Former Miss Ireland Amanda Brunker relearns Irish with TikTok star in TV return
“As soon as you go on television everybody feels like they have the right to have an opinion on what you’re wearing, how your hair is, what colour lipstick you’re wearing and all of that kind of stuff.”
She was propelled to fame at the tender age of 17 as Miss Ireland and Amanda Brunker saw her name in lights for the best part of the next 30 years.
Since hosting TV shows, penning pages of the Sunday World,and making firm friends with stars Bono and Liam Cunningham, the feisty Dubliner now leads a calmer life writing at home.
Amanda will turn 50 next year and while she’s a married mum of two teenage boys, the bubby blonde still feels like a young one.
“I don’t feel nearly 49. I feel 30. There’s no point in me saying 25 or 19 — I definitely don’t feel that age — but I do feel 30,” she reflects.
“It’s terrible then when you look in the mirror or you see yourself on a TV programme and you go, ‘Jesus, who is that auld one looking back at me?’, because I’m going ‘that’s not how I feel’ and that’s kind of partly why I stopped doing television, because I hated looking at myself and I hated people going “that top did nothing for you” or “that lipstick didn’t look good on you”, or “I don’t know what you did with your hair”.
“I pulled away from a lot of the TV work I was doing because I just couldn’t take the criticism anymore, because it does wear on you,” Amanda admits.
“As soon as you go on television everybody feels like they have the right to have an opinion on what you’re wearing, how your hair is, what colour lipstick you’re wearing and all of that kind of stuff.
“And I haven’t missed it, to be honest.”
But an opportunity to spend a week in the Gaeltacht in Rann na Feirste, Co Donegal, learning Irish with four well-known faces, as part of RTÉ’s Réaltaí na Gaeltachtaseries, was too good an opportunity for Amanda to resist returning to our screens once again.
“I have to say, it was one of the nicest experiences I’ve had in the last five years,” she beams.
“They asked me if I’d do the show and I jumped at it because it was like a week away from my kids, or just responsibilities and all of that.
“I have never seen so many lakes in one place, all beside the sea. Basically, where you fly into, it has been voted the most beautiful airport landing in Europe — it’s absolutely stunning.
“The people were lovely, the landscape was lovely, the fresh air was just so rejuvenating, and I was actually really sad when I had to leave, and had to come home. I didn’t want it to end.”
Amanda bonded immediately with her bean an tí (woman of the house), Maighréad Mhic Grianna.
“From the minute I arrived and we gave each other a hug, I just went, ‘Oh my God, I love this woman, I just love her’. We’re still great pals.”
She is one of two female personalities on the show and gets to share a bunk bed with TikTok star Lauren Whelan.
“She was 20, I was going, ‘Ah here!’” she laughs. “I felt like such an auld one.
“Of course I couldn’t help but feel a little bit maternal towards her and mind her because it was kind of her first TV thing. But there weren’t any flies on her at all. She was just brilliant and up for the craic.”
Joining the duo are sports presenter Des Cahill, comedian Fred Cooke and Mayo Gaelic footballer Oisín Mullen.
“I decided to just go for it. I was meeting everybody, we were chatting with all the locals and I was making loads of friends,” Amanda recalls.
“Then I had to come home and I came home after painting and kayaking and swimming in the sea, and going island hopping. I could do without the céilís, I’m too old for that shit; like, I’m not really a céilí person or one for singsongs either.”
Amanda reveals she learned some Gaeilge in Irish college near her old home during a few summers in her youth, but confesses she only remembers a few words and for the show she had to do several hours of classes each day.
“The whole idea of the show is to try and encourage people to use the few Irish words they have and I think the reason they wanted me is because the likes of Lauren has (sic) great Irish. Des Cahill has really good Irish. Fred Cooke, even though he said he was brutal, he was much better than he let on,” she smiles.
“And Oisín as well, his Irish wasn’t bad, whereas it was over 30 years since I was in school and I didn’t learn any in school. So, I was brutal,” she continues.
“But it’s amazing how quickly words come back to you, and phrases. I think the whole premise of the show is to try and get people to even incorporate a few words of Irish into their everyday life, and it gets easier and it is nice.”
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