Vogue Williams: I love my role as the girls' stepmum
The model and DJ tells Niamh Horan about missing her late dad and how she’s thrown herself into her new family with husband Brian McFadden and his two daughters.
It’s often amusing, the names people pick for their children. Do they think about the possible consequences down the line? There was a boy in our school, when I was younger, his name was Bond, James Bond. Lucky for him, he turned out to be one of the best-looking and most sought-after boys in our year.
But what if he had been this pimpled, nerdy geek? What a gamble.
I thought about him again as I swept through House, an uber-chic hang-out in Dublin, looking for my lunch date.
Peppered with businessmen and immaculately dressed career women meeting over coffee, it was still easy to pick her out from the crowd.
Many had their heads subtly turned in her direction, checking out this vision among them dressed in lemon on a wet, rainy Monday afternoon. Just like my 007 schoolmate, in reality, Vogue Williams lives up to the name.
Tall and bronzed, with her hair swept up on top of her head and her lashes fluttering over piercing brown eyes, she looked every inch your typical cover girl — save for one thing.
She had her dainty fingers wrapped around a crusty white ciabatta bread roll packed with mayo and butter, and was busy getting stuck in.
“How?” was the first word out of my mouth as I dropped, open-mouthed, on a stool opposite, not taking my eyes off her lunch. She started laughing and continued on doing the type of bad things with carbs that most skinny women can only dream of.
And do you know what? She was honest with me.
There’s nothing more irritating than a woman in the public eye who watches her figure, yet pretends that it’s the last thing on her mind.
But not Vogue.
“Oh no. I’m on a juice diet, too,” she says. “I’ve a holiday coming up, so I’m taking a juice in the morning and another in the evening.”
Looking more toned than I’ve ever seen her, she’s kept the same workout intensity that she kicked off before her September 2012 wedding to former Westlifer Brian McFadden. In the gym twice a week — with a trainer in the park three times a week — she is helped along by her now equally weight-conscious husband, who is currently doing a month “carb-free”.
The pair only break out of their strict regime for a pizza cheat day once a week. So no body hang-ups then? Not if her armchair critics can help it. “You know, I still get people commenting about different parts of my body, even if I put on a tiny bit of weight,” she says. “If my arm is squeezed against my side in a photo, and it looks bigger than it is, they will pick up on that. I don’t know what’s happened, but it’s become quite vicious online.”
McFadden — perhaps due to his history at the hands of the tabloids — is more adept at dealing with the petty jibes. Vogue is not so tough.
“Of course it gets to me. That’s probably why I work out a bit more, and try and tone those parts down that people won’t shut up about,” she smiles, flashing a pearly white smile that works well and hides her vulnerabilities.
Vulnerable is one word that I would never have attributed to this confident, laid-back girl next door who burst on to Irish TV screens in RTE Two’s Fade Street in November 2010, before making headlines when she stole the heart of Ireland’s most eligible former bad boy.
But Vogue’s showing a softer side today and it makes her even more personable. We’re barely chatting a few minutes when we drift into territory she normally tries to avoid. Even with Brian.
It catches us both off-guard. She’s fresh off a photoshoot and the tears begin to ebb out over her perfectly painted lashes.
She’s speaking about her dad. A day after his 25-year-old daughter made her big television debut in Fade Street, Freddie Williams passed away on the operating table while undergoing an operation to remove an aneurysm from his stomach. It has been more than three years, but Vogue’s grief is still raw.
“I have to deal with it. It’s not like I would sit down with Brian and tell him I am thinking about my dad, because I find it really awkward.”
It’s heartbreaking, then, when she explains how she thinks about her dad every day — “20 times a day” — when it’s clear she’s finding it difficult to deal with her emotions.
“If I’m driving by his old house or I hear a song that reminds me of him come on the radio ...” she says, breaking off. It only takes something small to cause the pain to resurface.
You would think, then, that she would run a mile from her next TV project, Vogue Does the Afterlife, where she will talk to a medium about the loss.
“Hopefully, I won’t be constantly as upset about it as I am now,” she says. “I was very close to my dad. I just want to know he is okay, wherever he is.”
She talks about the aftermath of her father’s death, having to sell his home, and how hard it’s been not being able to pick up the phone and call him.
Vogue barely has the words out when she starts to cry again. Now she’s apologising profusely, trying in vain to stop the tears.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know why,” she says, flashing her million-dollar smile once more. You want to put your arms around her and tell her it will be okay, but she’s quickly cracking jokes to make light of the situation. “It must be the juice diet because I’m so tired,” she laughs. Freddie Williams never got to meet the man she chose to marry, or to walk her down the aisle.
“Brian is very similar to my dad, I’d say they would have got on,” she says.
Vogue and Brian will be married two years in September, and the most important thing Vogue says she has learned about marriage is “you can only change somebody so much”.
“I thought Brian was going to turn into a domestic god by the time I was finished with him. I do 90 per cent of the housework, and he sits there and watches me, and I’m, like, ‘Do you not feel guilty when you know I’m doing this?’”
They’re best friends, though, and she’s missing him while he’s away on a golfing holiday. It’s a week-long trip and the longest they’ve been apart since they married.
I don’t know what to call the daily diet of tabloid stories concerning Brian’s ex-wife, Kerry Katona, that is gobbled up in magazines in hair salons the length and breadth of Britain.
“Brian is great. He wouldn’t react to anything,” Vogue says. “He doesn’t have a fiery temper at all, like I would. So, when things are at him, he just lets it go over his head and it’s the best way of dealing with it. Just say nothing at all — and he’s right.”
Does she have any relationship with Kerry?
“Not at all,” says Vogue. “She really isn’t part of our lives. I don’t know her. I’ve never met her. I never will because our relationship is with the girls and our loyalties lie with them, so there’s no need for me to meet her. But I would never be rude. I’d never be rude to anyone if I met them. She’s always going to be the girls’ mum. They love her to bits and they are happy, and that’s the main thing.”
Vogue has taken on her husband’s young daughters — Molly (12) and Lilly-Sue (11) — with ease, and jokes about how she’s using them as her excuse to fulfil a childhood dream to visit Disneyland in Florida this summer — a surprise the couple have yet to break to the girls.
“On paper, I am their stepmum but, in reality, they’re just like little pals,” Vogue says. “I got very, very lucky with them.”
There’s an impatience she feels when people ask her when she plans on having her own children, given that she’s barely settled in to her marriage. “Give me a second to chill out!” she shrieks.
“I love babies,” she adds. “I am broody, but I don’t have the time right now with my career. If it happens, it happens, but we are not trying.”
In addition to modelling, writing an online blog and starring in her own TV show, she is taking part in a reality show with Brian, filming for which begins this month. “I haven’t told anyone that yet, but, yes, I wanted to share it with you guys first, and I can’t wait. It’s going to be great fun.”
I ask her to tell me something that few people know about her other half. “He gets facials,” she blurts out, before putting her hands over her mouth. Too late. “He’s going to kill me for saying that.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital