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crossroads Elaine Crowley on her pain at losing her mum and why Valentine's Day isn't for her

"Any day of the week, give me four stone and my mother back"

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Elaine Crowley

Elaine Crowley

Elaine Crowley

Elaine Crowley has one request for future suitors - don't Google her.

In the lead-up to what is purportedly the most romantic day of the year, the newly-single Virgin Media star has decreed online dating a no-go territory.

"I am not making out that I am famous, but if someone can Google everything about you before they even meet you, it's a bit weird.

"My ex remembered my birthday every year because he could Google it. I shudder to think what my Google search results would be: 'Elaine Crowley boyfriend', 'Elaine Crowley fat', 'Elaine Crowley net worth', which someone said is over a million quid, by the way - that is such a complete lie," she laughs.

"But just to reiterate, we are in Ireland, no one in Ireland is famous bar Bono. If you could see people who get on telly for a bit and they get notions after a few weeks. Calm down there, none of us are Oprah."

Oprah she may not be, but the charismatic 44-year-old is still very much Ireland's chat show queen, regardless of the fact that her eponymous panel show, Elaine, was shelved last year.

And like any leading lady, she never shies away from uncomfortable conversations.

There are cracks of emotion in the TV presenter's voice when she takes a call from Magazine+ on a bitter January evening.

Restrictions have lifted, cautious optimism is in the air, but the beloved broadcaster is at a crossroads both in her professional and personal life.

Having lost her adoring mother, Mary, last November, Elaine is swimming against a tidal wave of grief, but in her heartbreaking loss, she has also found a resilience that she never knew existed.

"The last couple of years have just been an entire - excuse my French - shit show. The last year especially," says the Cork woman candidly.

"I am after surprising myself a bit because a few years ago, my mam getting sick, a break-up, a house move and my show getting cancelled, any one of those things would have sent me off the deep end.

"But with the pandemic we have sharpened what is important. I think that is a lesson we have all learned because you can't plan ahead, you can only take one day at a time."

After months of caring for her mum, she sadly passed away at their family home in Mallow, Co Cork, after a long struggle with cancer, leaving Elaine and her nine siblings behind.

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Elaine and her late mum Mary

Elaine and her late mum Mary

Elaine and her late mum Mary

"I am distraught that the last two years of my mother's life were spent under this awful Covid shadow, but on the other hand, I also got to spend an awful lot of time with her, which I am so thankful for."

Looking forward to 2022, she is now relying on her mother's advice when it comes to navigating life post-pandemic and beyond.

Wiping away the tears, she reveals: "She used to always say, 'Lead them to God, girl'. If there were trolls or problems with work or friends or relationships, stuff that happens to us all, she'd say that, and I think that is such a lovely way of putting it.

"She meant that we shouldn't judge anyone because you don't know what they are going through.

"She was very much about rising above it and especially when you're in the public eye people can be a bit cruel, so it is the best kind of advice."

Acutely aware that she is not alone in her grief, Elaine adds: "I think we are all mourning something over the last couple of years, but I think losing a person is particularly hard.

"A lot of people have lost someone and maybe after a couple of months you can be like, 'Ah sure, it is time to get over it now'. I think it is easier said than done.

"I don't care what age you are, whether you are nine or 89, if you lose someone you love it is such a tremendous blow. I lost my dad when I was 23 so I have been dreading the day mam goes since then."

New work horizons also beckon after Virgin Media bosses called time on Elaine's weekday talk show after 10 years on air last August.

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Elaine and fellow Ireland AM presenter Simon Delaney

Elaine and fellow Ireland AM presenter Simon Delaney

Elaine and fellow Ireland AM presenter Simon Delaney

Viewers can currently find the popular presenter on the station's Weekend AM alongside Simon Delaney - but for how long?

"A lot of people forget before I did Midday and Elaine, I was actually with TV3 [Virgin Media] for 12 years already. I was a news reporter, I was an anchor, there's nothing I didn't do in TV3 at the time.

"I am used to changing roles. But being a presenter and a producer on Elaine was a massive chunk out of my life, it consumed me.

"I don't know how I did it, I was stressed the whole time. I do miss it, I miss the people and the craic but I think mentally and physically I am glad of the break from it.

"I am all over the place at the moment," she continues. "I don't know my arse from my elbow. And now it is the new year, and I am saying, 'What am I going to do with myself?' I am at a bit of a crossroads, really.

"The world is my oyster. It's the first time in years that I have been able to sit back and think about what I want and I haven't come to the conclusion about what I want yet. I haven't had a career break since I graduated college when I was 19.

"I got a guitar a couple of months ago and I removed all my acrylic nails. I have taken back to playing the guitar and I am going to take it easy. I might go on a mad Eat, Pray, Love journey, you never know."

One thing is for sure, we can't imagine Elaine not lighting up the small screen.

"I have been in people's sitting rooms for the last 10 years, and a lot of babies and toddlers have waddled up to me if they hear my voice because a lot of women would have been breastfeeding or having the show on when the kids were little, and I think that's amazing."

With television also comes scrutiny, and for many women in the spotlight, the damaging fixation around their weight can be constant. Elaine agrees: "The number of messages I am getting from people, 'What is your secret to losing weight?'

"Well, my mother was dying and then she died, and my appetite went. I don't want to reply that but it's the truth.

"I would go to mam on a Sunday and on Tuesday I'd realise all I had to eat in two days was tea and toast because that's how full on it was. Give me four stone and my mother back any day of the week."

However, in other matters of the heart, Elaine will be steadfastly avoiding Cupid's arrow on Valentine's Day.

"I broke up with my partner last year," she says. "We are still very good friends, we know each other too long, he's a fierce nice fella.

"My dad used to always send me a Valentine's card when I was younger and pretend it wasn't him. I think it's a lovely day but maybe for younger people.

"It is a day of celebrating the people you love in your life - that's what is important."

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