SALLY Magee’s story is one of success against the odds, which saw her moving out of home at just turned 17, working to put herself through college and graduate top of her CIT class, lose three stone in the process — and go on to become a qualified chartered accountant.
She grew up in Shannon Lawn in Mayfield and her parents split when she was just seven years old. Sally moved with her mother and younger brother to her Nan Norah Carroll’s house in Mitchelstown, who she says to this day is one of her best friends and biggest fans.
She says; “My mother is one of my biggest influences in my life, given her ability to raise both myself and my brother, all the while working up to two jobs at one stage during what were some very difficult times for us all.
“After moving to Mitchelstown, we moved a few times before finally settling in the country close to my Nan’s.”
Sally admits to not always paying as much attention in school as she should have done, due to being distracted by her home circumstances, but in any case, she feels she regarded herself as not ‘having the potential to amount to much’.
She says: “I believed I was not that smart and I was even encouraged to drop to Ordinary Level Accounting in my leaving certificate but ended up getting an A1.
“The reason I feel compelled to share this is that I want people reading to never doubt themselves or their ability. You need to believe in yourself and never rely on outside influences to do that for you.”
After getting an “average” 320 points in her leaving cert at only 16, Sally luckily got just enough points to study business studies in CIT.
She moved out of home at just turned 17 and spent the next four years working up to three jobs at a time at one stage just to be able to afford to put herself through college, which she admits was very difficult at times.
She was unable to afford new clothes and even laughs when she describes the masking tape she applied to her school bag when it started to “fall apart”.
Around this time, Sally put on over three stone as a result of eating cheap food, but after shedding the weight in 2010 — further proof of her determination — she saw an ad for a promotional model and, along with waitressing during the college year and her summer work, it became a third source of income for her.
When Sally is asked about her weight loss she says; “It was a hot summer’s day at college in a lecture hall in CIT and I took off my hoody and saw the rolls of fat and in that moment, I decided I would do something about it.
“I borrowed a Weight Watchers book from a girl I lived with as I could not afford to go to the classes myself and followed the popular points system and started going to the gym four or five times a week.
“I’ve always said that the one thing that money cannot buy is hard work and determination which is what I had in abundance so I used it to my advantage to lose the weight.
“My life completely changed after the weight loss in terms of both my mental and physical health. This also gave me the confidence to push outside my comfort zone to do promotional modeling work which was very daunting to me at first. Initially, this work involved marketing alcoholic drinks in pubs and clubs around Munster on behalf of Diageo.”
Despite combining all of this work and study, the determined young woman achieved a first class honours every year; and as the second youngest in her year, graduated with a first class honours degree at just 20 years old.
“After I graduated from college, I started to train as a chartered accountant for four very intensive years with long hours and low pay —earning €15,000 for the first two years, €17,000 in the third year and €19,000 in my final year. I continued to work as a promo-model as it was very hard to survive on this money alone.
“As the years went on I started to run my own promotional events and ended up getting involved in a variety of different promo-modelling events such as a ring girl for boxing events; Grid Girl for the Irish Drift Championships; a walk-on darts girl for charity events; and fire-breathing for Monster.”
Once Sally qualified as a Chartered Accountant, she applied for six jobs and got offered all of them. Since then she has been promoted twice internally and even though she doesn’t need the money any longer, she continues her work as a promo-model and now regards it as a hobby.
“I’m not much of a drinker so really to me it is a way to go out and have fun socialising with lots of people in fun environments, all while getting paid to do so.”
She recently defended her promo work when invited on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live where she joked that she’d been “jeered at more on a night out than in the boxing ring”.
Sally adds: “I’ve never felt disrespected or undignified at any of my events and what I wear is my own choice.”
In her personal life, since qualifying as an accountant, she defies the stereotypical ‘bean counter’ image with her eclectic mix of adrenaline pumping extracurricular activities which includes drifting, body-building, waterskiing, cycling, mountain biking and entering the odd try-a-triathlon event in the summer.
To say she’s busy is an understatement — but she says not watching TV frees up a lot of time.
On top of all of the above, this impressive young woman, who is aged just 29, was a member of Ireland’s first all-female drift team from 2013-15 and in 2016 she was in the top 6 in the national RIBBF Bikini Bodybuilding Show.
Recently, Sally was invited to CIT as a guest motivational speaker for International Women’s Day, where she shared some of her tools for success towards living a happier and more fulfilled life. These included adopting the law of attraction as advocated in the worldwide best selling book The Secret; keeping a gratitude journal; writing a personal mission statement; and creating vision boards.
Now living in Dripsey with one of her best friends, Connie, she says the people you surround yourself with are important to achieving your goals.
“Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are! Your network is imperative to your success — if you hang around with ambitious, intelligent, kind-hearted, driven people it will rub off on you. I would not have heard about the Law of Attraction had it not been for the network I surrounded myself with when I was in college.”
She adds: “My mission for 2018 is simply to inspire, motivate and teach as many people as possible how to be more than what they thought they could be.”