Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Confessions of a Champagne Babe

Former Miss Ireland, Amanda Brunker

Former Miss Ireland and party girl Amanda Brunker has left her wild days behind to pen two best-sellers, raise her two young children... and plan her wedding.

Since winning Miss Ireland at the age of 17, Dublin socialite turned best-selling author Amanda Brunker has lived her life in the full glare of the media spotlight.

A legendary party girl, her wild days living it up in Dublin’s favourite VIP haunts ensured she attracted her fair share of controversial headlines.

The blonde beauty was also caught up in a scandalous affair with Northern Ireland’s James Nesbitt, whom she dated while the actor’s wife was pregnant.

It led to her splitting with her then dentist boyfriend, which she admitted at the time left her devastated.

Those days seem far behind the now committed author and devoted mum of two children.

As bubbly and outspoken as ever — “I still struggle to rein in my tongue from time to time,” she confesses — Amanda makes no apologies for her colourful past.

“I don’t think my wild years were as wild as people thought. I will admit I had fun and yes, I would be the first and last woman dancing on the furniture in Renards [her favourite VIP nightclub].

“Yes, I drank men under the table and met some fascinating characters along the way.

“But no, there is nothing, not a second of my life, I would change. I don’t believe in regrets and, without being too deep, I believe it got me where I am today.”

She wouldn’t comment directly on the infamous James Nesbitt liaison but said: “We all have a history and unfortunately a lot my past ended up being quite public. As far as I am concerned what is in the past is past and I am very focused on what is happening now.”

The glamorous former Miss Ireland has come a long way from her headline-grabbing party days.

At 35, she has chalked up success as a model, journalist, actress, TV presenter and best-selling novelist.

She is also a mum of two adorable boys, Edward (3) and Setanta (2).

While motherhood may have tamed her somewhat, it has certainly not slowed her down and these days Amanda is busier than ever.

“I did it all in reverse,” she said. “I got the career after the kids. It was the kids who gave me the enthusiasm to do something with my life and so I started writing.

“I don’t know if I was scared that my identity would be just as a mother. I’ve always been ambitious and I suppose I realised I better grow up and get a bit focused as I had been meandering for years.

“I did have a lot of fun but I wasn’t really doing anything with my life for a long time except for creating scandals and getting into trouble.

“It was only when I stayed out of the pub for five minutes that I realised what could be done.

“It hasn’t been easy being a mum and writing a book, but I have two fantastic doting grandmothers who help out.

“The juggle is a struggle but when people tell me how much they enjoyed my first book it makes the late nights and all the long weekends and lack of a social life all worthwhile.”

Amanda’s first book, Champagne Kisses, went to the top of the best-sellers list in Ireland immediately after its release last summer.

Its success led to a new two-book deal for sequels, the first of which, Champagne Babes, has just been published.

True to form, Amanda threw the mother of all parties to celebrate the arrival of her second book at her old stomping ground, Renards.

Champagne Babes continues to follow the nsexploits of fictional heroine Eva, who featured in her first book.

The parallels between Amanda and her heroine, party-girl Eva are obvious.

“Yes, there are similarities in our lives,” Amanda confesses.

“But as well as the party, fun side, the new book deals with a lot of issues which women would relate to, including being overweight.

“I lost a lot of weight last year and couldn’t believe the number of women who came out of the woodwork to talk to me about how unhappy they were with their bodies.

“This book does have a bit more weight and while there is still plenty of sex and fun stuff, there is a delicate storyline in there too.”

During the writing of her new book, Amanda suffered a health scare that led to her dedicating Champagne Babes to the late Jade Goody.

“I got a real fright,” she recalls.

“When I do things I tend to do them quite spectacularly, hence all the bad headlines over the years, so I immediately thought the worst. It was around November of last year when Jade was very sick. As a mum with two young children it really made me relate to her.

“I took a pain in my left breast. My brother Edward died nine years ago at the age of 37 with stomach cancer.

“I’m 35 and immediately thought the same thing might be happening to me. Philip, my partner, rushed me down to a private clinic near us.

“I had a scan and then was sent for a mammogram and biopsy and had to wait a couple of days for the results.

“They were two very scary days when I had myself written off. When I was given the all-clear I just felt so thankful and so very lucky.

“Jade showed incredible strength, which I don’t think I could have, and that’s why I wanted to dedicate the book to her.”

The tragic death of her brother was another life-changing experience for Amanda.

“After Edward died I learned to value life more and to enjoy what I have and not covet what other people have,” she said. “Even now with the recession, I think it’s important to realise that money is not the be all and end all.

“At the moment I am living to work because I am so busy, but I am hoping to slow down the pace soon because I don’t want the kids to remember me as a mum who was always too busy with work.”

Shortly after her first book was published last year Amanda announced her engagement to boyfriend Philip McLoughlin, who she met six years ago and who is the father of her two boys.

Surprisingly, and very much at odds with her public persona, Amanda wants a quiet wedding while fiancé Philip seems set on the large, traditional church celebration.

She said: “We were just talking about it the other week and realise we are going to have to do it at some stage.

“We can’t agree on how to do it as Philip would like a big bash with 300-odd guests and a big dress while I would like to do it quietly.

“I am quite a public person and for that reason I like to keep some things private. I suppose I am a typical Gemini, a woman of extremes.

“We will definitely do it at some stage, we are kind of married already — we’ve got the kids, the mortgage and the dogs. We are a secure unit but for the kids’ sake we know we need to do it.”

While motherhood has forced this tireless socialite to settle down and pursue a career, she says it has brought great joy to her life as well as many sleepless nights.

“The boys are wild. When they are together they just kill each other. They don’t sleep and can waken three times a night on average. If I get a full night’s sleep I feel as if I am bulletproof and can take on the world.

“At the minute though, I am aging in dog years,” she joked.

“Seriously though, they are great fun and I am loving every minute of it.”

Champagne Babes, Transworld Ireland, £12.99

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