Gemma Ray and I go back to a time she ruled the local airwaves and I penned the news stories.
We became friends after we both took part in a charity performance of Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues ‘for a women’s refuge ( as part of a newspaper campaign) where she faked an orgasm on stage that put Meg Rya to shame – and kept the actual actors in the performance on their toes (and this included Coronation Street stars)
LISTEN: Gemma Dee Ray interview part 1
How can you not like a girl who put herself out there in front of her family so confidently?
But we hadn’t seen each other in person for years after she moved away and life intervened – so I’d forgotten what a whirlwind she is when she walked into the studio at Chorley FM to talk about her new book – and give me an impromptu life counselling session.
She’s been through a lot since those days.
Then Gemma Dee, she was formerly half of the breakfast show team on city-based radio station Rock FM, she was on air for the best part of a decade, a job she described as the best she ever had.
The Chorley lass, a former student at Parklands High School and then Leyland’s Runshaw College, was a Lancashire Post columnist for a time as well as a familiar face starring at the Preston Guild Hall panto and often called upon to sing and appear at events across the county.
Infamous for her stunts for Rock FM, she once sat in a hot tub in a bikini just off a main road and has lived in a shop window, been locked up in a cell and had her arm up a cow’s bottom to deliver a calf – all in the name of charity.
Then there’s her wedding to husband Shaun Ray, where they entered the history books as the first couple to get legally married at the top of Blackpool Tower.
She wore a stunning scarlet gown and the ceremony was partly conducted by her radio co-host Adam Catterall before a grand reception in the Tower Ballroom.
Safe to say she enjoyed herself as Gemma Dee – actually her radio name.
The big secret was her surname was actually the slightly less snappy Hodkinson.
“They deemed it too long and boring like a geography teacher,” laughs the mum-of-one, now 37.
“So when I took my ID in on the first day the boss was like, Dee, is that your real middle name? I said yes.
“He said – that’s it you’re Gemma Dee ‘ so it became my radio name.
“And now I’m married, I’m Gemma Dee Ray.”
Over the years Gemma, now mum to son Blake, has worn many hats from actress, to singer, to presenter, to columnist, writer and PR whizz.
There is no end to her talents although she admits she put herself under a lot of pressure.
Possibly too much.
“My family call me Chandler, like on Friends, because nobody knows what I do for a job.” she laughs.
“Communication is how I badge myself – my mum says if it’s got words in and you get paid for it I do it.”
And her new project has words in it too – as it’s her first book.
She said: “It’s called Self Discipline, a how-to guide to stop procrastination and achieve your goals in 10 steps.
“The irony is I had no self discipline to write it, I was challenged to by a friend of mine and it took me three months to even put pen to paper and think of any ideas.
“Then when I finally did start, it took me three days to write.
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“It’s about being consistent, breaking things down to small steps, so it doesn’t seem like one overwhelming mountain.
“Putting deadlines in place, action steps, setting yourself rewards along the way and keeping that momentum going.
“For me the book was full circle.
The actual art of making the book happen it was all a big act of self discipline in itself.
“I achieved a massive goal – I said I wanted to write a book as a child and I did it.”
She admits the book title may a little off-putting to some.
“Let’s be honest self discipline is so dull, grown-up, boring and adult – nobody wants to do that.
“I’m a mum for example. Sorting the uniforms and lunchboxes out the night before – I don’t want to do it, it’s so boring.
“I want to faff about on my phone and watch Netflix.
“But self discipline, the routine, those small daily action steps that become your habits do create freedom, particularly in this day and age with so many distractions.
“When we are not self disciplined we’re stressed, we’re overwhelmed, we’re anxious, we’re down.
“This book is my own story of how I learned to heal myself, figure out who the heck I was and make my life easier using self discipline.”
“The feedback has been lovely, it’s a book you feel you can pick up at any time and just flip through and say that’s quite helpful.
“I’d just like to point out this is not a book that points the finger and says, ‘Hey I’ve got my life together and these are all the amazing things I do’. It’s hey, I really don’t have my life together, so these are the things I have to force myself to do in order to be happier.
“And do you know if you just try one thing, it might help.”
Gemma has used the highs and lows of her own life to try and help other people – everything from managing fitness and work life to life as a mum.
“My brain is really really busy, “ she explains.
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“Willpower is not an infinite thing – they reckon people have about 15 minutes a day. That’s it.
“So if you can make those decisions automated , keep your gym bag in the car for example, it takes some decisions out of your hands.
“With my weeks I try to get the really irritating stuff out of the way – like the gym – early in the week so you don’t end your week on a Sunday and feel you have failed.”
The book is borne out of Gemma’s real-life experience.
She had what she described as a “mild nervous breakdown and literally fell to pieces” in October and November 2016.
She says: “I felt I’d broken into a thousand pieces but before I put could put myself back together I had to examine every single piece and ask if this something I wanted to put back in my life.
“Do I want to be like this moving forward?
“I was really lucky I had the funds to spend a lot of money on therapy to help me through that.
“Because I was coached – I went on retreat and read a lot of books – I put a lot of the tips in this book.
“I put a lot of the things that helped me on my journey to heal and recover and be reborn as a better version of myself.
“Self discipline to me is still really difficult.
I probably have about about 40 alarms going off during the day to remind me to do things.
“I’m not telling anyone to do that. Just keep it simple!” she says laughing.
“Get up, make a brew , sit down, hold it in your hands and be mindful.
“Think about the things in your life that are wonderful, your family, the roof over your head. It will really make a difference.”
She said reading books by Marie Kondo – famed for her Kon Mari method of decluttering and organising by shedding items that don’t ‘spark joy’ – and Hal Elrod’s book Miracle Morning changed her life.
But she admits the Kon Mari method – tidying by category – is currently out the window as she’s living in a static caravan while she and her husband revamp their Merseyside home – something that is not currently sparking any joy for Gemma.
“There’s nowhere to put anything.
“But getting rid of physical clutter gets rid of mental clutter – which was making me unhappy.”
And she pulls no punches – saying examining your own life is tough.
“I know how hard it is – I’ve lived it breathed it – and written the book!”
Despite the disruption in her home life, Gemma shares tips and tricks to help others regularly on her social channels – including Instagram stories and Facebook, using her trademark self deprecation and likability to encourage others in their lives.
Video is allowing the radio star to bloom.