Gemma Cairney: 'I'm really loud in public; I'm always bellowing something out '


I'm a total musical tart My playlist goes from Sam Cooke and Emeli Sandé to Maverick Sabre; it's a real pick and mix. But because I work in radio I now dedicate time each month to listen to an album from start to finish; I like the lyrical stories some tell, such as with Emeli Sandé's album [Our Version of Events], which I sing my heart out to on the [London] Underground.

There is something wonderful about physically owning music While I love accessing music videos instantly online, there's something to be said for the physical experience of records. I was clearing out my spare room recently and found all my old vinyls. It was awe-inspiring to just touch them and look at the beautiful artwork, the stylisation of the fonts. But I think we're starting to lose that experience.

Brit School taught me to be open-minded I loved rubbing shoulders with complete kooks. I was in the theatre strand and we did stuff such as pretend to live out Elvis's life to the theme tune of the Velvet Underground, eating burgers and then collapsing to the ground. It's easy to roll your eyes at people expressing themselves, but when you're 16 to 18, there's something special about being experimental without worrying about being seen as pretentious.

The 1970s is my favourite decade I have a real thing for a wide leg [flares], platforms and an Afro, along with that Studio 54 vibe. I must get it from my father, who used to be in a disco band called the High Flames. They used to jam with UB40 but never quite made it big. Everything about my father has the air of 1970s glam: big watches, big I call him Daddy Cool.

I'm really loud in public When I'm with my boyfriend I'm always bellowing something out, and he says, "Erm, Gemma, everyone's looking at you because you're wearing rainbow clown trousers and you're being loud; you do a high-profile job so people might recognise you," and I'm like, "Whatever!"

The fashion world can feel like a parallel universe I was once working on a huge global campaign, full of stars, as the assistant of the assistant. And over two days I worked like a maniac, I was screamed at and sent to buy all sorts of things. One afternoon I had £200 stuffed into my hands to get this ghastly-looking doll for the goddaughter of someone on the shoot. I was laughing hysterically. It reminded me that high-end fashion events are like theatre.

My neighbours drive me mad One genuinely looks down on me because I forget to water our windowbox; they scowl at me as I pass and make snide comments. And I'm like, "Well, I'm really sorry but I've got a lot more important things to feel guilty about."

Gemma Cairney, 27, is a Radio 1 DJ. She presents the weekend breakfast show on Saturdays and Sundays from 7am. Cairney will also be presenting coverage from Radio 1's Hackney Weekend on BBC Three, 23-24 June, from 7pm (

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