She may have been on The Apprentice, but there isn’t much you can teach Grainne McCoy about self belief and determination….
Many young girls who find themselves pregnant at fifteen often think their life and the chance of any future career are over. But not Northern Irish make-up artist and recent The Apprentice participant, Grainne McCoy….
At only fifteen and in fifth year at St Paul’s High School in Newry, the pretty brunette found herself pregnant.
‘When I found out that I was pregnant,’ Grainne tells MM, ‘I was just about to sit my GCSEs. Needless to say, I couldn’t sit them, but I remember telling my teachers and my friends that I would be back.
‘I didn’t tell anyone that I was expecting until it was clearly apparent that I was pregnant or when I looked like a big balloon,’ she laughs!
‘True to her word, only four weeks after giving birth to son Ryan in 2001, Grainne was back at her desk, ready to retake her GCSE year.
‘I think I realised very early on that, with the love and support of my strong family, motherhood wouldn’t necessarily spell the end of any potential future career. When I went back to school that September, I continued to live with my mum and I know 100 per cent that I wouldn’t have been able to do that without her love and support.’
‘I definitely wanted to have an education, so it was a matter of doing whatever was necessary to make that happen. There was a crèche across the road from the school and my mum would drop me off at school and then Ryan to the crèche. It worked beautifully.’
After leaving school, Grainne began to work for Boots in Newry, working on the No. 7 make-up counter but, by the age of 20 and now living independently with Ryan, Grainne set her sights on a career in the make-up industry and signed up to a course.
‘Again,’ says the Dromintee woman, ‘everything seemed to fall into place. Ryan went to primary school and I collected him from school, dropping him into the crèche before heading off to work.
Grainne followed this course up with a make-up course in Dublin where she studied fashion and film.
‘I did some travelling at that time,’ she laughs. ‘I’d waken Ryan at half five every morning and then drop him in to my mum’s, before hopping onto the bus to Dublin. I’d get home about eight at night. It was very exhausting but I was always driven on by the fact that these steps were necessary to take me where I wanted to go. I also think it was very important for Ryan to see his mum pushing herself to do the best for both of us.’
Grainne’s hard work certainly paid off! After obtaining her make-up qualification, she made contacts across the water and started to travel over for TV productions, music videos and feature film special events; a pattern, which she has continued ever since.
A year ago, Grainne applied for Lord Alan Sugar’s ‘The Apprentice’ programme and was fortunate to win a place in the most recent series.
‘I absolutely loved every minute of it,’ she says. ‘Although I didn’t win, I learned that I am capable of things than I would ever have thought possible. As a result of the confidence that I gained doing The Apprentice I’m now doing motivational speaking in front of 600 people! Who would have thought? Certainly not me!
‘I’m also currently getting lots of offers to present on television, which has obviously come from my appearances on TV, and so many doors are opening for me it’s absolutely amazing.
‘I think the reason why I was always so single minded is because I always knew exactly what I wanted do,’ she continues, ‘but, despite the fact that there are more opportunities in London, I’ll never permanently base myself there. For a start, my roots are at home because that’s where Ryan is. He also understands that I have to do this at this time. He’s actually said to me before that, when he gets older, he hopes that he’ll have the ambition that I have and that means a lot to me – to know that he understands.
Grainne is only too happy to admit that she and her now fifteen-year-old son are ‘joined at the hip’.
‘Oh, most definitely,’ she laughs. ‘For a start, we don’t argue, which is quite surprising from what I hear from my friends and their teenagers. He is definitely the most loving, affectionate child I’ve ever come across. I know I’m biased but to say that fills me with so much joy.
‘I’ve always show him that there’s so much in life to be experienced and to be attained, and I hope I’ve instilled some of my own drive in him.’
Grainne certainly seems to have done that! Ryan is already intrigued by the film industry – CG special effects in particular.
‘Very soon we will be having a meeting with NI Screen – and I’d like to get him on to the board with me. I want to show him what’s possible in life if you push yourself hard enough and know what you want from the outset.’