From wannabe lawyer to fashionista and now a co-host of Cool FM’s breakfast show with Pete Snodden and Paulo Ross every morning, life has been a roller coaster journey for Rebecca McKinney. She tells Karen Ireland how she believes fate helped her find her dream job and opens up about the love of her life.
Life has changed dramatically for Cool FM’s Rebecca McKinney (31) in the past four years. Back then she was working as a personal stylist for Victoria Square and loving life. “I had been working there for three years and absolutely loved it,” she reveals. “It was a fantastic job. I got to work with some amazing people and every day was different. I have always loved fashion so it seemed to fit me perfectly.”
At the time Rebecca was also presenting different fashion shows and events where she met radio host Pete Snodden.
“He was just going back to present the breakfast show and they were looking for a new female co-host. Pete suggested me, so I was brought in to do a demo with Pete and Paulo,” she explains.
“It went really well and Cool FM liked our rapport and offered me a trial for the summer,” she adds.
At the time Rebecca had a good stable job which she loved but she said it wasn’t a difficult decision to take the chance on a new career in broadcasting.
“I believe in going with your gut instinct and it just felt so right so there wasn’t really any decision to make. I had always been interested in broadcasting and I was being offered this amazing opportunity. I knew I would be mad not to go for it. I talked it over with friends and family, but it just really felt like this was the right time and the right place, so I decided to give it a go.”
According to Rebecca this is the second time fate has intervened in her career plans. Originally, she studied law and intended to pursue a future in that august profession.
“After I graduated from Queen’s I studied for the Bar exam but didn’t get it. I was confused at the time as I thought I had my career mapped out for me.
“I was put on the reserve list for a year,” says Rebecca. That was when she had a complete change of heart and decided law wasn’t for her, and that she wanted a career in broadcasting or communications instead.
“So I decided to use the year to get my Masters in Communications, Advertising and PR as I was always interested in broadcasting, so I thought this would be a good back-up plan.
“I joined a Fashion PR agency which looked after shopping centres including events at Victoria Square. When I heard they were looking for a personal stylist, I thought this would combine all my skill sets so I decided to go for it.
“I stayed there three years and made some of my best friends there. I really loved it. I found I was enjoying the events and presenting more and more and was hankering after a career in broadcasting, so when the Cool FM opportunity came up it just felt like fate. I believe everything happens for a reason, so I decided to take the chance.”
Rebecca says she hasn’t looked back since and she has found two new best friends along the way.
“The rapport and the banter between Pete, Paulo and myself is all very genuine. We take the hand out of each other and poke fun at each other every day, but we are truly the best of friends.
“Pete has been wonderful and such an amazing mentor in helping me to settle into a whole new arena and learn the ropes. I had a baptism of fire starting where I did but I’m truly learning from the best and am very fortunate.”
While Rebecca admits the trio do get personal on the radio, and that the boys make constant fun of her, she says there is a lot of respect between them, both professional as individuals. “We have a code and lines and boundaries which we would never cross. We would know if the banter was going too far and when to pull back.”
Away from work she says the boys are her best friends and in constant contact even when they are not working together.
“We are a wee team and have been through a lot together. We will definitely always be friends. They are really supportive of me and made my transition into radio so much easier.”
One thing the boys have been teasing Rebecca a lot about lately is her love life, with constant references to ‘loverboy’ from them both. After some coaxing from her co-hosts she finally revealed on air that ‘Loverboy’ is her boyfriend of seven months, Chris Smith from Scotland. “We’ve got used to the banter and Chris finds the funny side of it, thank goodness.”
She explains how they got together: “We were both at a wedding four years ago. I was a friend of the bride and he was best man.
“We didn’t actually meet at the wedding, or weren’t introduced, but a few years later our friends decided we had a lot in common and they would set us up.
“We hit it off straight away and have been together as much as we can ever since.”
The radio banter is constant about Rebecca’s love life but she says she doesn’t mind.
“I go back and forward to Scotland as often as possible or he comes over here. It is going really well and we are very happy.
“I am a talker so we Facetime and talk every day. I miss him a lot but we try not to go any longer than three weeks without seeing each other and we make it work.”
Rebecca says that when they do meet up they spend quality time together.
“We are very similar and we just click. We have the same values and come from the same sort of background.
“Family is very important to us and when we are together we see and spend time with each other’s families.
“Mostly, we just like spending time together and love going out for dinner. He is a huge football fan and I have adopted his team, Manchester United, as my team (much to the annoyance of avid Liverpool fans Pete and Paulo).
“When we are together we love doing normal things like a shop in Tesco and then cooking a meal together and staying in. Things most people take for granted we really value having the time to do.
“We also love to travel and take trips away together.
“We were in Paris after Christmas and are going to Dubai later this year.”
Rebecca says Chris is very respectful and supports her job.
“We are very private people, but he doesn’t mind that the boys mention him so much. He has a good sense of humour.”
When she is not working or travelling back and forth to see Chris, Rebecca says she loves catching up with her girlfriends.
“I am just back from a friend’s hen weekend in Dubai which was amazing. All my friends are at that age now when they are either getting married or having babies.
“I actually have three weddings in 24 hours. I am maid of honour at one of them at Castle Leslie so, sadly, I will have to miss the other two, but I am truly looking forward to sharing the big day with one of my best friends.
“We are going to Seville for the hen weekend so that will be another girlie trip away. I’m really looking forward to that.”
With so much marriage and children around her, I ask if a wedding is on the cards for her.
“I’d truly love to be blessed with a husband and family one day, but right now I am very happy with the way things are.”
Being so involved in fashion she admits to being a shopaholic and loves high street stores and online shopping.
“Yes, I am a big shopper. I just love fashion. I love to mix high street with a bit of designer but more often than not I get my clothes online.
“The boys tease me all the time about the number of parcels arriving at my door.
“I also love my own company too and enjoy coming home at the end of the day, putting on some sweats, taking my make-up off and sticking my hair in a bun.
“Probably because I talk so much for a living, I love the quiet and just being on my own and chilling.
“I never thought I would be able to live on my own but I have my wee house in east Belfast and I am very happy there in my own company.
“I love to curl up with a magazine and enjoy Desperate Housewives or read a magazine. I also enjoy blogging and writing; it is a real passion of mine.
“I also go to the gym and train four times a week, as well as doing Reform Pilates which is an excellent form of exercise.”
When she gets time, Rebecca organises and hosts her own fashion shows, Style Edit. Her most recent event was at House Belfast at the end of last month.
“I also love spending time with my family. I am very close to my parents and they are very proud of me and listen to the show every day. It’s great that they get to be part of this journey with me.
“I’m also very close to my brother, James; he plays professional rugby in Italy, so he is living the dream.
“I haven’t been over to see him yet but that is on the hit list of things to do.
“I want to travel so much I’ll probably be eating beans and toast for the rest of the year. I’d love to just take off to an island and have no phone signal and just completely switch off for a week or so.
“Right now, I feel truly blessed. If I had been admitted to the Bar I could be a lawyer now and wouldn’t be in my dream job.
“Doing my Masters was a true blessing and everything happens for a reason.
“I couldn’t be happier – professionally and personally.
“My dream would be to have a career in television.
“I really admire people like Holly Willoughby who combines family life with a fabulous and fun career and juggles it all.
“I’d love to be able to do that one day and, who knows, I never thought I’d end up on radio and that happened so we will just have to wait and see.
“As I said, for now, I truly couldn’t be happier.”