PERCHED on a green velvet armchair, in a boutique hotel in south Kensington, is Laura Whitmore.
Buttery-blond highlights frame her heart-shaped face.
Whitmore wears minimal make-up and has short, manicured black nails. Dressed in skinny jeans, a sheer, black shirt and rock-chick accessories, you might mistake Whitmore for a fashionista, a model, or an it-girl, and, although she is a little bit of all those, she is much more than just a clothes horse or a pretty face.
Today, however, the focus is her face. She’s ambassador for Pond’s, a classic beauty brand that reminds her of her mum.
“I used to be going through all her stuff and trying on all sorts of things,” she says of her childhood in Bray.
Image is everything in Whitmore’s work, whether she’s live on TV, getting papped outside a nightclub or doing a fashion shoot, so teaming up with an affordable skincare brand made sense.
“I would never put my face to anything that I didn’t care about or couldn’t talk about,” Whitmore says.
Since 2008, when Whitmore beat 3,000 other applicants on Pick Me MTV, to win her dream job as a presenter, her career has been on the ascent. But she didn’t land the job on looks alone.
Whitmore studied journalism in Dublin, and was working at Newstalk when she saw MTV’s call-out for a rookie presenter. She applied, hoping to get a contact in MTV, but won.
“People think it’s glamorous, but at MTV I was writing my questions, helping with scripts, doing my own hair and make-up.
“A lot of models applied, thinking it was glamorous, but in the end they got the girl who could scrap it all together and pull it off,” she says.
At MTV, Whitmore was in at the deep end, into unscripted situations. “If things go wrong, it’s left to you. I’ve learned the hard way and I’m very good at winging it,” Whitmore says.
Of course, there is more to her job than winging it. Whitmore has the gift of the gab.
She makes presenting look easy, which is why MTV have extended her contract, for a fifth year, and she has bagged several other high-profile live TV gigs — hosting the red carpet at the Brits and at the BAFTAs. In 2011, she replaced Caroline Flack as the host of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Now.
Such is her profile, she also gets lucrative offers to MC fashion shows and events, something that still gives her the jitters. “When I do TV, I can’t see anyone watching, but when you do something live, especially fashion awards and you’ve got people from Vogue there, you are just like ‘Oh my God’.”
Whitmore talks like a pure Dub. Ask her a question and she bursts into animated conversation. I ask if there is too much focus on image in her job? She says she tries not to think about it, but clearly she does.
“I hosted the BAFTAs red carpet and interviewed all these people, and it was all about what I wore... Girls get that, but guys don’t have to worry about it.” But, she says, “you can use it to your advantage”.
Name anyone in music or showbiz and it is likely Whitmore has interviewed them.
From Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson to P Diddy, George Clooney, Sir Micheal Caine (“we had a really nice chat”), The Script (“great banter”), Snoop Dogg, Kings of Leon and Rhianna, Whitmore remains cool-headed about it all.
“At the end of the day, as much as I enjoy it, it’s a job.” Most recently, she sat down with infamous twerker, Miley Cyrus. “I really liked her. She asked for my number, to go out for drinks afterwards. I just had a chat with her, just like another girl.”
For someone so used to being in the interviewer’s seat, how does it feel with the shoe on the other foot? Having seen, first-hand, how fame can change people, she says she is cautious. “I am happy I witnessed that from afar, so now, when people start asking me questions, I think ‘no, no, no’, I’ve seen how this goes…”
Whitmore has lived in North London’s grungy Camden for five years, a hub for rockers and live music. Her relationship with Danny, from Irish band, The Coronas, ended in 2012 and, since then, there has been speculation about her love life.
She hit the headlines when pictures were published of One Direction’s Niall Horan leaving her home the morning after a night out partying. Whitmore laughed off the rumours, describing Horan as a little brother (he’s 19, she’s 28). Then, she was pictured leaving celebrity hangout, the Groucho Club, hand in hand with mod musician, Miles Kane. Today, though, her love life is not up for discussion. Will she say if she is single? “I’m probably not gonna answer that so, yeah…” she trails off.
So her exposure to the world of celebrity has taught her to be cautious? “It’s amazing the power of magazines. If they say I’m going out with someone, I start to believe it... And, then, you have your mum going ‘Are ya?’ It’s scary, how powerful the media can be,” she says. “If someone says you are an it-girl or you are in fashion, at the moment, it’s dangerous, because you might not be the next month.”
For a while, she wanted to hide from it all, but has accepted it’s all part of the job.
What do her family and friends think about her fame? Whitmore grew up with just her mum, a civil servant, at home, but is still close with her dad, who works in finance. “Dad doesn’t really get it all, mum is a bit protective,” she says.
Last year, Whitmore flew her mum out to Australia, while she was filming I’m A Celebrity… and introduced her to co-presenters, Ant and Dec. “She was in her element. She is such an Irish mammy.”
When the rumours about Horan hit the papers, she called her mum. Whitmore’s initial reaction was that they shouldn’t be friends if it was going to cause controversy, but her mum disagreed. Whitmore puts on a concerned ‘mammy’ voice and repeats what her mum said: “He probably likes the company of normal people… you can’t just abandon him now.”
Whitmore is straight up about being ambitious. She wants to do more live TV and host bigger shows. Today, she picked up a newspaper in which she was described as “model/DJ”. “I’m not either of those things. I DJ, but that’s not my profession. I’m a broadcaster and a presenter. Everything else is part of it, but not what I do,” she says.
While it still scares her to turn down work, her career plan is long-term and she seems conscious of herself as a brand.
She posed for FHM two years ago, but when they asked her to be on the cover again this year, she refused.
Back then, when she was only doing MTV, FHM was good publicity, but now, with prime-time TV gigs and endorsement cheques from brands like Pond’s, it might not be such a good idea, so is this is an example of being a woman working to her advantage? She is neither defensive nor apologetic about it. “I’ve done shoots for fashion magazines wearing less …it was grand, at the time, but I don’t really feel like doing that now.”
A final question — is there anyone left she still wants to interview?
Surprisingly, her answer is U2.
Being Irish, I though she might have interviewed them already. “It’s weird,” she says. “Sometimes, I forget if I’ve interviewed someone or not. They all kind of roll into one. I don’t know what’s real or what’s not anymore.”
Oh, but she does.
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