Marrying Brian was no mistake
Just past her 30th birthday and after splitting with Brian McFadden, Vogue Williams finds herself single for the first time since her teens. She tells Sarah Caden why she likes being free.
Vogue Williams says that people are surprised at how happy she is with being single. There's a distinct possibility, too, that Vogue herself is surprised at how happy she is being single, since announcing the end of her marriage to Brian McFadden last summer.
"I think people are weirded out that I like being single," Vogue says, sipping on a post-workout smoothie in a cafe next door to the gym she uses. "People are like, 'are you not going to go on a date?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm not,I've been in relationships for, like, 11 years'. I like getting up, doing whatever I want, not telling anyone what I'm doing. If I was lonely, of course I'd do it. But it takes a lot for anyone to spark my interest. I went out with one who sparked my interest for six years and I married the other one. I'm in no rush to get into anything else."
As she turned 30 at the end of January, this puts Vogue at the age of 19 when she began her two serious adult relationships. For all of her growing-up years, she was the kind of girl who had a boyfriend.
"Yeah," she laughs. "I hate being that girl, but I was that girl."
Vogue hates being 'that' girl because it suggests a tag-along girl, a girl who needs a man to make her feel confident.
This is a new phase, and the post-workout shake, the fact she lives in her gym gear when she's not on TV or on red carpets, and her new bootcamp business venture all speak of a position of strength. In fact, the way things are going for Vogue, any man who sparks her interest down the line may have to live with playing the plus-one role.
With this in mind, it should be noted that Vogue doesn't want to talk only about her ex Brian. She's "blue in the face" from it. Vogue is the epitome of no-make-up good health. She has terrifically golden skin, shiny, scraped-back hair, and a tremendous sense of ease. She also has two iPhones on the table. She exudes a sort of calm, but her schedule for the following week is anything but Zen.
There's her first appearance on Loose Women to promote UK channel TLC showing her RTE-produced Wild Girls series. That appearance, after we meet, earns Vogue a lot of column inches on both sides of the Irish Sea, with her revelation that, as a teenager, her bi-curiosity extended to kissing her girlfriends.
After the Loose Women appearance, Vogue rattles off for me her week of "meetings Tuesday, then Manchester for a shoot and then Leeds for a shoot at the end of the week". This schedule shows Vogue is in-demand in the UK. She became someone there as the wife of the guy from Westlife, but now she's someone in her own right.
When she's in Dublin, Vogue lives with Amber, her elder sister, in the apartment that it was reported she bought with Brian just weeks before announcing their split.
Until the age of "six or seven", Vogue grew up close to Howth in Dublin. She is the third child, after older siblings Amber and Frederick. Her mother Sandra married again - to Neil Wilson, whom Vogue describes as "a third parent" - and they have a son, Alexander.
"But I wouldn't describe him as a half-brother, he's just my brother," she says.
"And I have a half-sister, Alison, from my dad's first marriage. I bumped into her yesterday; first time in ages. It had lots of layers. Like any family."
In November 2010, the day after her TV debut on RTE's Fade Street, Freddie, Vogue's father, died suddenly, during an operation to remove an aneurysm.
"It doesn't feel like he died five years ago. It feels like I saw him the other day. He was a car salesman and he knew everyone. He was a really great, fun person."
In April 2011, Vogue met McFadden in a Dublin nightclub and it was, according to him, love at first sight. He was working in Melbourne at the time, on Australia's Got Talent, and Vogue went out there to be with him. He proposed marriage eight months after they met and Brian and Vogue got married in Tuscany in September 2012.
"I think I just wanted to run after my dad died, so I ran to Australia. It's only looking back that I think that, though. I never would have done anything like that before, it was so out of character. My family were, like: 'What's she doing? What's going on? Her career's gong really well over here, why is she leaving?'"
Talking about Brian, Vogue is never anything less than polite and cheerful. She never gives away any reasons for their break-up and never betrays a hint of bitterness. In fact, the only time she slightly bristles is when asked why she, at the relatively young age of 26, decided to get married, instead of just enjoying going out with Brian?
"Because we were in love and we wanted to get married," she says. "Same as anyone else who gets married."
Vogue was not in love with Australia, however. She started to make an impact there - significantly on their Dancing With the Stars - but ultimately she and Brian moved back to the UK and Ireland. She hated being so far away from her family and he had his daughters from his marriage to Kerry Katona - Molly (now 14) and Lilly-Sue (13) - back in the UK. Together, Brian and Vogue did another dancing show, Stepping Out, on ITV.
Last summer, just weeks after Vogue wrote about them buying their first place in Howth together, she and Brian announced their split.
"We're working on being really good friends," she says. "And it is work. It's not like me and Brian have never had a fight. But we've made it happen. And maybe it's easier because neither of us has moved on yet, but we're really working on being friends."
Vogue sees Brian all the time when she's in London and she still sees his daughters, too. As the child of separation and of a stepfamily situation, Vogue knows the potential distress of a parent-type figure leaving your life.
Talking about her new series, Vogue Williams on the Edge, which she is filming for RTE, she reflects on how awful it must be to be a teenage girl these days, and she obviously has Brian's girls in mind.
"I do say to them that they need to be careful," Vogue says, with reference to one episode on internet trolls. "But they're very intelligent girls, they're very clued-in."
Vogue also won last year's Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, a 12-day ITV jungle survival show, which taught her a lot about exercise and nutrition. She's now a "good" eater for six days of the week, with one cheat day, but she does not espouse any particular diet.
"No diet is a good diet. I eat healthily most of the time. I cook in batches and freeze stuff, so I always have something proper to eat, and I bring snacks in my bag everywhere I go - hummus, oatcakes or fruit. I'm never hungry.
"Like, I tell people to have a takeaway if they want it. Have it once a week. There is too much advice about all this stuff you can't have, and that makes it really difficult for people. Like, all that no-sugar s**t and everything. I can't deal with all of that."
Vogue says she lost a stone in weight during the Bear Grylls show and gained it again in three weeks, just by returning to normal eating. One other thing she got out of the Bear Grylls experience was that she met Nat, Grylls' personal trainer, with whom she is now working on her upcoming bootcamps.
"We basically saw that there was a gap in the market, because, at most camps, you'd be working out all day and then it would be four or five o'clock and you don't want to go to bed at six, but there was nothing else to do.
"So we thought we'd bring in extras in the evenings and make it a full, packed weekend away. There will be training all day with Nat, and I'll be training with them. There'll be nutrition talks and then I'll get Ashley, my best friend, who is a make-up artist, to come and do make-up tutorials and maybe hair demos. And I might do styling talks."
With all this going on, it's hardly surprising that Vogue has little time for even the idea of a new relationship. She also knows that if she starts dating, her friendship with Brian will alter. She has thought about what it will be like if and when he meets someone else, and she's being resolutely mature about it.
"I'd have that initial jealousy, I'm sure, but you'd move on from that and I'd be happy for him. He deserves to be happy, but I think he likes being single too," Vogue says with a laugh, agreeing that, like her, he was involved in serious relationships most of his adult life and married, for the first time, very young. "He was a baby back then," she laughs. "A baby."
In contrast, it seems, the split between Vogue and Brian seems very mature.
"Yeah," says Vogue. "So far, so good."