Belfast Telegraph

Vogue Williams: I struggle with anxiety all the time

Vogue Williams tells Andrea Smith how her fitness regime helps her to manage anxiety, and how she mended a broken heart

By Andrea Smith

When you cast your eye over Vogue Williams looking like a goddess in a shoot for the Virginia Macari Swimwear range, it's hard to imagine that she could ever suffer from self-doubt.

Yet the stunning 30-year-old admits that even goddesses can be affected by the visions of perfection that assail us from all angles on social media.

"I see people's bodies and think they're amazing, but I realise I'm not going to look like that and this may not be the way my body is meant to be," she says. "As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, because everyone is different and you're never going to be someone else. I understand that it's hard seeing gorgeous girls on Instagram and wanting a body like theirs, but I think we need to be happier in our own bodies and understand that we're gorgeous just the way we are."

As anyone who follows Vogue on Snapchat will know, she keeps herself toned through regular gym sessions. She has an incredible body, by anyone's standards, but she admits that there are always areas she feels she has to work on.

"It's a constant thing," she says. "My skin isn't great at the moment, so I'm working on that now. I keep up my training regime whether it's winter or summer, so my body always stays the same."

The part-time model says that far from being a necessary evil, the gym is something she really enjoys as she likes being healthy. Another great benefit is that it helps keep her anxiety at bay.

This may come as a surprise. Vogue is great fun, disarmingly frank and always seems confident and effervescent, whether meeting the world's toughest women in prison for her Vogue Williams: Wildgirls TV series, or participating in (and winning) the Bear Grylls reality survival show, Mission Survive. Taking all that into account, the admission that she struggles with anxiety issues is unexpected.

"The most challenging part of my life is probably my anxiety, to be honest," she says. "I have to try to keep it under control and to make sure I feel alright. I struggle with it quite a bit, and it's an everyday thing that's always lurking in the background and creeping in the corner.

"Anxiety is something that has always been there and I'm starting to realise it probably always will be, but there are ways to manage it a bit better. Working out in the gym really helps, and it's a necessity because if I don't go, my anxiety creeps back up on me."

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Her gym regime also keeps her in shape for the occasional fashion shoot. One of Vogue's favourite things about Macari's designs are that she uses quality, sensual materials designed to promote body-confidence. She also uses clever panelling and corseting to help improve the wearer's shape.

"I absolutely love the range and I love Virginia as well," she says. "She's always in a good mood and is such a laugh, and she has such a great eye for shapes. She's incredibly talented so I was delighted that she asked me to be part of her campaign."

Modelling is only one string to Vogue's bow. Indeed, it seems like she has been around forever, because she has packed quite a lot in since she first appeared on screens in the RTE reality show Fade Street in 2010. Since then she has become a successful DJ, has appeared on Dancing with the Stars in Australia, put out several well-received TV documentaries, and been married to and then separated from singer-songwriter Brian McFadden.

The pair met in Lillie's Bordello in Dublin in 2011, and Vogue recently revealed on ITV's Loose Women they had sex on their first date.

"Me and Brian did the hanky-panky on the first night we met," she told the panel. "But I'm not saying I do that with everyone."

'Brogue', as they were known, seemed to have a great relationship, so shock waves ran through the showbiz world when they split in July 2015, less than three years after their wedding at Castello Di Vincigliata in Florence, Italy. Nonetheless they have remained friends, and Brian occasionally pops up on his ex's Snapchat.

When asked about what she has learned about love, the blonde beauty's answer is poignant. "I've learned that being in love is one of the best things in the world," she says.

"It's exciting and a really nice, secure place to be, but it can also be heartbreaking. The only way to deal with heartbreak is time, unfortunately. I hate when people say that, but it's true."

While people are naturally curious about her love life - the rumour mill went into overdrive recently when she was linked to British rapper Professor Green - she has decided to keep her private life to herself from now on.

"I'm not going to talk about relationships any more, because it just backfires on me all the time," she explains. "It's giving too much of myself away and leaving me open to more opinions when I don't particularly want them."

Dealing with media speculation can be difficult, but Vogue says she tries to "ignore the bad stuff". She is also surrounded by a close family and people she has been friends with since the age of 12, which helps her to live a very normal life. At the moment, she's dividing her time between Dublin and London, and says that her heart is split between the two as she loves them both.

Vogue grew up in Dublin, and her parents - Sandra, and the late Freddie - divorced when she was seven. She has an older sister, Alison, from her dad's first marriage, an older sister, Amber, and brother, Frederick, from her parents' marriage, and a younger brother, Alexander, who was born to her mum and stepdad Neil.

She was, by her own admission, a bit of a messer as a teenager, and was suspended twice from school, much to the chagrin of her poor aunt, who was her year head at Santa Sabina. She might have been a scamp, but Vogue says she wasn't overly confident, particularly when it came to boys.

"I was really skinny and tall with a big mouth, and I definitely wasn't the prettiest one in the group," she recalls. "I hadn't grown into myself at that stage, and while you don't just wake up one day and become confident, I think you become more sure of yourself and what you're doing with age."

Vogue's initial career path may seem surprising. Encouraged by her stepdad, Neil, she went to Aberdeen for three years to do a degree in construction design and management. She then came back and got a degree in quantity surveying, and actually worked in the building industry for a time and loved it.

When the industry collapsed due to the recession, she began modelling.

"Those five years gave me time to grow up and taught me about living on my own in Aberdeen," she says. "It was when I learned to be an adult, and the experience taught me to listen to my stepdad a bit more and realise that he isn't always out to get me. We have a very good relationship, and I think it was important to have his influence."

She went to Marbella for the swimwear shoot with her mum Sandra, and they're very close now.

"We're really good friends now," she says. "I always thought she was trying to be harsh, strict and controlling when I was growing up, but as a child, you need rules. I especially needed them because I was an absolute messer."

In contrast, Vogue's dad Freddie was more like her in personality. He was a bit of a messer too, she laughs, and understood her, so they were more like pals from when she was about 17. Sadly, Freddie died in November 2010 aged 68, when he suffered a stroke after having an operation to remove an aneurysm from his stomach.

"It was one of the hardest things I've gone through in my life," says Vogue. "Losing a parent is never easy, regardless of what age you are when you lose them. I don't think it's something you ever fully get over. My sister Amber helped me get through it, and we really leaned on each other a lot, but I also had a good support network around me."

Vogue is being kept busy writing her first book and working with Bear Grylls, hosting some of his Survival Academy days out. "It's really exciting to be working with Bear again," she says. "I'm so delighted I did that show, as it brought out a side of me that I didn't even know I had."

Now that she has hit 30, Vogue has learned that you can only depend on yourself, and not other people, for happiness. She is always busy and finds herself pulled in many directions, and while she feels this probably doesn't help her anxiety, she adores her job.

"I have so many amazing things going on and some very hard things too, but I'm really lucky," she smiles. "I just want to focus on the things that bring me happiness, like my job, my dog Winston, and my family and friends."  

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