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For Laura Whitmore, 2020 has been her biggest learning year. In January, she was thrust into a new role as the host of the winter edition of Love Island and endured a manic schedule that saw her jetting back and forth between South Africa and the UK to do her BBC Radio 5 live show.
But with the world thrust into lockdown in March, the 35-year-old admits she relished the momentary pause and enjoyed some rare quality time with her boyfriend of three years, Iain Stirling, 32. “It was weird to spend six months together solidly,” she said.
With things starting to return to a new normality, Laura’s work schedule is more exciting than ever. She’s taking over from Holly Willoughby on Celebrity Juice, is set to release her first book No One Can Change Your Life Except For You and has teamed up with TK Maxx for the third year in a row to promote their Give Up Clothes For Good campaign.
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But she insists she’ll be taking the lessons she’s learned during these past few months with her into the future.
“I’ve learned to be easier on myself. Not to put so much pressure on myself and to take time out.”
Here, the star opens up about leading a quieter life, finding her voice and overcoming imposter syndrome…
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself over the past few months?
So many things. During lockdown, aside from the uncertainty and not being able to see family, I really enjoyed the space and the quiet time. The opportunity for reflection and spending time at home. I enjoyed having a different routine for a while as we’re always rushing and racing around. I allowed myself to be a bit more present, too. I was privileged that I could work from home a lot, but I know a lot of people didn’t have that experience. So I feel very lucky. There are lots of things I want to take away from this experience. I don’t want to run around like a headless chicken and put pressure on myself to be able to do everything. I feel like, overall, there have been a lot of positives from this time.
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How did you and Iain get on during lockdown?
We had our longest time apart from each other in months recently, as Iain was away for a week with Soccer Aid. Usually, we don’t spend much time together as we work in different countries or he does a lot of gigs and tours. It felt weird to spend six months together solidly and then for him to go away for a week. It’s funny because lockdown was a make-or-break situation for lots of people, and I know people who have broken up with a long-term partner during this time. So I feel lucky Iain and I are good. We like each other and still get on great.
You recently invited fans into your home on Celebrity Gogglebox. How did you find that?
Well, I wouldn’t say they were physically invited, ha! That would be weird. We don’t usually work together and even on Love Island we never worked a day together. So we were a bit nervous and worried it was opening up our personal life to the world. But it was fine. It was a small glimpse of us just watching telly!
Earlier this year you spoke about taking breaks from social media for your mental health. How much of a positive impact does taking time out have?
I put pressure on myself at the start of lockdown because I was worrying that I was spending too much time on social media. I was on there a lot but I guess that was my connection to the outside world so I didn’t want to be too hard on myself. But it is nice every now and again to take a day off. It’s crazy how much of a routine it is. I was on a break recently and found myself logging on to Instagram in the morning out of habit. I had to delete it in the end to ensure I stayed off. It’s a balancing act.
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How do you handle negativity from trolls on social media?
If someone knows my Instagram life, they don’t really know me. People think they know you because they see your picture on social media and think that you’re happy all the time. But the reality is I’m obviously not happy all the time. That’s not realistic! But I find I have a better handling of social media now I’m in my thirties. I use it as a platform to express myself and speak up about issues – and that’s really powerful.
Did you struggle with social media in your twenties?
I don’t think it existed to the extent it does now in my twenties. It’s only really been a decade of things like Instagram, and it’s only become as big as it has in recent years. I’m so grateful social media wasn’t around when I was a teenager. If I wasn’t invited to a party back then, I didn’t have to see photos of it plastered all over my friends’ Instagrams! When I first started on MTV, it was easier because if someone didn’t like me they just didn’t like me. I didn’t have to read about it all over Twitter. It meant I could really enjoy the start of my career without worrying what other people thought.
You’re releasing a book next year called No One Can Change Your Life Except For You. What does that philosophy mean to you?
There’s a lot of anger in the world at other people. But if someone is a d**k, you can’t stop them but you can change how you respond to them. I also talk about imposter syndrome in the book, which is something I struggled with in my early career. The huge plus of my job is I’ve got to interview so many huge names and it’s crazy how much we all feel it. I remember interviewing Robert Pattinson during his peak Twilight success and he was quite nervous! And that’s because his job is being an actor – not to answer questions. So I realised he felt odd and nervous at that point. We all go through those feelings.
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What has been the biggest life lesson of 2020 for you?
I’ve learned to be easier on myself. Not to put so much pressure on myself and to take time out. I definitely feel it’s been the biggest learning year and I hope I’m coming out of it a better person. And I feel my voice has got louder and I’m not scared to say things I wouldn’t have before.
Tell us about your involvement with TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes For Good campaign…
It’s the third year I’ve done it. The campaign raises money for the charity Cancer Research UK For Children & Young People. It’s all about people giving away old quality items from their wardrobes that they haven’t worn for years and turning that into funds for life-saving research. I know a lot of us have been having clear outs during lockdown, so it’s a great time to do it. It’s win-win because you get to have a declutter, someone else gets to wear something of yours and have a renewed love for it, and money raised goes towards helping children affected by cancer.
Laura is supporting TK Maxx’s GiveUp Clothes for Good in support of Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People. Visit TKMaxx.com for more information
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