Alison Curtis: If I took a different fork in the road I think I might have been a hairdresser – Irish Examiner

Alison has recently joined her local GAA club, St Vincent’s, as part of Sports Direct’s Gaelic4Mothers&Others programme. Picture: 
©INPHO/James Crombie
I’m from Canada and was on my way to do a master’s degree in Glasgow when I got into radio in Dublin. I was with Today Fm for about three months before I got onto the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show and then each year would go by and I’d stay on and my work permit would be renewed. I ended up being on that show for 10 years. Then in 2002 I met my husband, so I never made it to Glasgow.
I actually studied anthropology at the University of Toronto but the moment I started working in radio, even as a producer behind the scenes, I just loved the creativity. I love the immediacy and how you can connect with listeners right away and the intimacy of it all.
I did feel in our station at the time, however, that there were just no women on air. It was a big thing for me and it’s when I started to push to have my own programme. It’s obviously improved since then but when I joined first there was really only myself and one other woman. It was just a different landscape across all of the Irish radio stations back then. It was the biggest challenge I’ve faced professionally to try to break through that glass ceiling. I got my first show in 2002 and my own weekend slot in 2013.
The biggest personal challenge that I’ve ever faced was losing both of my parents when I was a teenager. The biggest challenge was to try and keep on track in university and not go down a different path. I had to tell myself to keep focused and say to myself: “This has happened. You will cope, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. Keep going and finish the degree. Keep yourself healthy and keep moving forward.” I think at the best of times we have nothing figured out, but to have to figure it all out at 19, that was definitely a challenge.
My earliest memory is of my twin sister Karen falling down the steps in our cottage in Canada. She wasn’t badly hurt but I have such a vivid memory of running around the house trying to call my dad and having that panic. She was fine, but it really was my first memory of something going wrong and trying to alert people for help. She’s still living in Canada now. I haven’t been back in two years because of the pandemic but she was over here for three months working from my house. It was the first time we lived together since we were teenagers, so we had some sibling moments, but it was wonderful having her here. She’s the person I turn to most in the world, along with my husband Anton.
I would like to be remembered for being kind and for being someone who helped people and made people feel good about themselves. Hopefully, I also hope to be remembered as someone people could rely on and for being fun. I hope I’m fun to be around, good craic as we say. Kindness is the big one though. I always tell my daughter that a lot of things don’t matter, just be the kindest you can be.

The lesson I would like to pass on would be to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.
We all have those moments where we can be a little bit shady or irritable but I feel like you always have to stop and reflect on how you could impact someone. Don’t throw something at somebody that you wouldn’t cope well with.
My greatest quality is that when I start something, I’m fully committed to it. I’m best at talking and I love listening as well. I just love people. I love talking to people and hearing their stories.
The greatest advice I’ve been given is to stop sweating the small stuff. I know it’s impossible when you’re younger because when you’re in your teens and 20s you feel like you’re the centre of everybody’s universe. But as you get older you start to think back and wonder why you worried so much. I would tell anyone to stop spending energy on the small stuff and also on people who don’t make you feel very good about yourself.
When my daughter does something that I think is exceptional it surprises me. Recently a close friend of hers spoke about worrying about her physical appearance and my daughter’s response was: “Your body is perfect for you and if somebody says something to you it means they’re not happy with themselves.” They’re only 10! Those moments surprise me because it shows that she’s applying all of the chats we have to life. I really love that.
If I took a different fork in the road I think I might have been a hairdresser. I actually love cutting hair and during lockdown I really enjoyed doing it. If you’re a hairdresser you’re always talking to people as well. Talking and listening, it all comes back to those.

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