The Women Who Made Me: Nick Grimshaw

Photo: Courtesy of Topman
This article was first published Nov. 23, 2015.

In the first of a regular series, Refinery29 UK asks some of our favourite men in the public eye about the women they grew up with, the women who shaped them, and the women who continue to inspire them.

What is your mother’s greatest quality?
My mum's a real people’s person who's always interested in everyone and hearing their stories. She loves to have an open house and is a great host. I guess that’s where I get my love of entertaining from. And she’s very loyal and has had the same friends since she was about 10. Now she’s in her seventies and they still get together for 'girls’ night', even though they’re definitely not girls anymore. They’re all like aunties to me. I used to sneak downstairs in my pyjamas and perform in front of them when I was little.

What did you call your grandmothers and what was your relationship with them like?
I don’t really remember my Mum’s mother Nora; she died when I was really young. We called my Dad’s mum Gran Beatty, because her name was Beatrice. I was really close to her until she died five years ago; I used to go round her house in Moss Side in Manchester after school almost every day. She spoiled me and would say in front of all her other grandkids that I was her favourite. Everyone was horrified but she didn’t care.

We had a kiss in the garden. I felt nothing.

Who was the first girl or woman you kissed?
It was my best girl friend at primary school. We always had tea at each other’s house and then when I got to about 11 everyone was saying that you should kiss a girl so we had a kiss in the back garden. I felt nothing.
Nick and his mother on holiday, 1990
When did a woman last make you cry?
Adele was coming in to play the world premiere of “Hello” on my radio show and some people from her label came in to play it the night before our interview. There was such a wait for it and such a pressure for it to be good. We pressed play and I feel like I’ll always remember being in that room with Fiona and Victoria, my two producers on the show. When the song ended we were all crying. I think it was that she’d not tried to create a song that was emotional. There were no grandiose statements about having a heart that will never recover, or dying for someone, it was real talk. No one can deliver a story so directly; it was simply ‘I am calling you and you’ve not answered the phone’.

When she came in the next day to play it, she sat there and cried, even though she’d obviously heard the song thousands of times. And I cried again. We had to talk on the radio and we were just sobbing. But they were nice tears.
Which woman’s style do you most admire and why?
Grace Jones. I’ve been reading her book I’ll Never Write My Memoirs and everything that she wears has a reference point. She says in the book that she finds it sad that female performers now dress provocatively just to get headlines. She has collaborated with artists from the 1970s through to today and there’s a reason behind everything she does, whether it’s political or she’s using herself as a billboard for a new artist. She’s a performance artist; she doesn’t just want to be in the papers. And she’s such a visionary. Everyone from FKA Twigs to Madonna to Kanye West to Lady Gaga has ripped her off.
What is your favourite piece of art – be it a film, record, book, painting, performance – by a woman?
'Love Is A Losing Game' by Amy Winehouse is one of my favourite songs of all time. And those lyrics. “Five storey fire as you came”; it’s so good. It’s rare that you find a song that you can listen to that many times and it still holds that emotion. I think that there’s something so timeless and honest and open about it. I can still put on the whole of Back to Black and get moved by it. That’s hard to do when you’ve heard an album that many times.
Pig, Nick's English Bull Terrier
Who is your best platonic girl friend and why do you like her?
It’s a little dog called Pig. She’s the English Bull Terrier that I rescued from Battersea just over a year ago. I’d wanted a dog all my life but my mum wouldn’t let me. I called her Pig because my neighbours had English Bull Terriers when I was little and my mum used to say “Don’t go near those pig dogs.” Pig is loving and playful and quite stupid. I love her and I’m with her every day.

What is the most important lesson a woman has taught you?
When I was young I used to say that I wanted to present the Radio 1 breakfast show and my dad would tell me to broaden my goals. He would say it was like wanting to be a footballer or an astronaut. I remember my older sister Jane took me aside and told me not to listen to him because people were footballers and people were astronauts. She told me to be precise about what I wanted to do and not give up. And she told me to always write in black pen because it’s the examiner’s favourite.

Beth Ditto might well be the funniest person in the world

Which woman makes you laugh the most?
When I was younger my mum and I religiously watched Absolutely Fabulous together and we thought it was the funniest programme. We loved Jennifer Saunders so much. So it’s a toss up between her and Beth Ditto, who I used to book on my evening radio show just to hang out with, even if she had nothing to promote. We still text quite a lot and I find her completely hilarious. She might well be the funniest person in the world.

Are you envious of women?
At The X Factor it always seems fun when Rita and Cheryl are talking about what they’re going to wear. And they have 'looks.' They can really experiment whereas Simon and I can only really wear suits. Although I imagine that’s a blessing and a curse because there must be a lot of pressure on what women wear. Plus, people never seem to let women wear an item more than once. It’s like, 'SHE WORE THAT DRESS THREE YEARS AGO.' No one cares if men wear the same thing every day. I’d be really poor if I was a woman; I’d want to buy all the shoes. But I’d hate to carry a handbag, I'd find that really annoying. Why don't women lose them all the time?

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