Lucy Kennedy on rollercoaster of juggling family life and a career in broadcasting
Ireland's Got Talent host Lucy Kennedy chats to Jenny Lee about motherhood, writing her first children's book, living with Nathan Carter, fashion, psychotherapy and being afraid of rollercoasters
LUCY Kennedy first came to prominence in 2006 as the unshockable straight-woman for RTÉ's irreverent puppets Podge and Rodge. She has went on to win the hearts of Irish viewers through various programmes, from putting up with the demands of celebs on Living With Lucy to hosting Ireland's Got Talent.
It's a busy year for the mum-of-three, who also hosts The Colm & Lucy Breakfast Show with Colm Hayes on Dublin's Radio Nova, and is venturing into the world of children's fiction, with her first book, aimed at the five-to-seven-year-old market, which is due for release in October.
"I can't tell you what it's about yet, but I read it to my children and my nine-year-old son Jack looked up and said 'Actually, Mum, that's quite good'. That's incredible praise from him," says the 42-year-old.
"For the last 20 years I've said there is a children's book in me, but self-doubt creeps in and I've put it off. Now I've finally done it, JK Rowling better watch out," laughs the Dubliner, who plans to keep on writing.
Next month Kennedy will be MC-ing Tayto Park's inaugural Funfest Family Festival, on June 29 and 30, which will include a host of entertainment, circus, dance, art and a main stage of 16 Irish and international music acts including Nathan Carter, Liberty X, BoyzLIfe, Atomic Kitten, Hudson Taylor, Scouting for Girls and Key West.
She is no stranger to the Co Meath theme park and zoo – though she has never had to courage to ride Cú Chulainn, Europe's largest wooden rollercoaster.
"There's not a hope in hell of me going on that. I'm not really that brave and as I get older I get more scared," laughs Kennedy, who admits her favourite ride is the Ladybird Loop, a spinning kids ride.
She is particularly looking forward to meeting up again with country singer Nathan Carter at Funfest.
"I used to live with Nathan Carter," she boasts, referring to her time spent in Liverpool and on a tour bus to Scotland with him and his band for an episode of Living with Lucy last year.
"I discovered he's a really funny guy, I wasn't expecting that. He's also a family guy and I enjoyed a few gins with his lovely nan. We had great craic, but I also saw how hard-working and caring Nathan was. He stood for an hour and a half after his gigs signing autographs and chatting to everyone. That's a really nice trait."
First aired in April 2008 on RTÉ, the premise of the show is that Kennedy spends a weekend living with a different celebrity, analysing their daily lives and interviewing them.
"I adored working with Podge and Rodge, but I wanted to do something myself. I pitched the idea to RTÉ and they went with it and did it for three series, before I got pregnant with our second child Holly (7) and took a year off. Then they were coming up with ideas I just didn't like and I was coming up with ideas they didn't like – I was out of contract and I realised it was time for a change and I joined TV3, now Virgin Media.
"I pitched Living with Lucy and four days later, on my 40th birthday, I found out was pregnant with Jess (2) and I filmed the fourth series permanently nauseous and trying to hide my need to vomit," adds Kennedy, whose guests for the next series of Living with Lucy include Derry singer Nadine Coyle, stand-up comedian and actress Deirdre O'Kane and Love/Hate actor John Connors.
She admits it's been "really difficult" juggling her career with bringing up her children.
"Since I've had Jess I'm doing jobs to fit around the children. Doing breakfast radio, I'm away from home at six, leaving husband to do school drop-offs and then I'm home at 12.30 to pick up the baton. We all worry as women how to squeeze it all in, especially when you love your job, but it all works out eventually."
So having done radio, television and children's books, what's next – a musical career?
"I haven't a musical note in my body," laughs Kennedy, whose father John Kennedy composed Ireland's 1968 Eurovision Song Contest entry Chance of a Lifetime and was the pianist on her RTÉ chat show The Lucy Kennedy Show in 2009.
Although recently nominated in the Most Stylish Woman category at the VIP Style Awards, Kennedy is adamant she is "not a fashionista". " I just wear what I like, but I suppose my style is boho casual. I love wearing floaty, maxi-dresses and sandals. I'm definitely not a label lover, I'm happy in Penneys."
Earlier this year Kennedy hosted her second series of Ireland's Got Talent – the first female Got Talent host in the world, keeping in line a judging panel of Louis Walsh, Michelle Visage, Denise Van Outen and Jason Byrne.
"It's a great show to work on. I was so nervous as I'm a massive Ant and Dec fan and I did think would there be comparisons, but I've just done it my way. Although she didn't take her daughter Holly to the live shows, fearing "she would shout out 'I need a wee, Mummy'", Jack did go along and Kennedy says "it's the first time I saw pride in the children's eyes for my work".
And did she agree with this year's winning act, dance troupe BSD?
"I'm not going to lie, my maternal instinct swayed me towards Fionn McMorrow, the little ballet dancer from Sligo, but I can't argue with the votes and hope BSD do well."
If she was forced to do an audition on Ireland's Got Talent, what would her act be?
"I'd probably tell a joke but I'm confident I wouldn't get through," she says.
"People often laugh when I say this, but there is a shyness to me. I'm actually quite insecure. I have the confidence to interview and big up other people, but I don't have the confidence to big up myself," adds Kennedy, who almost turned her back on television, for a career in psychotherapy.
"I was at a crossroads in my life career-wise, deciding what to do, and enrolled in a psychotherapy course in Dún Laoghaire. As part of the course you attend a therapist yourself for 28 weeks. It was quite intense and they break you right down. My mum and dad had separated 20 years ago and that came up. I was very vulnerable and going on live telly the same week, but I loved it and think I will go back to it in the future."
She completed the foundation course and found it helped her with her television career.
"I've always been particularly nosey and fearless of people and the course made me think twice when asking questions and taught me to listen to interviewees. It also helped me suss out somebody's body language within seconds," she laughs.
:: Funfest takes place in Tayto Park, Co Meath, on June 29 and 30. Tickets are priced at €55 per day, this includes entry to the park, wristbands for all attractions plus entry to Funfest. Taytopark.ie