For someone who’s only 28, Cassie Stokes has packed a lot onto her LinkedIn profile. The Xposé presenter, who last night took home the Best TV Presenter gong at the STELLAR Shine Awards, left Ballyfermot College in her early 20 and kicked off her career working for TV3’s sister channel 3e.
While there she also turned her hand at some airtime on Tonight With Vincent Browne, reading out live tweets sent in from viewers and disgruntled citizens; the infamous Tweet Machine. Four years ago, she decided to decamp to Toronto, where she did a spot of showbiz reporting for Entertainment Tonight, and voiceover work for leading brands like American Express and Ford.
The move wasn’t as random as it might seem: Cassie’s relationship with the city is longstanding. She spent nearly a decade of her childhood there, as her parents had moved to the Canadian city in the 80s before divorcing when Cassie was in her early teens. Her mum took her and her sister home to Dublin. “I’d a lot of fun growing up in Dublin,” she says of her teen years attending Mount Anville and hanging out in cinemas at the weekend. “I’m so glad we moved back so I could spend my teen years in Ireland.”
So, going back made sense, and as Toronto’s near New York, she regularly made use of the proximity to visit friends living there. But still… “I did want to come home after a year; a year and a half,” Cassie admits. “But that was exactly the time I got a really great contract with American Express and then I met my then girlfriend.” Despite everything slotting into place for a time, she knew she wanted something different. “It was too far from home in the end. You miss the banter back in Ireland to be honest.”
Earlier this year, she made a short-lived move to London, where she found work in a media agency. And then, the magic happened. One evening while out with friends, she got a Twitter DM from her old employer TV3 asking was she interested in a temporary gig presenting Xposé. Two days later she was back in the station’s Ballymount studios for a screen test. “My life did a nice little 180,” she says, clearly delighted to be home and fronting one of the nation’s most popular shows.
“Things just fall into place and work out,” Cassie says of her career path, which also includes a stint at The Second City, Toronto’s famous improv school which counts Tina Fey – Cassie’s heroine – and Bill Murray as alumni. This take-it-as-it-comes attitude is one thing that stood out about Cassie during our shoot and interview with her earlier this year.
“I’m so glad it’s somehow worked out. I think when I look back, nothing was planned. Four months ago I was working in an agency in London with no plans to come home to Dublin for a few years until I got enough experience, then this just all happened. Once you’re feeling good about things and can see yourself progress, no matter what it is, it’ll work out.”
That well-rounded experience and willingness to say yes has led her to Xposé. When she was announced as a presenter, the media focused relentlessly on the fact she’s gay. Headlines about her sexuality dominate her first page of Google results. How does she feel about that? Is it labelling? “I’m completely fine with it,” Cassie says, quickly. “It’s a sign of a new Ireland. With the referendum last year, we’ve come so far. I wanted to tell people about it, because I didn’t want it to be a story or anything later on. Obviously sexuality has nothing to do with your job, at all. But sometimes if you don’t say it, it looks like you were trying to hide it .or something.”
Adamant that people are totally within their rights to disclose what they want, Cassie wanted to talk about the fact she realised she was gay after moving to Canada. Before, in Ireland, she only dated men. “I’m so proud of how far I’ve come and who I am,” she says, before adding that talking readily about her private life was strategic too. “Now what’s really nice it that we can move on from it. If I’m good at my job, the stories can be about that, rather than stories about me being gay.” Smart cookie, Cassie.
Smarter still is her self-awareness. Sure, she’s confident and strikes us as the type who’d never baulk at a challenge, but she’s also upfront about her limitations. While she insists that working in television means always being diverse, she knows hard news isn’t her forte. Even after surviving consecutive episodes of Vincent Browne’s show? “I never went onto Vincent Browne claiming that I knew much about politics. He approached me and asked me to go on the show to read out the tweets, because I knew things about tech.” Cassie was immediately upfront to the iconic broadcaster about her skills. “I only knew the bare minimum.” However, Browne recognised she was well able for the gig. “He said, you learn about it as it goes,” she recalls, her respect for her former boss obvious in her tone. “It was an amazing thing for him to say.”
One person who’s very into Cassie’s chosen profession is her granny Anna, whose husband, Cassie’s grandfather, Paddy passed away almost two years ago. They’re Cassie’s romantic archetype. “I hope that I’m nearly as happy with the person I marry as they were. They were incredible,” she says. “She tells me all about the celebrities. She’s so up on it! She’s asked me ‘what do you think about Cheryl and Liam?’ and I’m like ‘how do you know this?!’ She’s reading about Taylor Swift and the Kardashians. She is absolutely hilarious. She features on my Snapchat sometimes.”
So, what’s next for the super Ms Stokes? Does she miss Canada, the land of universal healthcare? “It’s diverse. There are so many people that came to live there from all over the world. They’re open. We’re not as open – but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that,” she laughs. “You miss that sometimes!”
As part of her job talking to people up and down the country, she’s noticed a shift. “Our generation are very different from the generations that have come before, we’re not getting married at the same age, we’re very vocal about our political beliefs, we don’t adhere as much as the generation before us would have. I think we’re doing okay.”
And as for life after Xposé? “I’d love to stay in Ireland, but sure you know, things change,” Cassie says matter-of-factly. Don’t expect a moany Generation Emigration op-ed from her anytime soon. “The plan for me is to stay here. It’s always the end goal. There were so few jobs when I left four years ago, but now there’s really a buzz.” Here’s hoping some clever producer takes note.
This interview appeared in STELLAR’s September issue. You’ll find our December issue on shelves right now!
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