Big Brother star ready to rock

Kate Lawler at Rock FM
Kate Lawler at Rock FM
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Big Brother winner turned radio star Kate Lawler has joined Preston-based Rock FM. MALCOLM WYATT met her at the station in St Paul’s Square

IT’S easy to write off all those made famous by the 21st-century glut of fly-on-the-wall entertainment shows.

But you’d be wrong to include Kate Lawler among the ‘Z-list celebrities’, as anyone who meets this ambitious, articulate former Big Brother winner will tell you.

Kate is far more than just a pretty face, as listeners to her shows for Preston’s Rock FM and the national Kerrang! Radio stations have learned.

Aside from the past lads’ mag photo-shoots and headline-grabbing tabloid tales, there was this year’s Sony award nomination for a start, with her passion for music and radio clear.

Kate was the first female winner of Big Brother back in 2002.

That proved to be the Channel 4 show’s highest-rated series, averaging 5.8m viewers over two months, with 10m tuning in for the finale and 8.6m votes cast.

Kate, then 22, triumphed over the likes of Jade Goody and Southport’s Adele Roberts, a former Rock FM DJ, now established on BBC Radio 1Xtra.

Kate said: “Those last 11 years have flown by, but I’m good friends with Alison Hammond, PJ and Jonny Regan in particular, and occasionally see Sophie and Spencer.

“That’s really nice, because when I was in the house I felt I’d make life-long friendships.

“If I hadn’t done Big Brother I do wonder what I’d be doing now. I was working in a bank, about to train as a trader. Weirdness! I would’ve been coining it in now, though - dammit!

“But I don’t regret it a second. It was an incredible experience. I was the first girl to win, at the height of its fame, a good time to do it. I’ve had a blast - that’s how I can tell I don’t regret it. I’m appreciative of everyone who voted for me.”

Pretty soon, Kate was DJing on Capital FM and co-presenting Channel 4 breakfast TV show RI:SE with comedian Iain Lee.

She said: “I joined in its last year, the producers having put their money into a new reality show which didn’t work either.

“But it was a great experience, and Iain Lee’s one of my favourite people in the world.

“I never had any training in TV, and there I was on a live breakfast show, meeting lots of cool people and heroes of mine, doing lots of press junkets. Ratings were starting to go up again, at least we went out on a high.”

Media offers continued to flood in, including ITV’s Celebrity Wrestling, modelling for her beloved Arsenal FC, a column for The Sun, guest slots on ITV’s Love Island 2, Sky’s Brainiac: Science Abuse, presenting late-night ITV dating show Playdate.

A love of sport and fitness also led to her part in the BBC’s Celebrity Total Wipeout.

From late 2007, Kate’s career moved in a different direction, presenting morning and then 4pm-7pm slots on Kerrang! Radio, big on audience interaction and features.

These days it’s radio that takes up most of Kate’s time, reaching out to Rock FM listeners in a Monday-Thursday 10pm-1am show also going out on Key 103, Radio Aire, Hallam FM and Viking FM, music-focused but with audience-interaction.

“I was worried with it being such a late-night show it would be quite quiet, in terms of people getting in touch, but it’s not.

“It’s really good fun, and loads of people have been getting involved in the show. We’re having a good time.”

Meanwhile, she continues to front weekday Kerrang! breakfast show from 7am to 10am, also part of the Bauer network.

“I’m in my fifth week at Rock FM, but can say that those who get involved on both stations are lovely, chatty and friendly.”

While her Kerrang! show is more rocky, her Rock FM focus is pop and chart-based. But Kate dismisses any distinctions.

“I loved music from a young age and tended to listen to radio rather than watch TV. Music always played in our house.

“I was never really a Radio 1 fan, I listened to Capital FM, Neil Fox’s Chart Show, then Bam Bam’s breakfast show on Kiss FM. I loved Chris Moyles, then got into my rock, listening to more indie stations. I’m a huge fan of all kinds of music.

“I listen to Bob Marley in the morning, then love pop and dance music, having DJ’d in clubs for seven years, playing house music.

“I’m no music snob. You can like more than one genre. Anyone who says you can’t is an idiot!”

Did she always dream of being a DJ? “I learned to when I was younger, but would never have pursued it. It was just a bedroom thing with my mate Tom.

“We played drum’n’bass when we came home from school until his Mum told us off, because it was too loud.

“When DJ’ing started to develop digitally, I got some decks. But that took a back-seat when I got my radio job - doing that five days a week, DJing at the weekend and seeing family and friends is difficult.

“Last year I entered for a Sony award and really wanted to be nominated this year. That happened in the best entertainment section, which I’m proud of. I’m carving out a career in radio and take that seriously. I’m also quite ambitious, and knew it was the hardest I’d ever worked.

Does she miss London? “My family and friends are down there, so I go back as much as I can. I love London. I’d like to go back one day. It’s home for me, despite saying the people are miserable!

“I love it here though, and the weather’s been fantastic so far! Back in London, everyone’s in a rush, with no time for each other.

“I’ve only lived here a month but I’m having the time of my life. Everyone seems more relaxed, laid-back, care-free, friendly - especially at the radio station.

“I’ve met some wonderful people and think I’m really going to enjoy it. I have started saying ‘tea’ rather than ‘dinner’ though, which I’m a little concerned about.

“My producer James (Robinson) thinks I’m turning into a Northerner. Up here you say breakfast, dinner and tea, rather than breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s wrong.”

So where might she be in five years? “I hate that question. I like to think I’ll still be doing radio, but who knows. I might have a family.

So what do you think of yourself first and foremost?

“Radio broadcaster, darling! I’ve worked in this industry five and a half years now, and feel I’ve found my feet.

And what about her private life? “I’m single. I’ve two little doggies. I’ve always been against having children, but one day… if I meet the right person.”