Laura Whitmore reveals how age has given her confidence to not always need make-up and speak out about her #MeToo experiences

But age brings with it a huge dollop of “who gives a toss?”, and she’s found that as she’s got older, she cares much less about what other people think.

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“I probably wore a lot more make-up when I was younger and it was an insecurity thing. But at some stage you go: ‘Do you know what? F**k it.’ There are so many other millions of things to worry about.

“Beauty shouldn’t be about hiding yourself – it’s about expression, and I think we all need to learn that we’re highlighting and accentuating what we already have.”

This assertiveness has extended to other areas of Laura’s life, too. After years of flipping between challenging and ignoring social media trolls, she’s discovered a new way of tackling them.

“I was doing a podcast with the comedian Roisin Conaty and we were talking about Twitter and how you deal with negativity. I said I just ignored it, and Roisin was like: ‘Oh no, I tell them to f**k off!’


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“And it was a bit of a light-bulb moment for me. I mean, that’s genius. And I thought: ‘Maybe I should say it to them, too.’ So I do, and do you know what? It’s quite therapeutic and cathartic.”

And it often gives the troll such a jolt that it causes them to crawl back under their rock. It takes them by surprise, I think. They’re just not expecting that from me.”

Over the last year or so, Laura, 33, seems to have found her voice on social media and beyond, speaking out on feminist issues such as Ireland’s Repeal the 8th abortion vote, the Ulster rugby rape trial, upskirting and the #MeToo movement.

“In the past I probably didn’t feel in a position to talk about things,” she says. “Sometimes it’s knowing which battles to fight.”


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Her powerful blog post for HuffPost earlier this year detailing her own #MeToo experiences – which included having her bum smacked in two separate incidents and a stranger putting his hand up her skirt and between her legs at a nightclub – was the first time she had made something so personal so public.

It took courage to write, and she admits she was uneasy about the sort of reaction it would provoke. “I decided to write something in my own words and put it out there and I was nervous.

"I was away skiing [when it was published] and didn’t want to look at my phone. But when I did I was overwhelmed, crying with relief at the responses. I got a lot of messages from women – and men – who had experienced terrible things and never told anyone.

"From the most horrific [attack] to someone slapping you on the bum or making a comment, it still affects you. There’s a huge spectrum and I don’t think you should belittle anyone’s experience.

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“I got a comment saying: ‘Oh, what? So a guy tried to put his hand up your skirt? Happens everywhere, get over it!’” She shakes her head. “Yeah, it does happen everywhere – that’s the problem, and you’re missing the point.”

While most of the responses were supportive, some were disheartening. Employing some twisted logic, one person – a woman, in fact – accused her of hypocrisy for having appeared in lads’ mags back in the day.

“I’m like: ‘And? What is your point?’” says Laura. “Posing for FHM was a situation I was comfortable in and felt empowered in and I was proud to do that. Why does that mean that any man on the street can come up and smack my arse?

“I feel sad when I see women saying something like that because I think it’s really important that we help each other.”

She says one of the positive outcomes of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements has been opening men’s eyes to women’s experiences and what we have become conditioned to accept as part of the norm. “This is not to demean men – men are amazing and brilliant, and I have such lovely men in my life. But they have no idea.

“There’s a guy who does The Blind Boy Podcast – he’s incredible – and he was talking at this festival I went to called Body & Soul about the future for men and what masculinity means.

"One guy spoke about how he never realised that when a man walks home at 3am, he doesn’t think anything of it. But when a girl does, she’s like: ‘I really hope I don’t get attacked or killed.’

“Because that’s what we’re thinking, isn’t it? ‘I hope I don’t get killed tonight.’ It’s that thing of having to be on your guard at all times, which men just don’t have.“So I think it’s great that so many men are aware of this [now]. They should know what women go through.”

Laura has also backed the push to make upskirting a criminal offence, and says that until recently she thought it was an issue confined to celebrities and paparazzi. She’s also just become aware of “downblousing”, which is becoming a problem in schools, with teachers falling victim.

“It goes back to having to be constantly on your guard. I hadn’t realised upskirting happened to so many people – I just thought it was part of this [celebrity] lifestyle and maybe I deserved it because this was the job I’d chosen. I don’t think that now, by the way.

“But it’s happening everywhere – schoolgirls on buses… If you create a society where it’s tolerated and young boys think they can do that and send it round their WhatsApp groups and make fun of girls, then it’s going to continue. So we have to start from a legal level and make it against the law.”

Hearing Laura speak so expressively about these issues, it’s not hard to see why BBC Radio 5 Live has given her her own news discussion show. The Sunday Session starts today for a six-week run.

“It’s Sunday morning, and it’s as if we’re in a cafe having a chat – newsy but not as fast-paced as during the week,” says Laura, who’s brought her super-cute dog Mick along to today’s shoot.

“I’ll be looking through the papers and talking about everything from Brexit to my favourite outfit from the red carpet that week.

"It’s just great that they’ve given me the opportunity, because I’ve worked on a lot of entertainment shows and sometimes people put you into a box. They’re like: ‘Oh my god, you’ve got blonde hair and you’ve got a brain! What?’”

Does she still get that? “Yeah, I do. I’ve worked hard for 10 years, but I’m still ‘someone’s girlfriend’ or ‘she wore this’ ahead of what I actually do. And men don’t get that the same way as women.”

After studying journalism at Dublin City University, Laura became the main anchor on MTV News, where she stayed until 2015. She’s also enjoyed presenting gigs on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! Now! and earlier this year hosted ITV2’s Survival Of The Fittest.

But it was her appearance on Strictly back in 2016 that really elevated her to household-name status, so it’s sad to learn that her experience of a show she’d loved from the beginning was so bruising.

Dance partner Giovanni Pernice was going through a break-up with Georgia May Foote, and Laura was dragged into the fallout with (entirely false) rumours of romance.

As the series wore on, there were reports that Laura was upset by Giovanni’s attitude and rudeness during rehearsals – by the time they were eliminated, apparently they were barely speaking.

Laura has described what should have been a fantastic experience as leaving her “broken” by the end of it, and said she was placed with a partner she was “extremely uncomfortable” with.

“That’s how I felt,” she says. “I had a physical injury as well, so I was broken and drained. I just felt very uncomfortable, which is a shame because I love that show and I did make friends for life there.

"And I love dancing, it’s like my favourite thing to do! But it was a wider thing… Maybe in the press you’re portrayed as one thing, but actually behind it all you’re quite shy in many ways and not very comfortable with people you don’t know. I was just so overwhelmed by all that, and at the time I wasn’t ready for that sort of attention.”

Her eyes gleam with tears – the memories are clearly still painful. “Maybe you have to go through things like that to know what your limits are and to know when you should say: ‘I’m not OK with that.’ You just put up with things, and it’s only in hindsight that you actually go: ‘Why the hell was I dealing with that for no reason?’

“But then I topped the leaderboard twice, I had friends to the end and I got to dance on that dance floor on a show I’ve watched every year. So you take the positives. Today is the most I’ve talked about it.”

Away from work, Laura has been dating comedian and voice of Love Island Iain Stirling, 30, for just over a year. They met at the British Academy Children’s Awards in 2016, but it took several months before the friendship developed into something more.

“Yeah, I think, like, nine months later we had a date, so it was a slow burner! We tried to keep it as quiet as possible at the start. I remember going to Majorca [where Love Island is filmed] last year and not telling anyone, even though I know most of the crew. If anyone had seen me they’d be like: ‘What the hell is Laura doing here?’

“I thought nobody knew, but it turned out afterwards that everyone did. At the time I was like: ‘We totally got away with that!’”

Having been quite private when it comes to relationships in the past, Laura seems much more relaxed about Iain, and they regularly share couple pictures on social media.

“We’d been together for four or five months before we put anything on our social media. I think at that point we were both like: ‘Should we just own it?’ And then once you put it out there no one gives a s**t – people only care when they don’t know something.

“We try not to push it in people’s faces, but it’s quite nice when Iain’s doing his show at the Apollo that I can tweet my support. And the same for him when I’m doing Survival Of The Fittest or the radio show.

"I think in the past I was almost trying to hide it because I didn’t want the attention, and if you open yourself up too much, it’s hard to shut that door. So we’ve never really done anything together publicly.

Maybe that will change, but at the moment we don’t really want to.
I like having my thing, he has his thing and then we have our thing.”

Their respective careers often mean long spells apart, but Laura is happy with the unpredictability and spontaneity of freelance life.

“It’s all I’ve ever known. The only thing is you end up working more because you don’t book holidays in case an amazing job comes up and you’re like: ‘S**t!’

“I was away with Iain in New York recently and then a job came up to interview the Foo Fighters back in London and do a special with them.

"They’re my favourite band. Iain was like: ‘Just go back for the day, I’ll stay here, it’s fine!’ So I jumped on a plane and did the interview.”

Laura’s beauty heroes

Miracle product?

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Centella Recovery Skin Salve. It’s so gentle and really helps flare-ups.

Best foundation?

It’s all about finding the right colour for your skin tone. I love Fenty Beauty because it has such a wide range. I use the Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation.

Fave mascara?

I love Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Renewal Mascara.

Make-up essential?

A good concealer – Hourglass Hidden Corrective Concealer is cruelty-free.

Best hair product?

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Amino Acid Shampoo. But I spend so much time in hotels I use whatever’s there!

Lushest lipstick?

I use Rodial Stemcell Super Food Glam Balm day to day, and Dior Addict Lacquer Plump lasts all night.

After she appeared in the play Not Dead Enough last year and having filmed “a bit of a sitcom” in Ireland a few weeks ago, acting has become a new love.

“Theatre is my favourite thing to do. It’s quite low-key and it probably doesn’t pay as well as everything else, but I’m lucky to be able do one and then the other.

“In my head I’m ticking the boxes. I don’t know the exact way I’m going to get to there, but I know what I want to do. I just keep doing what I’m doing and hope the universe will give me opportunities.

“I grew up with an amazing single mother as a role model who raised her children by herself and worked every day, so I’ve always had that mentality.

"Some of it’s luck, but then if you work hard, you can often make your own luck, can’t you?”

  • Laura’s new summer radio show The Sunday Session starts on BBC Radio 5 Live today at 11am.
  • Hair: Stefan Bertin at Frank Agency using Wella EIMI  
  • Make-up: Lisa Valencia at Carol Hayes Management using Bobbi Brown  
  • Styling: Nana Acheampong
  • Stylist’s assistant: Chloe Cordell  

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