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While she’s been brightening up our TVs for nearly a quarter of a century, Loose Woman star Andrea McLean’s foray into TV was actually an accident.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time, McLean told Kate Thornton that her dream job was actually to be a magazine journalist.
“I didn't set out to work in telly - I fell into telly by accident,” she said.
“All I'd ever wanted to be was a writer and be a journalist. I applied for a student loan, literally packed everything I owned in the back of the car and I moved to London and slept on floors and went and put myself through college and then literally pounded the streets and worked for free for anybody who would have me!”
Out of the many jobs she applied, one was to work on The Weather Channel as a presenter – but it wasn’t quite what she thought it was.
“I had inadvertently applied to be a weather presenter, which I hadn't realised. I'd misread a job application,” she laughed.
Listen: Andrea McLean talks about coming back from her breakdown
She continued: “I was applying for every job going and it [the ad] said journalists with onscreen presence and interest in weather. I just saw the word journalist… So, I just wrote this letter about how I'm interested in the weather.”
At the time, McLean was living in a tiny bedsit, just about surviving, which sometimes meant sitting in the cold and dark when she ran out of money for the meter.
Two years later after her initial application, while working as a production editor in a stressful job she hated, McLean received a phone call from The Weather Channel asking her to attend and audition.
My first TV job in 1996 was with @weatherchannel when they launched in the UK. This was one of my first pre recorded broadcasts with @nadinedereza who would become a friend, flatmate and chief mischief instigator - as you can you see when she kicks me under the table! 🤣 This is a #tbt to one of the happiest times in my working life, sharing a flat with a friend, having adventures and no clue about what life had in store for me - it makes me smile just looking at this. #throwbackthursday #happydays #startingout
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“In the end, I went for an interview in the morning for Just 17 magazine, which is what I really wanted, and then an interview in the afternoon to be a weather girl,” she recalled.
“I knew I'd blown the one in the morning because I wanted it too much and I came across as a complete idiot.”
The Weather Channel offered her a job for one month and while it meant ditching her steady job, she immediately went for it.
“I jumped! I took a chance and I literally went in blind,” the Scottish-born star said.
“I knew nothing about working in TV, but I thought I'm unhappy where I am. This sounds really interesting and if I don't like it, I'll just try and get another job. It was the best pivot I've ever made, because clearly I've been working in TV ever since!”
Sadly, McLean was made redundant from the The Weather Channel just 18 months later, however, another new avenue was soon to open up for her.
She said: “That very week, the weather presenter on GMTV had handed her notice in and I heard about it through the weather grapevine – because it's an actual thing – and I sent my photo in to the editor of GMTV and I got a phone call saying, 'Do you want to come in for an interview?'”
At the time, the thought of an interview with the show was a big deal for McLean. However, it would soon become obvious that she had been called in under false pretences.
It’s January. It’s day 8 of trying to be ‘good’, trying to stop doing all the things that are supposed to be ‘bad’. Did I mention it’s January? The most rubbish month of the year because it takes half a day to get light then it just gets dark all over again? And it’s cold. And then it rains... again. And THIS is the month we are supposed to give up all the things that have been our crutch since the clocks went back - who in their infinite wisdom decided this?! So... on this midweek hump day I decided to look back at some of the things I’ve managed to do when I didn’t think I could, to see if it inspired me. As you’ll see, all it did was make me howl at the dodgy haircuts, doubtful fashion and decidedly daring things I’ve done over the past 20 years. Yes... I really did strap myself to the top of a bi-plane and do a loop-the-loop dressed like a Bananawoman tribute act. How I’ll top that in the NEXT 20 years I have no idea. But it’s made me laugh, which is what we could all do with on a cold January evening. So this is my gift to you. It contains zero calories or alcohol so enjoy. You’re welcome. #leapinginto2020likebananawoman #newyear #midweekmotivation #humpdayvibes #whatwasithinking
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“Unbeknownst to me, they'd only invited me in for the interview because in my photo I really looked like the editor's girlfriend,” she laughed. “They called me in just to have a laugh!”
While McLean didn’t get the job, she was instead hired to train the next weather person up.
“I got the job of training the person that they gave the job to, because – this is how insane TV is – they gave the job to someone else who couldn't do the weather, but was better looking, because that's how telly works,” laughed the Loose Woman star.
Luck was once again on McLean’s side as the new presenter didn’t last long.
“I trained them, and they lasted for about six weeks because they actually found it very stressful,” she told Thornton.
She continued: “They called me back and said 'Look, can you just fill in until we find someone else?' And so, I arrived, and I just kept really quiet and kept turning up – and I was there for 11 years. That shows you kids, just turn up, be good at your job, don't make a fuss!”
McLean left the show in 2008 and has since been one of the main anchors on Loose Women.
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Now she is releasing her third book This Girl Is On Fire on 29 September, which charts a breakdown she had last year, aiming to empower women to get through their tough times, and also runs a website of the same name with husband Nick.
“It started as a little menopause site… And it became very quickly not about the menopause,” she said about her website.
“It just became about making women feel good about themselves and doing everything I could in terms of finding great writers and this sort of thing to find new ways of making women feel great.
“It just makes me feel so good. All I've ever wanted to do is help. Everything I've ever done comes from love and wanting to pay things forward.”
Buy it: This Girl Is On Fire by Andrea McLean | £7.99 (Was £12.99) from Amazon
Hear Andrea McLean and her husband Nick Feeney chat about their relationship, dealing with trauma and the things that make them happy. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.