Essex born TV presenter Holy Donovan on giving birth on EastEnders, happy childhood memories and why she wants to take a ride in Southend-on-Sea
When did you first pick up the presenting bug?
I think I’ve had the bug for a very long time! Right from when I was about seven, I used to turn everything into a day time telly show. I would present a cooking programme whilst making a sandwich, or a beauty tips segment when stealing my mum’s makeup. I used to love pretending I was on Blue Peter, making something weird with glue and loo roll tubes! Luckily, this was way before video phones, so there are no videos for my mum to embarrass me with!
Have you previously done some work in film and theatre too?
Yes I have. I actually studied as an actor at East 15 acting school in Southend, so for around eight years I dabbled in theatre and TV. I’ve done a ton of Shakespeare tours as well as producing and putting on some modern writing plays too. My favourite was a play called No Place Like Hope at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington. I adored performing in it. I really hope that those kind of theatres can survive after Covid as they are so intimate and are full of such dedicated, wonderful people.
What kind of TV work have you done to date – and has there been a particular highlight?
My last telly job was EastEnders, where I had a baby upstairs in the Queen Vic! I didn’t tell anyone that I was playing the part of a pregnant girl, so my mum had a right shock when she saw it. It was so surreal. I absolutely loved my time on the show, even though pretending to give birth is pretty intense. Filming gave me such a buzz and everyone was so nice.
Are there certain topics you’d love to present about?
There are so many! I particularly love going on journeys and finding out the truth about something, such as what’s really inside our beauty products, or how the food industry works. I am also passionate about my health and fitness, so anything related to exercise or athletics would be amazing to do a feature on. Being creative has always been a massive love of mine too, so give me some glitter glue and some arts and crafts and I’m sure to be in my happy place.
Tell me about where you grew up in Essex…
I was born in Chelmsford and grew up in South Woodham Ferrers. Our house was on a quiet little road and right opposite my primary school. My mum worked in Southend on Sea and my dad worked in Maldon. My nan and grandad lived in Loughton and my suntie in Canvey Island, so safe to say, I saw a lot of the county.
What are your favourite childhood memories of the county?
I have so many. My childhood was here, but also my university years. I would have to say that my favourite memory of Essex is of Southend-on-Sea when I was little. My nan and grandad would take us there on weekends, where we would have fish and chips at Bailey’s and then my grandad would hold my hand whilst I walked along the sea wall. I would always be amazed at Peter Pan’s Playground (for me it will NEVER be Adventure Island) and I would nearly always end up in tears when I was still too short to ride the Barracuda. My grandad would always buy me an ice cream to soften the blow though. My grandad isn’t around anymore, so this memory is very close to my heart and I remember those trips so clearly.
Today, whether in Chelmsford or elsewhere in Essex, where do you love visiting?
I love to go back to Southend and ride the rides that I was never tall enough for when I was little! I also always go back to our old East 15 haunts. I like to see the studios, and go to the pubs where we used to play gigs (I’m a violinist too and played in a folk band). We used to always go to the Alex, which has now had a very snazzy refurb, and if I’m with my mum, then we go to Tomassi’s because we always used to have cake there when I was growing up.
Do you have an Essex secret you are willing to reveal to us?
I used to order the massive set menu for 2 people from Zen City Chinese in Westcliff, and then secretly eat the entire thing to myself. My obsession with health and fitness meant that I kept this very secret…
What does 2022 hold in store for you?
It will hopefully be crammed full of epic presenting jobs. I can’t wait to find myself presenting a show that I love. Fingers crossed you’ll see me soon.