BBC weathergirl Rachel Mackley opens up about life in Kent
PUBLISHED: 09:43 09 November 2012
Gives us an insight into being in the public eye
It is a cliche, perhaps, that the role of local TV weathergirl is traditionally one of the most popular. Not just for those clamoring for the opportunity of making a name for themselves in front of the cameras, but for viewers who can become rather, shall we say, attached.
Whatever the reasons, the women who tell us about warm fronts and chilly breezes assume a special place in our culture.
Just as Rachel Mackley, BBC South East Today and Radio Kent’s rising star, is learning for herself.
“I don’t do it regularly, but I have Googled myself,” admits the 30-year-old, “and I was really embarassed with some of the things people had said about me.
“I use Facebook and Twitter for work and I have got really thick skin so I don’t let it bother me. I have a no reply policy if it makes me uncomfortable. People do say things I wouldn’t repeat.
“It can be really personal and can be a little unnerving but its weather girl territory. In truth, 85 per cent of the things people say to me are not weather related. But it’s a privilege to do this job.”
The blonde mother-of-one has followed in the footstaps of Kaddy Lee Preston as the most high-profile of weather presenters based at the Tunbridge Wells studios.
Fame is, she admits, something she has had to get to grips with.
“When I first started I felt I had to keep my personal and work life very separate and I came across rather two dimensional on screen,” she admits, “I feel more comfortable now.”
As well as the scrutiny online, some of the gifts fans have sent her could be deemed a little odd. Among the more memorable were 12 pairs of tights and a plethora of baked goods. And she’s not alone.
Miss Mackley said: “Polly Evans [main anchor on BBC South East Today] definitely gets it. Sometimes it’s very personal and inappropriate.
“My friends think it’s hilarious and say I should write a book on all the things I have been sent.”
She’s even managed to make national headlines after a viewer rang into the BBC to complain about Miss Mackley showing “too much cleavage” on a morning bulletin. A BBC boss then told her to cover up. It was a story too good for the Sun to miss.
Says Miss Mackley: “I felt like such a fool. It made me feel very vulnerable but I had to find a way to go out there and smile.
“But it comes with the territory. It’s just one of those things. I do not feel I need it to happen to affirm my sense of self.”
But Miss Mackley is an unlikely weathergirl. Starting out with aspirations of a career in art, she ended up attending university; mixing in the same circles as Prince William and Kate Middleton and attending dinner parties with the royal couple.
Miss Mackley grew up in Yorkshire and began a degree studying fine art at Newcastle University.
But her plans were abruptly put on hold when she found out she was pregnant at just 20-years-old.
The birth of her son Theo, who turned ten last month, meant she had to take a year out from uni and head back to Leeds to move in with her parents.
Restarting her career, she took a job in public relations in Edinburgh, before embarking on a journalism career at Leeds Trinity and All Saints College with the help of an ITV bursary.
After completion of the course she began an internship at ITV Yorkshire before a chance encounter led to a job at ITV Anglia as a newsroom journalist.
Miss Mackley said: “I was sat next to a chap who I thought was in admin and I was being nice and making small talk. It turned out he was the head of news at ITV Anglia.”
He informed Miss Mackley of a job opening at the Norwich office and she was soon working in the fast-paced environment of a newsroom.
But the job came at a cost. Her son Theo was four at the time and just about to start school.
Faced with the prospect of having to work early and late shifts, Miss Mackley made the difficult decision to leave Theo with her parents in Leeds for a year. It gave him stability, and her the opportunity to kick-start her career in a highly-competitive environment.
Travelling home each Friday night to spend the weekend with her son before they were eventually able to get a house to share together, it was in Norwich her career turn a turn towards the weather.
“It was a really amazing newsroom,” she says of her Norwich job, “and I was always kind of interested in weather. The opportunity came up to do one or two days a week and I really wanted to. The weather side really developed.”
In 2011, a job became available in Kent and with all her friends living close by in London she decided to go for it.
She said: “I was starting to specialise in weather so I needed to make a decision and I went for an interview.
“Thankfully they picked me. It was really exciting but quite scary the thought of moving again. But it’s just been lovely, it’s been in some ways the most stable time.”
Now a fully fledged weather girl Miss Mackley still enjoys her first love, painting.
She said: “I paint a couple of hours a day, it’s a compulsion. I do figurative work, painting planes. I do some for commission but I love painting for fun. Some stuff I sell, some stuff I give to charity. It’s just something I find hugely enjoyable.”
Before she reached the heady heights of television fame, Miss Mackley had a chance encounter with two very famous royals – Prince William and Kate Middleton.
She was keen to play down her 2004 encounter, calling it a “dreadful name drop” after she mentioned it live on air during the BBC Radio Kent breakfast show.
She said: “Theo’s father moved in certain circles and I lived with him for a year in Edinburgh. We went to a house dinner party and Will and Kate were there.
“They were very normal and I felt I had to pretend I didn’t know who they were.
“They were lovely and very nice. I remember William saying ‘my Mum had me when she was really young’ after I mentioned Theo.”
Miss Mackley and her son are now firmly part of life in Tunbridge Wells,
She explains: “Tunbridge Wells is a lovely, special place and reminds me of Harrogate so feels quite familiar. I did have a little bit of a look around Kent but I wanted somewhere straight forward.
“I love the countryside here.”
Now, settled in Kent, Miss Mackley said she really enjoys working in the BBC newsroom.
She said: “They are really friendly it’s a really easy going but very driven. It’s hard work but a lovely team. There’s a lot of scope for me to develop.
“I love Tunbridge wells. I feel really content and happy. I feel very settled and it’s great for Theo. I do miss the hills in Yorkshire though.”