TV presenter Vogue Williams: I'm a real survivor
Model and TV presenter Vogue Williams has had a bruising time lately following her split from husband, former Westlife star Brian McFadden. She tells Gabrielle Fagan how she's facing up to life and loves a challenge.
Vogue Williams is literally buzzing with energy and looking as though she hasn't a care in the world as she arrives fresh from a photo shoot to chat about life following the break-up of her marriage to Brian McFadden.
Tall, toned and with a glossy mane of blonde hair, she looks every inch a model - she is an extremely successful one - but has proved she's also capable of far more than simply posing.
Currently forging a career in TV presenting, in April she became the surprise winner of ITV's physically and mentally demanding reality show, Bear Grylls: Mission Survive.
"I don't think people expected too much of me on Mission Survive because they thought, 'Oh, she's a girl, a model and will never cope without her make-up, so she'll be first to go out'," says Williams, flashing a triumphant smile.
Entering the contest a relative unknown, she beat a line-up of eight showbiz and sports celebrities including Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes and former England rugby player, Mike Tindall, as well as actors Laurence and Emilia Fox, who battled it out in brutal terrain in Central America.
"It helped that in reality I'm not actually a girly girl at all. I'm really into fitness and training and love a challenge, which was lucky because there were plenty of them. It was terrifying at times, abseiling down sheer rock faces, and please don't talk to me about eating scorpions - that practically finished me off - but it really toughened me up," she says proudly.
"I did surprise myself though because I found out last year I have three cracked vertebrae following a fall years ago and I have to see a chiropractor regularly, so it was testing for me, but despite that, my body held up."
Then she suddenly confides with a giggle: "All right, I admit, I did worry a bit about going without make-up. I had one of those blow dries that are supposed to last 12 weeks and took a bulging vanity case, but it was so heavy and Bear teased me about it so much, I ditched it. As it turned out, we all looked ugly wrecks by the end - exhausted and grey - and frankly, make-up was the last thing on my mind."
It's a disarmingly honest admission, but there's one topic the 29-year-old is more guarded about - the state of her three-year marriage to former Westlife star, 35-year-old Brian McFadden, who was previously married to Kerry Katona and has two daughters, Molly, 14, and Lilly-Sue, 12.
The couple, who wed in 2012 after a whirlwind 10-month romance, announced their split four months ago.
"Splitting wasn't a sudden decision, or one we took lightly. The good thing about it is we were never involved in arguments or anything like that and so we can, and are, staying friends and know we'll always be in each other lives," she says, choosing her words carefully, considering this is a man she's fondly described as "so cuddly - like a teddy bear".
"It's been a tricky time and sad, but luckily I have a great family and I've relied quite a lot on them. I'm trying to get used to my own company, but honestly, I'm not really good at being on my own," says Williams. "At the moment really I'm focusing on my work. Neither of us want to talk publicly about our relationship - it's nice just to be able to discuss it with each other. Also, we don't want his daughters reading anything which might be upsetting."
Clearly relieved to move away from that hot topic, Williams, who's the new face and body of Michelle Mone's self-tan brand, UTan, is happy to talk about her early life. She was spotted as a teenager by a model agency talent scout and combined shoots with studying quantity surveying and engineering construction at university.
"My first job was a hair show which led to other hair shoots, which meant I ended up having this weird mullet hairstyle for about three years - I don't like looking at the photos of that look now," she says ruefully.
"Ever since I was a kid, I loved performing and modelling and would have left school to pursue my dream of working in television, but my stepfather, Neil, sensibly insisted I got qualifications just in case it didn't work out. So I ended up wearing a hard hat on building sites for several years and loved it. One day I'd like to build my own house."
Bricks and mortar are on hold currently because she has an ever-growing list of commitments. Finding fame in 2010 in Irish reality series Fade Street, which focused on the life of young Dubliners, she hosted documentary series, Vogue Does on Ireland's RTE channel, dealing with diverse issues ranging from the after-life to women on death row in America. She also hosts a radio show.
It makes staying fit a priority, she says, but not simply to cope with the demands of regular commuting between London and Ireland, but also to ward off anxiety.
"I train five days a week - I do high-intensity workouts and weights - because it helps keep my body in shape, but also boosts my wellbeing," she says.
"As I've got older, I've suffered from anxiety quite a bit which can lead to panic attacks. Exercising de-stresses me and helps keep those at bay."
She's trying to be philosophical about the future and what it holds. "By nature I'm a planner, but I've resolved to go with the flow a bit more in the future. If I try to think about what I'm going to do now I'm single, it might stress me out too much," she says.
"I always try to take the positive out of life and I think I've grown up a lot in the last couple of years. Although I'll be 30 next year, I don't see it as a milestone. I don't feel the need to be at a specific place in my life at any given time. I probably would have envisaged being married at that age but there you go - you learn from every relationship."
- Vogue Williams is the new face and body of Michelle Mone's self tan brand, UTan, available at utanshop.com and selected Boots stores nationwide. Visit boots.com