you stay positive?
"It was an insight for me into the dark places that people can go into quite easily.”
Did she seek counselling?
“No. I was with various specialists, it was a four-year process for us in terms of everything we went through. I went onto forums to educate myself in the whole area of child-loss, fertility and miscarriage.
"For me, it was all about arming myself with education. I was also talking to other women on these forums anonymously.
“I wanted to know, why is nobody talking about it? Why is nobody being honest about the fact that this is shit, this is really hard, this is an experience one in four couples go through.
Did it put a strain on their relationship? “When there is no explanation of what’s happening, you can begin to self doubt, your partner can begin to self doubt.” Her eyes light up whenever she talks about Ellie but the demands of her career meant she couldn’t take a lot of maternity leave.
“I was back at work after four months. You’re a freelancer, if the right programme comes up, you have to be in a position to take it.”
She appreciates the nature of her work has an upside though.
“For me, you’re working four days straight, then you’d have a week off. But my girlfriends are back to nine-to-five, five days a week or else working part-time.
"That said, Operation Transformation will be different now, it will be the first time I’m doing it with a toddler!”
We turn back to her hen party on Ios.
She had one rule when they went out, no one was to post anything up on social media. There are however a few group shots on Kathryn’s Instagram, which include a guy. Who’s he?
“That’s Shane — he’s my gay best friend. He was the only guy allowed on the hen. Myself and Shane go way back.”
That kind of sums her up. In a media world that can be full of smiley sameness, there is something authentically off-beat about Kathryn Thomas bringing a bloke on her hen.
Talking about Ios, she describes her time back-packing there back in the day, when she worked as a ‘bar-tart’ (her term), dancing on the bar and handing out free drinks to lure people in to watering holes on the island.
She also recalls how she had to take out her eyebrow, tongue and nose piercings when she became the main presenter on No Frontiers, as they wouldn’t have been in keeping with the tone at the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai.
My guess is there’s still a little bit of that punk bubbling away inside her.
I’m not convinced she’s given up on Hollywood, so I check again about the acting.
“Well, I have this idea for a sitcom, where an ageing ex travel show presenter tries to relaunch her career in the age of Instagram and Snapchat.” Would she play herself?
“I’d totally play myself.” I wouldn’t rule it out.
Details of the bootcamps in both Ireland and Spain are on pureresultsbootcamp.com
Cover shoot by Evan Doherty. Make up and hair by Norma Jean and John at Brown Sugar, Dublin. www.brownsugar.ie