We caught up with Jo Whiley, to get the lowdown on her family life, festivals and celeb-filled career…
MFM: You’ve got quite an age range with your kids, so how do you cope with toddlers and teenagers?
JW: “I’ve got four children – Coco, 2½, Cass, 10, Jude, 12, and India, 19 – so it can be very entertaining. Sometimes I’m having conversations with India about work and boyfriends, and then trying to deal with Coco who, out of all my children, is the feistiest. I used to read about tantrums in Practical Parenting and think my children were really laidback. Then Coco came along and I thought, ‘OK, so this is a tantrum’. It’s been quite a shock to the system. But having the four kids is brilliant and there are different dynamics within the family. It’s really fascinating and lovely to see.”
MFM: You’ll be at Camp Bestival next weekend to launch the Persil ‘Pass on the Love’ teddy bears picnic, so are you taking your kids along?
JW: “I am. It’s the most child-friendly and adult-friendly festival you can go to. We’ll either stay in a campervan or a yurt and be there for the music and activities. There’s lots and lots to do.”
MFM: What other festivals have you enjoyed as a family this summer?
JW: “My mum and dad came to Glastonbury recently, Coco stayed with a friend of mine because I was working, but the other kids came. India’s been going since she was 18 months old, so she camps with her mates and Jude and Cass took their friends as well. I was working and my husband did all the hard work with the kids, so I was probably having more fun!”
MFM: What do you all make of each other’s music tastes?
JW: “We like the same things. We’re not musical snobs, so if there’s a really good pop record, like Black Eyed Peas I’ve Got a Feeling, then that’ll be blaring out around the house. We really like the alternative side as well, like Biffy Clyro or the Foo Fighters, and everyone in the house likes the Artic Monkeys. Coco is just discovering music so she just bops around to anything, saying ‘I’m Rapunzel’. She loves dancing.”
MFM: How do you keep your children grounded? Are they impressed by your job?
JW: “They’re aware that they get to do stuff that other children don’t, so I make sure they know that they’re really lucky. But I’m just mum to them. We don’t go to celebrity parties all the time – we just live a really normal life. We get invited to lots of film premieres, but the boys just say, ‘Nah, we’ll go see it at Milton Keynes’. They just want to be like their friends.”
MFM: They must’ve met a lot of celebs along the way though. Is there anyone they’ve been a little starstruck by?
JW: “The boys hero-worship Andy Bell, who’s part of MTV’s Nitro Circus where people just do the most terrifying stunts, so I managed to get them to meet Andy one day. It was the best thing I’ve ever done in their eyes. They got to shoot hoops with Jay-Z once, but they’ve never mentioned it to this day!”
MFM: Who’s been your favourite interviewee?
JW: “Bono, Madonna, Dave Grohl are always fantastic. They’re proper stars so when you actually meet them, they really have that charisma and presence. But then I always really love interviewing people like Bear Grylls and Bruce Parry – two genuine adventurers who have amazing stories to tell.”
MFM: Any celebs who’ve been difficult or perhaps not what you expected?
JW: “I think Britney Spears has probably been my biggest disappointment. She’s been so schooled from about 7 years old when she started her Disney career, so every question she answers you just think, ‘You’ve probably said that a hundred times today.’
MFM: Would you be wary if any of your kids wanted to go into music or showbiz?
JW: “I’d be really wary because the music industry is incredibly tough and it’s getting tougher and tougher. I worry a lot about people who have that five minutes of stardom and then it’s over in the blink of an eye. I’d hate to see my children going through that.”
MFM: When you moved to Radio 2 and Fearne Cotton took over from you on Radio 1, there was a lot of talk about ageism. Do you think it’s harder in the public eye as you get older?
JW: “No, because you become wiser so you’re more equipped to deal with things. I think it’s really tough when you’re starting out – there’s a lot of pressure. It wasn’t an ageism thing with me – I actually decided to leave Radio 1 for Radio 2. So I’m genuinely excited about the next stage of my life and my career.”
MFM: How do you manage the work/life balance?
JW: “It’s difficult. I would never want anyone to think it’s a breeze, because it’s really hard work. The laundry piles up and the house is a mess and I’ll have a huge meltdown where the kids think I’m psycho-mum and for 24 hours afterwards they’ll actually pick things up that they’ve dropped on the floor. I deal with it by having my friends around who can help me out and we can talk when we’re finding things difficult. Going to the gym helps preserve my sanity too.”
MFM: You’re obviously in great shape, so how do you keep fit?
JW: “I should be into yoga because I need it to calm down. In fact, I’m taking Coco to baby yoga for the first-time on Saturday, which could be completely hilarious. But I do a lot of cardio and weights and I run around near where we live, even though I hate running with a passion!”
MFM: Did you find it harder to lose the baby weight with Coco than perhaps when you had India?
JW: “No, I didn’t to be honest. When I had India, I wasn’t particularly working in the media and I only had one child, so I was definitely in no hurry to get back into shape and I found it quite hard. But with Coco, I’ve got four children that I have to run around after and I’m working a lot harder, so it wasn’t so much of a problem and I knew I wanted to get back into shape.”
MFM: You’ve spoken in the past about your sister who has special needs. How did that affect your childhood and how you raise your own children?
JW: “It might explain why I’ve got four children! You kind of feel a lot like an only child when you’ve got a sibling with special needs. It can be quite an isolating experience, so I’m sure that’s probably why I’ve got so many children and so much chaos going on in my life. It makes you quite strong and more tolerant of other people who don’t fit the norm.”
Jo Whiley has teamed up with Persil 2in1 with Comfort to encourage families to enjoy a fresh take on the traditional teddy bear’s picnic, by hosting the first ever ‘Persil Pass on the Love Picnic’ at Camp Bestival on Saturday 30th July. Your little one can swap their toys with others, or donate them to Oxfam for another child to love.