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We catch up with TV and radio presenter Vogue Williams

By Una Brankin

Published 13/06/2015

Vogue Williams and Brian McFadden
Vogue Williams and Brian McFadden
Vogue with Bear Grylls on Mission: Survive

Down-to-earth TV and radio presenter Vogue Williams talks about her home life with Brian McFadden, how she celebrated winning Mission: Survive and admits that she loved working on a building site.

Many moons ago, when Ronan Keating was dating Yvonne Connolly, as the former model was known then, I booked her for the front cover of a rag trade magazine. The famous Dublin store Clery's was the venue for the four-hour shoot, which involved a team of three, several outfit changes and a lot of running about in the huge retail space. By the end of it, we were all flagging but there was one more run up the sweeping staircase to do (the lift was out of order), with an armful of winter coats and hats, to put back on various rails.

Well, imagine my surprise when the elegant Ms Connolly began to gather up the heap of designer duds. "I'll leave them back," she said, without any fuss, and proceeded to do just that, with the help of the grateful stylist.

Somehow I couldn't imagine the equivalent top London models of the day being so helpful, and I never forgot the future Mrs Keating's graciousness. Around the same time, in the late Nineties, the former RTE presenter Barbara McMahon got short shrift live on television from a grumpy Cindy Crawford, when she approached the supermodel as she was having her hair done, backstage at London Fashion Week.

Roll on a couple of decades and the two incidences come to mind when I have to try to interview Vogue Williams above the annoying whine of a hairdryer, in the Peter Mark hairdressing salon at Dundalk's Marshes shopping centre.

"Hi! I see you've been shopping - I just got a gorgeous faux suede skirt in River Island, nice and light for summer, and they've got cool underwear in Dunnes across the aisle there; you should check it out - the prices are great," she enthuses, a warm smile on her animated face.

And so began a surprisingly entertaining chat, with the stunning TV and radio presenter, hitching up one side of her long thick mane, while the hair stylist worked on the other.

Former Westlifer Brian McFadden must have been thrilled when Vogue agreed to marry him. Extremely charismatic, she is sunny and positive; practical and family-oriented, and very open and good fun. Refreshingly, she speaks in an unaffected north county Dublin accent - she's from Sutton, near Howth - rather than the D4-meets-LA delivery many young south-side hipsters down there have acquired. In short, she's a breath of fresh air, in a honey-tanned package.

"Totally fake," she says, when asked about the even all-over colour. "I'm a tan addict. I do go very dark in the summer anyway, although not on my face. I wear a high factor sunscreen. Have to be careful of my skin."

She has a raised mole, Crawford-style, on the left hand side of her generous mouth. Coincidentally, on the day we met, a skin cancer awareness campaign was in full flight in the Republic, with lots of warnings about melanoma. Vogue's face falls when I tell her that anyone with moles is supposed to get them checked often for irregularities.

"I wouldn't like to get mine removed - I wouldn't look like me. I have about 10," she says, between sips of bottled water.

Not having seen her win the recent Bear Grylls Mission: Survive series, or coming second - with Brian - on the 2013 ITV celebrity dance show, Stepping Out, I'd no idea of her grit and resilience, but thought she came across as friendly and charming in Vogue Does The Afterlife, a TV series in which she dabbles in various subjects of interest to her.

Although the reviews were mostly positive, she got the usual flak from some critics for giving the psychics an easy ride when she consulted them about her father, Freddie, who died at 68 from a stroke, in November 2010. He went in for an operation to remove an aneurysm from his stomach, and while his family were told that there was a 60% chance that he wouldn't make it, he initially survived the surgery.

"I noticed that something wasn't right with him and it turned out that he'd had a stroke," says Vogue. "Then he went into a coma and passed away. He was only 68, but he lived life to the full and no one has forgotten him. I still feel like he's around me and if paying money makes you feel better about the death of a loved one, why not? It made me feel better about dad.

"None of the psychics I met connected directly with him but there was one who able to tell me that my sister and I were having dad's wedding ring split, so we could both have a part of it. There's no way she could have known that. Lots of weird things have happened with the show, specifically when it comes to my dad, and I have done so many crazy, scary things that I've had to sleep with the light on at times. I really do believe in some form of afterlife, because it's too depressing to think that you just die and it's over."

Vogue's parents divorced when she was seven. She has an older brother, Frederick, and sister, Amber, whom she joined in campaigning for a Yes vote in the recent same-sex referendum (Amber is gay). She also has a half-sister, Alison, from her dad's first marriage, and a younger half-brother, Alexander, who was born to her mum, Sandra, and stepdad Neil, who live in France.

Her unusual and glamorous Christian name came from her grandmother.

"Nanny heard someone calling someone 'Vogue' in a shop once; that's how I got it. Everyone thinks I've made it up and I'm really called Mary or something. Yes, it's suits the business I'm in - but it could have all gone terribly wrong!"

The most recent edition in the ongoing Vogue Does series focused on the Leaving Cert, the Irish equivalent of the 11-plus, which she admits to doing badly in. "I was messer at school but I don't think you should be judged on a one-off test anyway; it's too much stress to cope with at that age," she says, raising her voice above the din of the dryer. "And the people who get straight As don't always do as well later in life. I was always more street-smart than academic, as such, but I took a Mensa test once and did quite well in it."

Encouraged by her stepdad, the young Vogue went to Aberdeen for three years to do a degree in construction design and management, and then came back to Ireland to study for a degree in quantity surveying.

"My step-dad's in property management and he practically forced me to do it, but I really enjoyed it," she recalls. "I was thinking of law but I'm glad I didn't do that - I did a bit for the construction degree and hated it."

After graduating, she worked on building site for six months - "loved it" - but when the industry collapsed under the recession, she turned to modelling.

At five-foot 11, she has the height for the catwalk but has a much healthier looking figure than most fashion models.

"I can't do without real food and I love chocolate," she admits cheerily. "For Bear Grylls, the food was army rations of pure stodge so it wasn't really a detox, but I did lose weight - and then I put it all back on in two weeks. I used to eat chocolate every day, though, and with having done the show, I've sort of got out of the habit now.

"I do juice and soup diets for two days, sometimes," she adds, "but I cheat and have grilled chicken too. I've been a size eight to ten for the last five years. I was very skinny growing up, then when I was 14, I shot up and I looked like an alien!

"I don't know where I got the height from; dad was only five-foot-seven and my brother's five-foot eight. When I was 17 or 18, I was really tall and skinny but had this big fat face. Honestly, you should have seen it! Terrible."

The puppy-fat receded to reveal very photogenic bone-structure, which - along with her extra-wide smile, expressive hazel eyes and height - made her stand out on the 2010 TV reality series, Fade Street, her television debut.

"When I think back to some of the clothes I wore then: just awful!" she cringes. "I remember going to a Puff Daddy concert with a bandana for a top and another one on my head. Nowadays, I wear gym gear and trainers all the time - Brian says too much. I like Nike. I was never overly girly but, some days, I'll fancy wearing a suit and a dress; it depends on my mood."

She has managed to smarten up her husband - "you should have seen the state of him when we first met" (in Lillie's Bordello nightclub), and has removed all his old "manky" clothes from his wardrobes in their London and Dublin apartments. The couple have just bought a new apartment in Howth, above her aunt's.

"We split our time between London and Dublin, and Brian said, 'maybe we could move just a little bit closer to the airport?' - but it has to be Howth for me. I'm a big home-bird; I spend more time with my family than with friends. My auntie Naomi's in the apartment below - she's my mammy in Ireland since mum moved to Spain.

"I can't wait to furnish it - I've just come across this fantastic living room… on, wait till you see - I'll have to show it to you now."

Out comes the smart phone and on it, a photo of probably the brightest and quirkiest room I've ever seen: mint green walls, candy pink sofa, neon-yellow armchair.

"Yes, it's… very cheerful," I say.

"Brian said 'you're not serious', but it's SO nice; it's my dream sitting room," she says.

Hello! readers can watch out for the splash. There's no shoot organised yet but, as Vogue is the glossy's latest blogger, and with the Bear Grylls triumph under her belt, it can only be matter of time for an At-Home-With the increasingly famous couple.

So, what how did Vogue manage to beat Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes and rugby player Mike Tindall to win the Bear Grylls: Mission Survive crown?

"Dunno! I just enjoyed it; I got used to sleeping on the floor and I don't mind rats and snakes. I'm petrified of bugs and cockroaches though. One of the worst things was not having my 'luxury bag' - basic toiletries, really - every day, and have to beg for my underwear. And I burned my sock on the campfire and had to go around with a big hole in it.

"Bear told me off for not looking after it properly. I got one of Tom Rosenthal's smelly ones when he left. All my clothes reeked by the end - I couldn't believe how bad they smelled when I got out of the shower at the hotel afterwards, and there were trees growing out of my nails. But it was great fun, and the first thing we did when the whole thing was over was have a barbeque on the beach. I was dying for an apple and I was stuffed after five minutes.

"We went on the tear with the crew after that and I was the second last person to go to bed. I was dying for a drink and took full advantage of it. I don't go out that much usually - I only take Sundays off. I actually prefer a hangover day to going out. I order Domino's pizza and watch TV all day."

By the look of those long, toned limbs under the black hairdressing cloak, she doesn't have many of those lazy days. She's conscious of turning 30 later this year, however, and works out at the gym up to five times a week. The thought of the big 3-0 has also turned her thoughts to motherhood. When she and Brian were married in Castello di Vincigliata in Florence in 2012, Vogue became stepmum to Brian's daughters, Molly (13) and Lilly-Sue (11), from his previous marriage to former Atomic Kitten singer, Kerry Katona, whom Vogue has never met and "would never slag off".

"I'd love to have kids - I love them, especially when they're well behaved and good fun like Brian's two," she says, as the hairdresser finally switches off the dryer. "But we're a bit too busy at the minute - we have a dog called Winston and we've had to leave him with Brian's mum, Mairead. She's the best. If anything goes wrong, she knows how to fix it. She seems to know everyone in Dublin!"

Delighted with her long, loose waves - "just the way I like it" - she thanks the hair stylist warmly and tells me to come along to The Marshes Ladies Day, which she'll be judging, at Dundalk Stadium, as part of Dundalk Style Week in early July.

So, what are her tips for winning?

"Just don't turn up in something you'd wear to a nightclub. Dress for the occasion. And I love a good hat."

With that - and another megawatt smile - she's off to do a radio interview and, no doubt, to charm another journalist. The girl can't help it.

Vogue will be judging The Marshes Ladies Day at Dundalk Stadium as part of Dundalk Style Week ( July 6-12). See Facebook: Marshes-Shopping-Centre and follow on Twitter: @MarshesShopping @DundalkStadium or see and

Vogue's beauty and style tips

I like the Collagen Wave treatment in Newry Beauty School - it uses radio frequency to regenerate collagen and plump up the skin.

I use Dermalogica and Decleor products, and I swear by my Clarisonic brush cleanser - you don't realise the dirt you leave behind on your skin with an ordinary cleanser.

I've normal to dry skin. I also go to a spa in Milton Keynes for the odd peel to get the top layer off.

Cosmetic surgery? I'd never say never. All the rest of my family have big breasts, except me. With some clothes, I like having a smaller chest in, but with others I need a bit of padding.

I like Australian labels and Dublin designers Joanne Hynes and Simone Rocha, but I love getting a bargain.

I love shoes but I wait until the sales to get them half price. I'm tall but I wear four or five inch heels anyway. I don't like platforms but a bit of a heel makes you stand better and improves your posture, I think.

I swear by Spanx the overall structure of an outfit, whatever size you are. Everyone has little bumps - I do too - and Spanx just even you out.

I'm a lazy 'bronde'! I'm dark/dirty fair naturally - I don't get my roots done frequently enough.

Belfast Telegraph

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