Nadia Forde on I’m A Celebrity, her Belfast panto role and being linked to Rory McIlroy
Ahead of her appearance in The Spectacular Aladdin in Belfast’s SSE Arena, starting on December 14, model Nadia Forde tells Ivan Little about working since she was seven and romance with Welsh rugby ace Dominic Day.
For a former I’m a Celebrity... star who was once entombed in a coffin alongside copulating rats, the prospect of appearing in a Christmas show in Belfast should hold few fears.
And glamorous Dubliner Nadia Forde, who’s a model and singer as well an actress, happily says that she can’t wait for the curtain to rise on the big budget production of Aladdin at the SSE Arena.
It’s her fifth festive show, but 28-year-old Nadia isn’t quite so keen to talk about her highest profile ‘pantomime’ a few years back involving a reluctant ‘co-star’ Rory McIlroy.
Newspapers in the Republic were convinced that the Holywood megastar was destined to become Nadia’s Prince Charming.
And the bookies Paddy Power even offered odds of 6 to 1 that Nadia would become Rory’s leading lady.
But nowadays the subject of the millionaire golfer is decidedly out of bounds for Nadia who says a polite “No comment” in response to questions about a time in her life which in panto terms is definitely behind her.
Not so long ago it was very much a case of ‘oh yes they did’ or ‘oh no they didn’t’ as Nadia and Rory (inset, right) were reported to have been seen out and about in Dublin after the golfer’s break-up with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and before he hooked up with Erica Stoll, the American girl who is now his wife.
Such is the global status of the golfer that American newspapers got in on the Rory/Nadia act even though there was no real evidence of any act to get in on.
Photoshopped pictures of Rory and Nadia appeared on the internet and denials of any romance from her and from his friends were brushed aside by the gossip writers who were forced to eat their words.
Nadia was quoted as wishing Rory and Erica well for their marriage and she got on with her own life which has turned out to be particularly hectic on a personal as well as on a professional level.
Her very real boyfriend of the past three years has been Dominic Day, the Welsh rugby international who currently plays for Saracens in London.
But Nadia also went to Australia with him when he was turning out for Melbourne Rebels after a spell in Japan.
And bizarrely it was while she was down under in Melbourne that she recorded an audition tape for a part in Aladdin in Belfast.
She sent off the tape without realising that the panto producer Joe Rea was actually living in Melbourne too.
Nadia says she was delighted to get the nod to play Princess Jasmine in Aladdin.
“I think Belfast is a fantastic city,” adds.
“I have a lot of great friends in the north and my family is just down the road too.”
Nadia, who says she was brought up by her grandmother after her parents split up, has been acting since she was only four years old.
She went to stage school in Dublin but her life took a surprise turn soon afterwards.
“I became a model at the age of seven and there was lots of work for me,” she says.
“As the years went on I literally travelled the world and it was extremely exciting.
“However, I always hoped that I would get a chance to return to acting and singing.
“I had never forgotten just how much I enjoyed all that.”
Nadia studied acting in Dublin and London and she starred in her own series Nadia Goes to Hollywood on TV3 whose cameras followed her to the States as she recorded her first single and tried but failed to get a part in a Baywatch movie.
Nadia, who was once voted by readers of a men’s magazine as one of the 100 sexiest women on the planet, gained even more prominence in 2013 when she sang the Irish national anthem before a football match involving the Republic.
“I was also lucky enough to do sketches in seven series of the Republic of Telly on RTE,” explains Nadia, however, her biggest break was just around the corner or actually thousands of miles away in Australia to be precise.
Her London agent asked if she would be interested in going on I’m a Celebrity... Get Me out of Here.
Nadia couldn’t wait to get herself in there.
“I watched the show as a kid and I loved it,” she says.
But nothing quite prepared Nadia for the reality of the reality show three years ago. Her fellow jungle contestants included ex-footballer Jimmy Bullard; journalist Michael Buerke and former politician Edwina Currie.
“Being filmed 24 hours a day was difficult. But after a while you feel you are on some sort of weird holiday with people you don’t know,” she says.
“Overall though it was an incredible experience and I am so happy that I did it because I learnt so much about myself and made some great friends.
“Being stuck in a coffin with rats crawling all over me and making out beside me was horrible, but I got through it.”
Nadia hasn’t seen a lot of the current series but her early favourite was Boris Johnston’s father Stanley.
Nadia was voted out of the jungle after 22 days but being shown the door actually opened the door to more acting opportunities.
A spell in the musical The Wedding Singer was one spin-off.
And earlier this year Nadia filmed a Fifties gangster movie Once Upon a Time in London, which was a far cry from Aladdin which will be Nadia’s fifth pantomime and her second as Jasmine.
She says she was spellbound by panto after seeing her first one in Dublin at an early age.
Her grandfather Peter Keegan was in a showband called the Four Ambassadors and appeared in pantos too.
Nadia thinks that his love of music rubbed off on her and gave her an appreciation of what makes good entertainment.
She explains: “I remember that the whole spectacle of the pantos captivated me and gave me a great introduction to the theatre.
“And that buzz has never gone away. It’s like a fairytale every day so it’s not hard to enjoy doing the shows.”
But Nadia says she has never played anywhere like the SSE Arena which will have room for 2,500 people every show.
“I’ve never seen panto on such a massive scale before,” she admits.
“They’re supersizing a family tradition and that is going to be amazing.
“It will be like a great big Glee-style show with loads of songs and interaction with the audience.”
Nadia’s family are planning to see the show and a knee injury means that her boyfriend Dominic will be able to spend time in Belfast.
A friend set up Dominic and Nadia for a date — her second attempt to get them together.
“We hit it off and it’s been great for us,” says Nadia, who adds that Dominic was a tower of strength for her after the death of her mother Berenice Paolozzi after a long battle with lymphoma cancer.
Rugby is part of Nadia’s DNA.
Her uncle Mike Brewer in New Zealand was an All-Black stalwart.
Her cousin Harrison Brewer a former Ireland under-20 star is currently playing his rugby in New Zealand.
Nadia admits her knowledge of the oval ball game was limited until she met Dominic.
But she doesn’t have divided loyalties when it comes to Six Nations clashes between Ireland and Dominic’s Wales.
“He has no doubts who I support, but I have a soft spot for Wales too,” she says.
For more details on The Spectacular Aladdin at Belfast’s SSE Arena, which runs from December 14-27, visit ssearenabelfast.com or tel: 028 9073 9074 for times and ticket prices