Originally published for Claire House Magazine
Dawn O’Porter is making a name for herself for being one of Britain’s best-loved female personalities. She’s a fit, funny feminist who takes an original approach to everything she does (she recently married Irish Hollywood star, Chris O’Dowd and rather than just take his surname, decided to merge the two.) She spent her 20’s making documentaries on everything from slimming down to a size zero to investigating polygamy.
She’s now turned her hand at becoming a best-selling novelist. I caught up with Dawn at the Liverpool signing of her book, Paper Aeroplanes (give it a read, it’s not just for the kids) to discuss her drinking days in Liverpool, Scouse Brows and feminism.
Hi Dawn, it’s not really mentioned much but you actually used to live in Liverpool (Dawn was a student at LIPA) – did you enjoy your time in Merseyside? This is going to be a really awkward interview if you didn’t…..
I LOVE Liverpool. I had an absolutely great time here. When I left, I didn’t look back because life got so busy in London but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have the most amazing time here. I remember having such a good time but it was so different. The social life was smaller, I think it was the Finch and Furkin on Hope Street. Is The Pilgrim still open? I was there all the time. Zanzibar? I wouldn’t have a clue where to go nowadays.
The Pilgrim’s still around, don’t worry. Now we’ve confirmed that you love Liverpool, you can tell us; what’s your favourite thing about Scousers?
Scousers are so much fun to go out on the piss with! I had a few local friends when I was here. My social life wasn’t massively about my course and I had a little group of friends and we hung with a lot of Scousers. I love Liverpool humour. This guy Joey – Joey, if you’re reading this I don’t know where you are or what happened to you – but he used to make me laugh so much. He was old school Liverpool, he was about 40 odd when I were at college and he would just hang out with us and make us laugh all day. I’ve never forgotten him and he was one of the funniest people in the whole world. Scousers were great for a days drinking – and that’s all I really did here if I’m honest!!
Now, your book Paper Aeroplanes is about two teenage girls and is marketed as a young adult read, any plans for literature just for the grown ups?
These two books (Paper Aeroplanes and the sequel Goose which Dawn is currently writing) are young adult but I’d like to keep writing about these two girls, Renee and Flo, all their life. I’ve already mapped out the 3rd book which is them in their 20’s and the 4th will be them in their 30’s. They’ll obviously be aimed at adults because the characters will have grown up. The idea is to keep the audience growing with the book, that would be ideal.
I didn’t write it any differently to how it would have been if the book was for adults; I didn’t think about teenagers when writing it – I thought about female friendship. I don’t have a teenager audience yet, so most of the readers have been 25 plus and the response has been amazing.
Now regardless of what Janet St Porter thinks (Janet called Dawn a traitor to feminism for taking an advert campaign for Andrex Washlets), you are one of Britain’s strong feminist role models – who inspires you?
I actually went on Loose Women with her the other day and she was so nice to me!! She didn’t mention it but I think what she probably realised when I got there was that I wasn’t the stupid idiot that she’d made me out to be. In response, I said in another paper that I thought it made her sound like a silly old bag and then three days later I’m on Loose Women next to her and she’s being really nice to me. You know, when you’re a journalist you’ve got to write stuff for people to notice it and you say stuff like that. What she said was completely ridiculous. I take one job for the money, because you have to do that when you work in the public eye – it’s a great job as far as I’m concerned. But all that good stuff I’ve done for female confidence etc and I get called a traitor to feminism for taking one job – I just thought what she said was ridiculous so yeah, I am a feminist and it made me feel more determined after that actually.
I love Caitlin Moran, Beyonce – there’s just so many at the moment. Basically, my idols in this industry are women who are nailing it, who have got kids and are continuing to work and don’t look like stick-thin supermodels and are just really good role models for women. I spend half my time in the U.S and all the women on TV over there look the same; they’re all stick thin, with big lollipop heads, and really, really straightened hair. In this country our biggest TV presenter is Davina McCall, who looks like a normal woman. There’s Caroline Flack, who’s got a normal shape, there’s Gemma Cairney with a normal shape, there’s me – none of us are stick thin and I think we should be really proud of that. For young girls in America, their examples aren’t like that. We all have personalities and over here people get on TV for their personalities. The majority of women on UK TV are really clever, funny women who are really good at their jobs and look like normal people. I think that’s a brilliant thing that there are a lot of feminist role models in our media.
Speaking of brilliant women; Liverpool’s produced lots of glamorous, strong female celebrities – who’s your favourite Scouse woman?
Natasha Hamilton from Atomic Kitten. She’s so sweet. I met her at a party the other day and she’s really cute.
Lets see if you remember any Liverpool lingo – Scouse Brows, yes or no?
LOVE THEM. I like big eyebrows. Eyebrows for a while were really thin – so I’m glad big brows are back. Scouse Brows are awesome.
Do you remember what ‘Boss’ means?
That something’s ‘wicked’?
Scran is scouse for food – so if you were to have a pan of scouse you’d be having ‘a big fat scran’
Ahhhh. I had Scouse when I was here. I love of that kind of food; Scouse, Hot Pot, Corned Beef hash…..
Dawn, it’s been an absolute pleasure. You need to do a refresher course on your Scouse lingo but as you love Scouse Brows so much we’ll let you off. And Joey, if you are reading this, give Dawn a Tweet…..
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