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Northern Ireland's global superstars - so who are the new talents from here making their mark abroad?

They've carved out successful careers all over the world, but you still might not have heard of them. Vicki Notaro finds out more

Published 24/09/2015

Model behaviour: Maeve Madden
Model behaviour: Maeve Madden
Social media: Maeve’s fitness blog has 20,000 followers
Hats off: Eamon Harkin
Eamon Harkin DJing in New York
Good life: Jude Rea was spotted in her teens

For generations, people from Northern Ireland have spread out across the world, spawning everything from political dynasties to global corporations and making us back home proud to claim them - and their descendants - as our own. So who are the new talents from here making their mark abroad? Here we meet the expats who have made big names for themselves in their adopted countries.

From Newry, Co Down, Maeve Madden, (27) is a fitness model and blogger. She has more than 20,000 Instagram followers and representation around the globe. She says:

I first moved to London about 10 years ago as a professional dancer in Michael Flatley's show Celtic Tiger, but unfortunately my career was cut short due to injury.

I returned to where my siblings were living in London and, with the support of my parents, attended university studying International Business and Early Childhood Education.

Being a competitive dancer from the age of three, the passion for fitness just came naturally and living in London sparked a greater interest in fashion, beauty, health and fitness.

After graduating, I knew that I wanted to break into modelling and I signed to my first agency.

However, at 5ft 7in, I wasn't tall enough for runway work, and my agency felt I could really push the fitness angle. I started getting castings for health-related jobs, and it really took off.

I have four cover shoots coming out this year alone, and now I'm represented by model agencies in London, New York, Dubai and Dublin.

Taking my brand online happened when I joined Instagram and started to post photos of my lifestyle journey. People started to take interest in my style and physique, and asking for fitness video tutorials rather than just pictures.

I started posting a couple of videos each week and my following increased rapidly. I just launched my website, maeve madden.com.

Following a fit lifestyle is very popular on social media, and I love motivating and inspiring people, wherever they are.

I see sharing my lifestyle as a platform to being a positive, motivating role model for girls and guys around the world.

I'm mainly based in London at the moment and my job involves a lot of travel, but Northern Ireland will always be my home."

DJ and club promoter Eamon Harkin, (38) is from Londonderry. Under the alias Mr Saturday Night, he runs one of the most popular nights out for New York city's glitterati. He says:

Growing up in Derry I always had a strong interest in music. I went to university in London and immersed myself in the music scene there. I was interested in the DJ culture and record collecting.

After college, I worked in a pretty regular nine-to-five job doing web design and tech for a bank, but DJing was the one thing I kept coming back to. I was never really a gifted musician, but I realised music was something that was central to my life. The path towards it was a murky one though, because I had no clear role model.

I got a chance to come to New York with the day job, and I was at a point in my life personally where it just made sense to go. I told my mum I'd be back in a year - that was 11 years ago.

Over here, I was further away from home and had less of a safety net, so I jumped in to the community of DJ culture.

Today, myself and my business partner Justin Carter run Mr Saturday Night, a dance night that's become an institution in New York nightlife. We started in 2009 in a traditional nightclub in Manhattan which didn't work because we had a different vision. So, we took matters into our own hands; found alternative spaces, hired bar staff, set the drink prices and managed the musical aspect by buying our own sound system.

Things got particularly busy and successful for us five years ago, but I only gave up the day job a year ago - around the time I got married and moved into a house in Brooklyn. It was a real transition period for me, as I'd just started my own record label, too.

Now I work from home, making sure things are running at our new space, which is called Nowadays, listening to new music and working with artists.

I still DJ every Sunday, too, but I've learned that there's more to life than just hard work, and to relax and smell the flowers."

Jude Rea (28), who is from Belfast, lives in New York where she is a model. She is married to fellow model, Rob. She says:

Because Rob and I both work as models and travel so much I actually feel as though I don’t live anywhere.

I’m originally from Belfast and I went to Wellington College where I just missed the grades to get back into sixth form so I went to college instead.

I never set out to be a model — it was actually my sister who insisted I enter the Ford Supermodel of the World competition. She saw it in the Belfast Telegraph and bundled me into the car. The event had actually ended by the time we got there, but a woman spotted me immediately and ended up becoming my agent.

I did my two years in college and decided to give modelling a chance for a year and moved to Dublin — that was 10 years ago. My dad tells people I’m still on my year out.

I met Rob when I saw him across a crowded room at the Potthouse in Belfast and we started chatting over Bebo. We decided to move to New York a couple of years ago, although my booker is in London — I’m represented by Premier Models.

I’m naturally small — I’m a UK size 8 and always have been. I mostly do commercial modelling so there isn’t any pressure on me to be stick-thin as there is for those who do catwalk. For Rob and I, work involves photo shoots all over the world.

We’re very busy but we’re treated very well. We don’t get to fly first class, but we do get nice hotels and catering on the shoots because our clients believe a happy model makes for a better shoot. Last week I was on a shoot for golf wear in Cape Cod — although I had to get up at 4am, I basically spent the day walking around a golf course which was quite nice.

I’m lucky in that my booker knows not to keep me away from Rob for too long — we try to get to see each other at least once every three weeks. If we’re both in Europe then one of us will fly to visit the other, but sometimes we’re both at home for a few days and have a very normal life. It can be all or nothing.

I never look at myself in shoots and I don’t get recognised very much, but I’ve done commercials for brands like Colgate and Diet Coke which was great.”

Nigel Eccles (40) is originally from Cookstown. He began his web-based fantasy sports game FanDuel in 2009 and the company has just been given Unicorn status in the US — meaning it’s now officially worth more than £1bn. The company has offices in the US and UK. He says:

I’m incredibly proud of the business that myself, my wife, Lesley and others have developed. We’ve come a long way since 2009, when we saw an opportunity to disrupt the fantasy sports market by developing a brand new format — daily fantasy sports. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength. We grew by 300% in 2014 and our headcount has risen significantly from around 100 at the start of this year to over 400 across our UK and US offices.

Our success is testament to the combined hard work and commitment of not only the co-founders, but also the talented teams we have in the UK and US offices.

I’m excited at the prospect of being able to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs from Northern Ireland.

I grew up on a farm in Cookstown. One of my older brothers, Alan, was always a lot more entrepreneurial than I was, though. He was always starting small businesses like buying logs and then chopping them up and selling them as firewood. I tended to be the unpaid employee.

Whilst I’m now settled in Edinburgh, I will always be very proud of my Northern Irish roots and manage to get home to visit family and friends whenever I can.”

Belfast Telegraph

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