Paulina Gillespie: everybody wants you to succeed!

Bristol Woman team talks to the woman who has been waking up Bristol and the South West every week day morning for the past 14 years.

In my early days, I spent 10 years in America but after that I got really homesick and wanted to see my family. I then joined my husband in Bulgaria. This was 24 years ago, and it felt slightly odd going from the glamour of the US to the realities of post-Socialist life in Bulgaria! I had always loved Bristol and I kept coming back time and again! My family is from Bath, but I prefer Bristol because I feel I can be more anonymous.

IMG_3058edit-2So what is life like for me as a public figure and local celebrity in the South West area? Well, I have 3 daughters – one works with me at Heart, one works for an estate agent, and one has just gone to university this year – so this is going to be a time of transition. It’s going to be just me, the dogs and my husband. It’s great to have the dogs jump with joy and greet me when I come home. My working life can get quite manic! I get up about 3:30am every morning, and I leave the house around 5am. As soon as I get to work, it is full on straight away … what are the latest news items, how’s the traffic, how is weather, who is going to say what on our breakfast programme and so on! If I want to go to the loo, I get a minute to do that. So you can see that by having a chance to walk my dogs in the fields after work, I get that essential quiet time for me, the bit of time that returns me to myself. Being close to nature is amazing. I also have some chickens in the back garden – and I love it!

While lots of people know my voice, not many people know what I look like because my work in the world of radio. Occasionally, I do get people who recognise my voice! At Heart, we do a lot of public events, and I also try to do as many things as I can for charity which I love doing. I have gone on many visits to see people who have got cancer, and I sit and talk to them for a while. It’s such a rewarding experience. So even through I can be anonymous, it feels nice to be considered a local celebrity. When I talk to our listeners, I get a real feel for them. And I also try hard to create emotions for the listeners – try to make them feel happy, cheer them up, get them emotional. So, as you can imagine, I absolutely love it when people give me feedback and tell me how and what they felt about the particular subject I was talking about. I love it when people then ask you for help. To me, this means they trust you, and they know  you can be helpful. I even have people ring me for advice “I don’t want to be on the radio, but I wanted to ask you about something”. And at the end of the day, we are all women – whether in Bristol, or any other city, anywhere else in the world – we all struggle with the same issues. Our target audience is primarily women, and for me, it’s a great joy being on the morning show and talking to our wide-ranging female audience.

At the end of the day, we – that’s me, Bush and Troy – have been waking up Bristol for about 14 years, and I genuinely feel honoured by that. It might sound a bit of a cliche, but I really like the idea that I might be making somebody smile, and can turn their day around. I never feel down when on air. The minute the radio mic goes on, I get all cheerful, because I know that I am now talking live to a lot of people.

There is a lot happening in Bristol, and things just seem to happen here. For example, we had that water slide in Park Street, and for reasons like that, Bristol is such great place to live. For me – I like the fact that I live in a great city, a city that is cool, its own style and an an edge to it. I love that.  If you want to make something of yourself, you can definitely make it in Bristol. There are enough things happening around us that will support all kinds of initiatives.

Thinking about who has inspired me most in my life, I would say my mum.  Obviously, you can cite Mother Theresa or the Pope as inspirational figures, but I want to say that it is my mum who has inspired me most. She had me at 16, and I was meant to be adopted but she decided to keep me. She always had her chin up and takes everything that happens to her in life with a great sense of humour. She is a very strong woman – not necessarily a high flyer – but someone you can call an inspirational all-rounder. She can talk to anyone, and she has inspired in me that she makes you see that you do not need to have a lot of money and you do not have to be amazingly attractive because everybody has their own beauty and inner resource.

Most importantly, my mum has inspired me to take on board that you really can become anyone you want. I do not have a media background and literally, until about 14 years ago, I could only have dreamed of being on the radio hosting a weekday breakfast programme. But I wanted it so much that I went and got a job at the bottom – making tea and all that, and worked my way to being on the morning show. I strongly believe that if you believe in yourself, you definitely can do whatever you want.

My heartfelt advice to women who want to follow their dreams would be … just absolutely believe in yourself and try to not discuss your plans and ambitions with too many people. As women, we tend to want to talk things through. We care about what everybody else thinks – what do you think, how would you do it, do you think I could? By the time you’ve asked ten of your friends, you don’t remember any more what you wanted to be and what you wanted to do. So my advice would be to have a goal and visualise what you want to do. Say you want to be a solicitor, but you now work as a carer. Don’t assume that you can just walk into a job. If you can, switch your job as a carer towards something in the legal field, do that. Or, if that’s not possible, pick up some related online or evening school courses. Visualise how you want to achieve your goal, but you will have to put time and focus into it. When I wanted to get into the radio, I had so many hurdles and so many setbacks to overcome. For instance when I got up on a stage for the first time, I nearly had a panic attack. How do you talk to ALL those people?! But, in fact, that is when I got the best advice that helped me. Somebody said – everybody in this room is here because they want something good, and they don’t want you to fail. They want you to succeed. This gave me the confidence I needed!

Similarly, whatever you do or whatever you want to do, most people would want you to succeed. Your friends and family want you to succeed. Genuinely people are quite nice. All you have to do is believe in yourself and move forward with your goals! Nothing can stop a Bristol Woman with a goal, vision and idea in her head!

Photography: Sarah Smith

Words: Paulina Gillespie

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