Lucy Kennedy: 'TV3 have shown me more love in the past week than RTE did in eight years'
Chatty host Lucy Kennedy tells Andrea Smith she couldn't be happier after defecting from national broadcaster
"AFTER eight years at RTE, I almost felt like a traitor walking into the TV3 launch and was so awkward and unsure for the first few minutes.
Then everyone came over and started hugging me and welcoming me, and I immediately felt at home. And the icing on the cake was when Jeremy Kyle appeared, because he's absolutely my guilty pleasure. I love him. Mind you, I could have done without him telling the whole audience that I was wearing Spanx that day."
I'm having tea in the courtyard of the Stillorgan Park Hotel with Lucy Kennedy, the new darling of TV3, and we're discussing her surprise departure from RTE. Coming so closely after Pat Kenny's defection to Newstalk earlier this month, one imagines that RTE's ego must be pretty dented at this stage with its high-profile losses. So what made lovely Lucy decide to make the leap?
"The thing is that everyone always presumes that RTE is the best gig in town, but that is not the case," she says. "I was very happy while I was there, but they weren't in a position to offer me what I was looking for, and then TV3 came along with an offer that ticked all of the boxes. They're showing me the love – actually, they've shown me more love in the past week and a half than RTE did in eight years. They came in and swept me off my feet, and they had me at, 'Would you like the afternoon show?'"
Lucy had enjoyed a great relationship with her old RTE boss, Steve Carson, and was in and out to him pitching ideas and proposals over the years. However, she was out of contract since last August, and had only done two small projects with RTE since then, but luckily she has great corporate clients too.
"I did tell Steve that I was considering pitching to TV3, so I was very upfront about it," she says. "Even so, I imagine it may still have come as a shock to them when they realised that I had gone."
In the end, TV3 approached Lucy about being co-presenter of the new afternoon show, Late Lunch Live, with Martin King. It was all a bit of a whirlwind, because the first screen test was done on the Friday evening of the August bank holiday, and by last Thursday, Lucy was being unveiled as the jewel in the crown of the station's autumn schedule.
She's thrilled, she says, because she was looking to present a magazine-type show, the hours will suit perfectly around her two small children, and she is a big fan of King, whom she feels is very sincere and down-to-earth. One wonders whether RTE will scratch its head and question why it didn't do more to keep her?
"Well, they had their chance," she smiles.
"There's a saying that you don't know how much you love someone until you lose them, and I hope RTE realises that now. Often when I pitched ideas, they'd tell me that they couldn't do them due to budget restrictions, and if I said that I'd pitch them to TV3, they'd say, 'OK, Luce.' I think they always thought I was bluffing about going to TV3, and I don't think they genuinely thought I would do it. I still think they're probably in denial, and won't believe it until they see me on the couch with Martin King."
All of this is delivered with a laugh, because Lucy understands how the industry and budgets work, and is not bitter towards her former employers. She also understands that making the move from the national broadcaster is a big gamble, and that the door may not remain open for her return.
"Generally, once you swap, you swap for life, so I had to be sure," she admits. "I was sure, and I am sure."
While she's poised to make a whole lot of bessie mates out in Ballymount, she won't be forgetting her old pals at Montrose, principally Daithi O Se, Baz Ashmawy, Kathryn Thomas, Sile Seoige, and Colm Hayes.
"Daithi is one of my very, very good pals," she says, adding that they're already getting great fun out of the perceived competition between their two afternoon shows. "He calls me Kennedy, and I can safely say that my favourite Livin' with Lucy was with him. I lived with him for four days and he made me do shots of brandy, which I still can't bear to smell."
Lucy (37) grew up in Sandycove, as the middle child of John and Gilly Kennedy's three daughters, and she has two sisters, Anna (39), a Montessori teacher, and Gemma (34), who lives in Manhattan and works in marketing for drinks firm, Pernod Ricard. Describing herself as "very naughty but nice" growing up, and "too bloody honest" most of the time, she is very close to all of her family and loves hanging out with her sisters.
"Mum and Dad separated when I was 15, but they remained very good friends," she says. "Thank God it was all very amicable and not even vaguely traumatic, because you hear of some horrific separations."
After school, she got a job as an air hostess with Cityjet, which she did for three years and loved it. However, the idea of television appealed to her, and she combined a day job in sales with a course in presenting and production with Bil Keating. She became more interested in working behind the scenes, and got a job on The Weakest Link, presented by Eamon Dunphy.
Then her friend, Maia Dunphy, cajoled her into sending her showreel into RTE for consideration for The Ex-Files. The producers were impressed, seeing her as an Irish Davina McCall, and her chatty, irreverent approach led to her presenting shows such as Podge and Rodge and Livin' with Lucy. Her chat show, The Lucy Kennedy Show, followed – her dad John was its in-house pianist.
She also took the helm on two radio shows at 2fm. The first was a two-hander with Colm Hayes, hastily put in as a temporary measure following the shock passing of Gerry Ryan.
The second was her show with Baz Ashmawy, The Baz and Lucy Show, which ran on weekend mornings for two years, but was axed in July 2012 following cost-cutting measures at RTE. "I was absolutely devastated," she admits. "Myself and Baz had a good cry, because we loved it and it was our baby. We'd built a strong listenership of 72,000, which was healthy. I still miss being on radio."
Lucy met her husband, Richard Governey, in her early 20s, and they started dating when she was 23. It took him eight years to pop the question, she complains, jokingly, and even at that, she had to give him a prod in the right direction.
She even marked a ring she liked in the Argos catalogue and left it in their bathroom, so that when he was flicking through it while in there, he'd hopefully realise that she favoured a princess-cut ring.
"We were going away for the weekend a lot at the time, and I kept getting manicures and blow-dries before we left, thinking that this was it," she laughs. "It wasn't, and each time I'd come home annoyed.
"We went to Castle Leslie one weekend and I made no effort, as I wasn't expecting it to happen. After dinner, I went back to the room, changed into my Penneys pyjamas, took off my make-up, put Sudocrem on my spots and my hair in a ponytail.
"Richie followed me in, produced a ring from his pocket, and went down on one knee, but the problem was that the bed was so high that I couldn't see him."
He's a management consultant and has worked in London from Monday to Friday for the past year and a half, which has effectively made her a single parent during the week. No small task when you consider that Jack (3), and Holly (1), are so young.
"When he comes home at weekends, I pretty much turn into the Princess and the Pea to make up for it," she laughs.
And after a brief lull careerwise it'll soon be all systems go. "Life is great at the moment, because I feel great," says Lucy. "I have my brand new show, my husband is coming back to live here full-time, and we have our two babies. I've never been happier."
Late Lunch Live starts on TV3 on September 30