TV presenter and producer Maia Dunphy is a woman who knows what she wants.
And it has little to do with the accepted way of doing things. Three years after marrying comedian Johnny Vegas, she has moved to London to live with him and his 11-year-old son.
“London life is great. It’s an adjustment but I’m enjoying it. Also, it’s only an hour from Dublin, so little more than a commute these days,” she says.
At home and at work, there are lots of shifts taking place. After a hectic time filming her new series Maia Dunphy’s What Women Want for RTE 2 (Thursdays 10pm) she gets to kick back and talk about the four-part series. “This is the fun bit, plugging the series now that’s already done,” says the 38- year- old.
A woman of many talents, she chopped, stirred and baked her way to the finals of Celebrity Masterchef: Ireland in 2013, impressing the judges with her flair and risk taking. But at home she likes to keep things simple. “People always say they don’t have time to cook but you can make time to cook. You don’t have to cook complicated three-course meals.”
What shape are you in?
I’m in OK shape. Not driving stands to me because I walk everywhere. You just can’t have a car in London. I think I walked about six miles yesterday between the jigs and the reels. I am not superfit but I’m also not a human bean bag.
Do you have any health concerns?
I’m very lucky I have no allergies, I have no dodgy knees, I don’t have any health concerns and long may that last.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I’m really good with vegetables. I don’t eat fruit at all. I always found that fruit or raw things didn’t suit my stomach, so I avoid them. Twenty years ago I was ‘diagnosed’ with IBS. The doctor said he’d never met someone with IBS who wasn’t a worrier.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
Probably alcohol, chocolate, crisps. I can buy one of those giant bags of crisps in the pretense that if I have friends over I can put out bowls of crisps. But then one night I’ll come in and I’ll open it ... and the bag will be gone.
What would keep you awake at night?
What doesn’t keep me awake at night! I’ve accepted that I’m a natural worrier. I now know this is just the way I am. I can almost talk myself down. I say everything is fine and you’re very lucky and it will be OK.
How do you relax?
I’m not a fitness person but I realise now if I walk for at least an hour a day I know I’m happier in my own head. I also love reading and cooking — I find it quite therapeutic. And eating. If you’ve done the work what’s on the plate will hopefully be nicer than just opening a packet.
What is your favourite smell?
For years I loved the smell of petrol and I remember loving the smell of pine toilet freshener. I love citrus. We got married in Seville and at a certain time of the year when you are walking around you get this really amazing smell of orange and lemon blossoms. To me it smells like happiness.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I came through a rough time in my late teens about not being tall enough, not being thin enough, not being pretty enough. You’ve got to accept yourself the way you are. I’m at that point now where I don’t think I’m that bad. My teeth have always been my vanity Achilles heel. I broke my jaw in an accident when I was seven or eight, so while all my friends have got teeth whitening and braces, I can’t do that because my jaw is pieced back together.
When is the last time you cried?
Quiet sadly, it was yesterday while watching the John Lewis Christmas ad.
What trait do you least like in others?
I don’t like dismissiveness. It’s not nice to feel that your opinion doesn’t count.
What trait do you least like in yourself?
Probably my tendency to worry and also — I hate admitting it — I can be a bit highly strung, which is probably quite hard on people around me.
Do you pray?
I visit churches and light candles for people. I don’t know why I do because I haven’t gone to Mass in years. I have a complicated relationship with faith like a lot of lapsed Catholics.
What would cheer up your day?
Food always cheers me up. And if I know I’m meeting a pal at the end of the day it cheers up everything. And a new set of teeth.
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