Laura Whitmore has been one of the most iconic and diverse personalities on TV for nearly two decades. With quite the versatile career in reality television, fashion and more recently the financial field, Verge had the honour of chatting with Laura.
Paulie: I think it’s really fascinating that you spent a year at Boston University. Could you describe how that influenced you in your career early on?
Laura: So I spent six months there. At the time, I was studying journalism in Dublin and Ireland and the curriculum meant that we get to get to go away and there were a few different places that you could pick. So my number one choice was Boston University, but I never thought I was going to get in. But I managed to get it and went over it and I was very lucky because I just turned 21 and I was like, perfect. I remember going to a house party with other students and we all had red cups and I really just felt like I was in one of the movies. But It’s just such an incredible academic city. I really took advantage of my six months there and you know America is a big country. I didn’t get to go to as many places I’d like to cause I have to study. But I found time to go to New York and Salem, I really just tried to take advantage and go around the state and to the states surrounding Massachusets as much as possible.
That’s great that your mentality was to take advantage of your time there. Some people definitely don’t think that way when they travel. So at a fairly young age, you became the face of MTV News and MTV Europe. What made you want to work for like the company?
I think most young people growing up would watch MTV and think how cool of a channel it was. Who wouldn’t want to work for a channel like that? I remember sitting and watching music videos and talk about them and then, and then seeing the DJs that I grew up watching people, like Davina McCall and Edith Bowman. I just love music. I’ve been listening and going to gigs my whole life, still do to this day. They were always pushing the boundaries a little bit as well. So I definitely knew i wanted to but coming from Ireland I didn’t know how I’d do that. Then, of course, ended up doing it through competition. They’re just always trying new things and ive always loved that. They definitely drew me in early on through music, as they did for a lot of people growing up.
MTV might have one of the most storied evolutions in modern television. Their focus has gone from music videos to reality television, then to dramas, and it’s been that cycle for a while now. Could you maybe describe what the evolution for MTV Europe was like and if it was similar to MTV in the states?
I think I was quite similar since a lot of the shows based in America crossed over the UK and the rest of Europe. It shows a lot through the employees too since were all one family. I worked closely with the American team and it’s all still one family. I had friends who worked for MTV Asia, who worked in Madrid or worked in the LA offices and I think everyone went through that same evolution. Now you look at reality TV shows and how big they are, you’ve got shows like love island that is doing so well. But if you go back to MTV, they had the real world which did that format before anyone else was doing it. The music is still there, of course, and you still see shows and award shows which are still huge publicity and bring in those big acts that everyone wants to be part of.
You’ve played a huge role in reality television over the years and your career really speaks for itself. What is it about reality TV that speaks to you as a person?
I suppose for me, I worked in many different parts of television and I always think I like working on things that I like to watch myself. I also think it’s that guilty pleasure in a way, that people are interested in people, people want to know about people. That’s why I suppose shows like Big Brother, Love Island and X-Factors do so well internationally. It’s really nice to see that it’s not even isolated to one particular nation and the one thing as human beings that we all kind of connect with that we’re all just in other people’s lives. I have always just wanted to work on stuff that excites me, which is why I’ve kind of changed a lot over the years. Between music, between reality TV and between acting, I think as human beings we’re never just in one box and we’re always testing lots of different things, which is why TV can speak to a younger audience and an older audience as well.
Speaking of not keeping yourself in a box, as someone who does so many things outside of television, is there a passion of yours that you, that most people might not know about that you wished they did?
I’ve always been quite into yoga and stuff that helps clear your mind. Many years ago I used to do quite a lot of acting lessons and was in a drama group that no one really knew about that. I haven’t picked up the knitting needles in a while but I do love to knit as well.
So Virgin Money, High-Power Credit. It’s something you’ve been involved with recently so can you elaborate on that?
I put myself there a little bit about different people’s habits know in 2019, um, initially it started with a survey that found that 23 to 38-year-olds don’t feel in control of their finances. I know as a female anyway, it took me a while to think we should get paid what we deserve. Sometimes it always feels like a no-no to ask about money, but money is important. We need it to survive. So now with the world the way it’s going, we should try and be a bit more sustainable and actually millennials are leading by example because they’re using this fun new concept, higher power. I think it’s really interesting. I’m also interested in subscription services, you know I have Netflix and Amazon and I can watch what I want when I want and if I decide to change my mind, I can just turn off the subscription service and go off and travel. I think that’s the main part of why so many young people are thinking that way. If we want to drop everything and go off somewhere else, you can keep those options open.
That’s so great, and my last question is just what’s next? What’s next for you?
I’ve just finished two short films that are in postproduction at the moment. I do a radio show for BBC, so we’re coming back with that. I really am quite excited about it all.
Laura is working with Virgin Money who’s recent research found 23 to 38-year-olds feel ‘in control’ of their finances by making purchases without permanent ties or having to own everything
outright straight away.
Be sure to stay up to date with all of Laura’s happenings. It was such a pleasure catching up with her.