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Spotlight On: Gráinne Seoige

With over 26 years in the TV industry, Gráinne Seoige is one of Ireland’s top presenters. 

The Galway native is Goss.ie‘s latest Spotlight On cover star and in this exclusive interview, she opens up about the highs and lows of life in the public eye, and her exciting new adventures. 

She also speaks about hosting new Irish dating show Grá ar an Trá, and why she’s so proud to be a Gaeilgeoir.

Grainne Seoige pictured at the inaugural Goss.ie Women of the Year Awards at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire. Picture: Brian McEvoy

Gráinne, who was born and raised in the coastal village of Spiddal, is the eldest of four children.

The 49-year-old graduated from University College Galway with a Diploma in English, Sociology and Political Science.

She later returned to the university to complete a Higher Diploma in in Applied Communications for Television and Radio through Irish.

After discovering her love for presenting, Gráinne launched her broadcasting career in 1996 – anchoring the 10pm news bulletin with Gillian Ní Cheallaigh on Teilifís na Gaeilge, which had just launched at the time.

Gráinne continued working with Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4) for two years, before moving over to TV3.

At TV3 (now Virgin Media One), the presenter hosted the 5:30pm News and the 6:30pm news with Alan Cantwell, along with News Tonight. 

The TV star also regularly appeared on Ireland AM, and still does to this day. 

In 2004, Gráinne moved to Sky News Ireland – where she presented news bulletins.

Gráinne joined RTÉ in 2006, where she co-presented a popular afternoon chat show called ‘Seoige’ with her sister Síle for three years. She also co-presented Crimecall from 2011 to 2016.

While working at RTÉ, the mother-of-one also hosted The All Ireland Talent Show, Put ‘Em Under Pressure, and Up for the Match. 

She also fronted a number of documentaries for RTÉ, including Gráinne Seoige’s Modern Life and Great Irish Journeys – which explored Ireland during the Great Famine. 

Along with her work at TG4, Virgin Media One, Sky News Ireland AND RTÉ, Gráinne has also worked with BBC One and ITV. 

Although she is one of the best known presenters in the country, Gráinne tends to keep her personal life out of the public eye. 

She welcomed her son Conall when she was just 20-years-old, and has said becoming a mum changed her world overnight.

Gráinne was married to her former TV3 colleague Stephen Cullinane from 2002 until 2010.

She found love again a few years later with South African businessman and former rugby coach Leon Jordaan, who she has been happily married to since 2019.

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Check out our exclusive interview with Gráinne below:

You hosted our second annual Women of the Year Awards last weekend. What was it like being part of such an inspiring day?

It was exactly what you said, it was inspiring and it’s a privilege and an honour. It’s humbling and it’s fun, glamorous and so full of women supporting each other and giving each other the applause they deserve – particularly the unsung heroes, that’s really really wonderful.

Who’s the most inspiring woman in your own life?

It is a cliché, but my mom. She’s so dynamic and so full of energy. That’s really inspirational. Also my grandmothers before her, on both sides, had ten kids each and lived to be really old women and just that love and grounding they gave all of their kids was amazing.

You’ve been in the industry for over 25 years. Women tend to face a lot of difficulties in their respective fields. What do you think is the biggest difficulty women are facing in your industry?

I think things are changing in our industry. I think the fact that women are owning the fact that we’re ageing and it’s ok to say it gives us a little bit of power. Also, the more experience you have, the more you have to offer, the more compassion and empathy you have, the more you know yourself and I think finally, that’s being seen. If you think of the women who are representing us in TV – Strictly Come Dancing [co-hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman] for example, both of those women are in their 50s and they look incredible. So, I think while it has always been an ageist industry, things are changing and I’m delighted I’m around for it.

“I think things are changing in our industry…”

Grainne Seoige at The Gossies 2023 annual awards at The Convention Centre Dublin.
Picture: Brian McEvoy

It’s been a busy few weeks for you, with the premiere of new Irish dating show Grá ar an Trá. How has the reaction been to the show? 

It’s been so lovely because you get a team of people together and everyone works really hard to make it, and then it gets edited, and you get these lovely contestants who put themselves in your hands. You create this programme and you put it out into the world and you don’t know how it’s going to be received. You just don’t know, you can have high hopes but you don’t know for sure. So, for it to be so well received is just wonderful. It really really is. We’re so delighted, everyone on the team, we’re just so delighted.

One of last week’s episode ended with the arrival of two new bombshells. Can viewers expect any other twists and turns this season? 

Oh yeah, there are twists and turns. Yeah there are. Stuff happens, and I can’t even go into it! But there are more twists to come and it’ll hit our Love Teach-ers by surprise. It’s exciting, but there are plenty of twists to come!

Based on viewers’ reaction, can we expect another season of Grá ar an Trá?

I think it’s really early days to say that. Obviously it’s not up to me. I’d love to say yes, because we had so much fun making the show. It’ll be up to Virgin Media. All power to them for going out and making a show with Gaeilge as its centre point. It’s not something that would’ve been made a few years ago, but I think it’s wonderful that they are making it. I’d love to see more, but let’s see what happens!

People are delighted to see you back on our screens. Have you any other exciting TV gigs lined up? 

I’m in the middle of Grá ar an Trá, that’s going on for a while. I’ve spent the entire summer presenting The Six O’Clock Show, I present every Friday as well and some other days as well when I need to step in. That’s plenty! I also did Celebrity Gogglebox Ireland the other day. So, it’s a really busy time, super busy. There’s plenty to be going on with.

Let’s take it back to the beginning of your career. When did you first discover your love for TV work/presenting? 

I studied English, Sociology and Politics in University College Galway as it was at the time. I wanted to be a journalist and while I was studying, there were rumblings about an Irish language channel. Our President Michael D. Higgins was Minister for Communications at the time and he felt the people in Gaeltachts all over the country, from Donegal, to Galway, to Kerry, to Co. Meath, he sort of felt that they weren’t being served and what they needed from broadcasting wasn’t being well-represented. This channel was going to do that. It’s hard to remember a time without TG4, but at the time the Irish language was seen as a language that was spoken by the old, and people who were on the verge of dying so the language itself was on the verge of dying. It was a very brave suggestion to say ‘That’s not true, it’s a vibrant language spoken by young people!’ So they wanted to hire young people to show this to the population, rather than showing older people speaking Irish – which is what people were being fed for a long time.

I was fortunate at the time to be in education, and I did a post-graduate degree in Applied Communications, also in UCG, through Irish and geared towards television. Our class was being qualified, Teilifís na Gaeilge (T na G) were looking for people to go into their news service and they did want to hire fresh faces. It was about being in the right place at the right time. We applied, we went through a very rigorous interview process by RTÉ News – the Director General was involved, the Head of News was involved. It was very rigorous.

I was delighted to get one of the places on the team, then we went through a massive training programme to get ready to go on-air in 1996. I think it was when you were put in front of the cameras that you discovered whether you had an aptitude or not. Some people felt more comfortable behind the camera, and I loved being in front of it. You don’t know whether that’s going to be a talent that you have until you try it. That’s how I discovered I had an aptitude for it.

Grainne Seoige | Robbie Reynolds

You previously hosted a popular afternoon show called Seoige with your sister Síle, and admitted you were heartbroken when it was axed. Would you like to work with your sister again in the future?

I think if the right opportunity came up. Síle is super busy with her very successful podcast, and I’m super busy doing what I’m doing. I think if the right opportunity came up again, it would be lovely. I remember years ago we had Richard Madeley, who has a very long career with his wife Judy, when you walk in and you sit down with people who are family, the chemistry is instant and the communication is so clear, easy and relaxed that it’s a very special chemistry. We loved it, and we had great fun that year together. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that you never know what’s going to happen. You know, I’m open to it.

You’re considered quite the TV icon in Ireland. Have you ever had any crazy fan experiences?

No, never! Irish people are lovely. Especially living in Galway. Galway people are very used to a lot of well-known people being there that they’re very easy-going about it. That’s the kind of background I grew up with. I think people are very, very kind. I was in Dunnes Stores the other night and a girl came up to me and we chatted for ten minutes. People are lovely and they like to see you do well. I’ve never had any crazy interactions, thankfully.

There’s been talks about an Irish version of The Masked Singer coming soon. Obviously you hosted The All Ireland Talent Show before, so would you like to throw your hat in the ring for The Masked Singer presenting gig? 

I have no idea what’s coming in the future, and I have enough experience to know that you can never say what’s happening. Dancing with the Stars wasn’t supposed to be happening and it is because the ratings are so great. Dancing with the Stars could continue for many years to come. I don’t believe in talking about things that don’t exist, and this doesn’t exist.

Alongside your presenting career, you’re a very successful businesswoman. Can you tell us a bit about your company Grace Diamonds?

Grace Diamonds is my baby and my husband’s baby as well. It grew from our own engagement in South Africa where many of the world’s diamonds are mined. We lived about a half an hour from where the biggest diamond ever was found – the Cullinan Diamond. We were based there when we were living in Victoria. I just fell in love with the whole tradition in South Africa – the mining, the polishing, the making of jewellery. What I wanted to do was marry that with Irish diamonds. I think Irish women are very glamorous and they have a really individual, strong sense of their own style.

By having custom-made jewellery, they can express it rather than buying something that is mass produced and off the shelf. That’s been the cornerstone of our business. We’ve worked with a lot of those very special heirloom pieces that are needed for a milestone in life and that can be handed down to the next generation. That’s a very special part of someone’s life to be a part of.

We are getting ready to launch a brand new ready-to-wear range on our website. That’s coming soon. That’ll be available to buy online and you’ll have it in a few days. Whereas custom takes a while to design and make, but we want to be able to facilitate people who want something quicker while still having great quality.

You’ve been in the public eye for a long time. What has been the most challenging thing about it? 

Being in the public eye now is very different to being in the public eye in the late 90s, before the internet really took off. Google was in its infancy, people barely had email addresses, there were no cameras on phones, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook didn’t exist – it was a completely different time.

It has been really amazing to live and work through that time and see how people communicate with a mass audience in a different way now. Even in terms of TV, the broadcast landscape has become disparate. It’s not one big channel or two big channels, there’s streaming, there’s online, there’s ways of viewing television that didn’t exist when I started. That is a challenge, but the other flip side of a challenge is opportunity.

The wonderful thing about this time and the way broadcasting has changed is that a lot more people have the opportunity to enter the broadcasting landscape. That’s definitely a positive, particularly when you think about representation. People have been able to show themselves without having to go through traditional media and I think that’s really good. On the flip side again, the keyboard warrior thing is there which can take a toll on people. There are pluses and minuses to how the landscape has changed, but it’s been great to live in interesting times.

Photo: Luke O’Faolain

What’s next for you?

Just keep working. Keep enjoying life. I want to keep making jewellery. I’m having a really lovely time right now, and I’d really like that to continue. I’m putting that out in the universe that that’s the way things go.

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