Having her first baby, splitting with pop star fiancé Jim Corr and relaunching her modelling career have made the last two years among the most eventful ever for local model Gayle Williamson.
But with a fresh new image, her trim size-10 figure back and more modelling work than ever coming her way, life at the moment couldn’t be better for the stunning single mum.
And while she struts her stuff on the catwalks again, Gayle is enjoying her work, content in the knowledge that two-year-old Brandon is happy in the company of his doting dad, Jim Corr.
In fact, despite splitting shortly after Brandon’s birth, Gayle and Jim have managed to salvage a close friendship for the sake of their son and Christmas Day will be spent together to make the most of this ‘family’ time.
“I probably see more of Jim now than I did when we were a couple,” says Gayle.
“He is a great dad and sees Brandon every week and, for me, it means I can go and do my own thing for some of the time, content that Brandon is happy and being well cared for.”
The happiness that radiates from her now is something that the former Miss Northern Ireland and Miss UK admits took time to return after the eventful weeks that followed the birth of son Brandon.
She says now: “I think in those first few weeks after giving birth your life is so dramatically different that you really are in shock trying to get used to it all.
“No matter what anyone says, the change to your routine and the lack of sleep make life quite difficult.
“Looking back now I honestly believe I might have had a bit of post-natal depression.
“I stayed with mum a lot after Brandon was born and it was around that time that Jim and I split up. The lack of sleep and the way I was feeling added a lot of pressure to the relationship.
“I was a bit of a mess, to be honest, and it is only now that I can look back and see how tough it was for me in those first weeks after Brandon was born.”
Fortunately for all three, the split was amicable and the couple have been able to put their own problems aside in the best interests of their son. Indeed, they live just a short stroll from each other’s homes in north Down.
Gayle says: “My house is just across the road from Jim’s, so we are both close to Brandon all the time.
“Jim spends as much time as me with him and takes him to Dublin for a good part of the week, where he spends time with Jim’s family.
“We also go out together with Brandon from time to time and I guess we are lucky that it has worked out that way.”
Deciding to go back to work earlier this year was particularly daunting for Gayle. While still as gorgeous as ever, at just 28 years of age Gayle is already feeling old alongside younger colleagues on the catwalk.
She admits: “For most new mums, going back to work is difficult, but because Brandon sees so much of Jim and my mum dotes on him, I realised I needed to do something again for me. I was worried about my age and I knew I had to do something about my weight.
“I put on four stone when I was pregnant. I stopped smoking and just ate more. Brandon was 10lbs and, before I left hospital, I was down two stone, but I still had two stone to shift.
“I was so worried about all these young girls who, because they haven’t had babies, were fitter and trimmer than me, not to mention much younger. I thought, ‘I am
going to have to make a real effort’.
“When I first had Brandon, being overweight with the pregnancy was the last thing on my mind. It wasn’t until I was invited to do a casting for a fashion show that I thought about it and that gave me the incentive to lose weight.
“I joined a gym and started going five days a week, but by the time I got Brandon and myself ready and drove there and worked out for an hour and got home again, it had taken up half of my day.
“I also found that while my body was toning up, I wasn’t really losing as much weight as I hoped. So after a couple of months I gave up.
“Before I had Brandon I always kept my weight down by power walking — I have found it the best way to keep trim and so I started to strap Brandon in the buggy and head off for good walks at least three times a week.”
With her trim size 10 figure back, Gayle joined Style Academy model agency and made her catwalk debut in Belfast’s Spring into Summer fashion extravaganza last March. And despite her fears, she has been as busy as ever on the local modelling scene.
“I’m delighted that I did go back to work and I am now enjoying the best of both worlds,” she says. “I am really lucky that it is not a nine-to-five job, so I can easily spend most days with Brandon and work in the evenings when he is asleep. Or my mum or Jim would help out if I have to do a photo shoot during the day or any weekend work.
“It just makes you feel that you are worth something again and I think it is really important to have something for yourself.
“I think women shouldn’t feel under pressure to lose weight after having a baby — you are under enough pressure as it is without worrying about something like that.
“But I also feel going back to work is a positive thing to do and I think it has made me a better mother as I value quality time with Brandon.”
Brandon, who turned two in May, is very much the centre of Gayle’s world.
She says: “I love being a mum and when I am at work I can’t wait to get home to see Brandon.
He is such a wee dote and is very affectionate. He gives me lots of kisses and hugs and when he says, ‘I love you mummy’, it just means the world.
“Having a child changes your life completely. From the minute they are born, you don’t stop worrying and you just can’t get up and go like you used to.
“I’ve gone from being the child to being the mum and it is an awesome responsibility but it’s fantastic. Brandon comes into my bed when he wakes in the morning, so the first thing I see every day is his wee smiling face. I get a hug and kiss and there’s just nothing to beat that.
“Your life changes completely when you have a child, but for the good. And, for us, Christmas is going to be the big thing this year, I can’t wait.”
Brandon has asked Santa for a helicopter, trucks and a garage, and on Christmas morning both his mum and dad will be together to see the delight on his face when he discovers his presents under the tree.
For Gayle it is the most natural thing in the world for Jim to be there to share Christmas with his son.
She adds: “I’m cooking dinner for mum and my stepdad and Jim will be there, too.
“He will be with us all day to enjoy a special time with Brandon.”