Where did you say you come from again?
“I am Irish” that would be Dil’s short answer as after living in Ireland 15 years she is now a proud Irish citizen. Here’s the long answer, Dil was born in Rome in 1973 to Sri Lankan parents. At the age of 12 she moved to Colombo. When she turned 17 she discovered her love for media and started working for a national radio station in Colombo and shortly afterwards became a regular contributor to Sri Lankan TV chat shows. But it was not to last as she was told that if she wanted to pursue a career in Sri Lankan media she would have to conceal her sexuality.
Not wanting to compromise her identity, at the age of 21 Dil made the heart breaking decision to abandon her dream and leave Sri Lanka. She took a job as a flight attendant for Gulf Air based in Bahrain. After travelling the world for 5 years Dil decided to move to Ireland and arrived in Dublin in June 2000 with very few savings and no idea of what she was going to do!
She started from scratch and worked her way up – kitchen porter, silver service waiter, catering supervisor, receptionist, wage clerk, HR administrator, senior recruitment consultant, trainer, community worker, activist, social entrepreneur, stand up comedian, actor, broadcaster and journalist. So now just over 20 years later, Dil has realized her ambition and is now a successful and accomplished broadcaster hosting the weekly award winning Global Village show on Newstalk 106 108 every Saturday 7-9 pm. In addition Dil is also a regular contributor on RTE and TV3.
Dil feels she is just getting started as her ultimate aim is to host a daily daytime television show featuring her passions – social justice, mental health and stand up comedy! Check out her showreel here!
Up close and very personal with Dil
Dil’s full name is Mihindikoolasuriya Nancy Lea Dilhani Wickremasinghe but you can call her Dil… (did I hear you breathe a sigh of relief?). In India and Sri Lanka “Dil” means heart however in Ireland her name is reduced to a herb that often accompanies salmon! Dil is a proud lesbian migrant woman who cares deeply about social justice and mental health so much so that she has made it her life’s work to create awareness of these issues.
Why does Dil care so much about social justice?
The reason Dil cares so much is because she has experienced many injustices during the course of her life. Dil’s life began in the lap of luxury in Italy, she lived in an affluent neighbourhood, went to a private school, had a loving nanny and was surrounded by a family that loved her. Sadly due to her parents’ incompatibility the marriage broke down just as young Dil became a teenager and the family went into crisis. As a last-ditched attempt to save the family, Dil’s parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses and forced Dil to join the religion and was stopped from celebrating birthdays, Christmas, going to school socials or having any friends.
Dil was then sent to live in Sri Lanka with her grandparents and this marked the beginning of a very dark period in her life. She was sent to private Math grinds and suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her teacher. When she tried to tell her mother she was told “no one we knew would ever do a thing like that!” So she suffered the ordeal in silence. As a result Dil failed her O’Levels (Junior cert) and was expelled from school. When Dil turned 16 she kissed another Jehovah’s Witness girl and soon became aware that this was the beginning of a lifetime battle to gain her parents and societies acceptance. Sadly her fears were realised as a few months later her parents, upon discovery of her sexuality, kicked her out of the family home. She was just 17 years old. Dil was homeless for a number of years and relied heavily on friends and lovers for support.
From the darkness to the light!
When Dil moved to Ireland in 2000 she fully intended to re-invent herself and put the past behind her but soon it all began “leaking” through. As a result Dil’s mental health started suffering and she began to struggle with suicidal thoughts. In 2007 she contacted One in Four and began her journey towards self-awareness and self-acceptance with the aid of psychotherapy. In the following 3 years Dil confronted her demons and slowly began to piece her life back together and develop her mental health strategy. Dil is now an ambassador for See Change, SOS and One in Four and shares her story in an effort to break down mental health stigma and inspire people to embark on their own journey towards self-discovery and reaching their true potential!
Dil and Anne Marie
In 2010 Dil met the “beautiful Anne Marie” at a mental health retreat in County Wicklow. Within 6 months Dil popped the question on Anne Marie’s 30th birthday on a crisp winter’s afternoon on Dun Laoghaire pier. To her absolute delight Anne Marie said yes but they decided not to enter into Civil Partnership as they believe their love and commitment deserves full equality in the form of civil marriage.
Finally I have a bun in the oven!
On 25 November my beloved partner Anne Marie and I shared the wonderful news that I am pregnant! It took us two years of preparations and with the help of Clane Fertility Clinic I got pregnant on my first IVF cycle.
I am now well into my second trimester and so far all is well apart from the usual fatigue, nausea, bloating, frequent trips to the loo, mood swings, flatulence, incessant hunger… the list is endless. But who cares there’s a baby growing inside of me as I am writing this article!
To add to my bliss, my long-time estranged parents received the news of the impending arrival of their only grandchild with… joy! My mother’s exact words were “never mind who was involved or how it happened – the important thing is there’s a new baby on the way!”
Those words marked the beginning of the inter-generational healing that I never thought was possible. It feels like my family have been given a second chance to rebuild bridges and move on just like I did.
It’s true what Henry David Thoreau the American author, poet, philosopher and abolitionist once said “Every child begins the world again…”
Published in the Sunday Independent 15th March 2015
Newstalk presenter Dil Wickremasinghe and her partner Anne Marie Toole on the joy of their first baby
Between them, they have successfully overcome the challenges of dealing with sexual abuse, an eating disorder and public scrutiny. Mental health advocates Dil Wickremasinghe and Anne Marie Toole talk of their joy and delight at expecting their first baby together. Read full article here