Nadia Forde: 'Hearing the gossip about myself, well, people close to me know the truth, but others will believe whatever they read'
Model Nadia Forde talks to Donal Lynch about love, forgiveness and her debut film role
Nadia Forde is at that delicate moment in a showbiz career when managers and agents see if the bright promise of modelling and pin-up jobs can act as a springboard to acting.
She'll appear in a movie, for release in early summer, called Once Upon A Time In London, playing the wife of lead character Jack 'Spot' Comer, a notorious real-life gangster who was a forerunner of notorious London gangland kingpins the Kray twins.
"I'm excited to see how it does," she says. "It took so much work on everyone's part. There are so many uncertainties in film, you never know what's going to happen. This will be my first big role - I can't believe I get to do this for a living. Acting has always been what I wanted to do. "
The instability of the nomadic showbiz life makes Nadia "nostalgic" for Dublin, her home city.
She's just back for a few days from London, where she lives with her fiance, rugby uber-hunk Dominic Day, who currently plays for Saracens. They've been together two years, and she's followed him to Australia and Japan, where he had stints playing professionally. She talks of kids and forever.
A few weeks after we meet, she announces her engagement to Day on Instagram, and tells me: "To be honest, I debated whether to share the news or not because I want to keep the details of how it happened to ourselves, but obviously we are on cloud nine.
"Dom planned the whole thing. It was a complete surprise, and both of our families are incredibly excited for the future."
Initially, Nadia was wary of dating another high-profile rugby player - she previously had a long-term romance with Leinster star Luke Fitzgerald. However, she accepted a date with Dom, and neither of them has looked back since.
"Since day one, it's just been effortless," she says. "Before, I was thinking, 'Oh God, do I really want to go down that road again?' But it's been amazing. I don't worry about him, and I would say that it's the only relationship I've ever had where that worry wasn't there. He's so laid-back, he's basically horizontal."
It was Day, she explains, who helped her lose weight, urging her to look more closely at what she ate. It transpired that a lot of getting into shape was about her allergies.
"I never felt like I had to change my body, but I wasn't looking after myself and I wasn't in a good place emotionally," Nadia says . "I was eating the wrong stuff. I had intolerance tests done, and my health became more important to me than anything else. That was when the weight came off. I was able to figure out what worked for me and go to the gym and push myself. It was eggs and dairy that I was allergic to.
"Don't get me wrong, I still have my chipper bag of chips with loads of salt and vinegar. It's not like I'm at home eating lettuce leaves.
"Growing up, we ate whatever was put on the table, and there was no 'realising what food groups work for you' or whatever. It was Dom who said, 'You can't stay in this pain any more'."
So entwined is Day in her life that Nadia has now taken a "back seat" to him in her beloved Nana's affections. Bernie Paolozzi was "the original stage mum", and raised Nadia after her parents split up and her mother began suffering from serious mental health issues.
"I was living with my parents until I was about seven or eight," Nadia says. "My mum just wasn't able to look after us after my dad left. I don't really want to divulge what she had, but she was ill.
"It just wasn't a healthy environment for us, and she just wasn't able to raise kids. She was in a bad way for a very long time, up until she passed away.
"Our relationship… well, I don't know what the term is… 'estrangement'? It was like that for a very long time. The rest of the family got involved, so it was like a village raising us, with Nana being the glue holding everything together. I really admire her, because she'd raised her own children and she really committed to the extra 20 years of raising us."
Did Nadia ever feel angry at either of her parents for not being able to take proper care of her? "It's a hard question to say who I held more to account," she explains. "As I get older, I kind of understand more what my mother went through as a woman. I am going through phases in my life that she went through. I relate to the decisions she had to make about relationships."
What about Nadia's father? "My dad is my only dad. He's in and out. I just want him to be happy. I have a relationship-ish with him. We're working on it. You only get one father - it might not be that he talks to you every day or every week, but I approach it now with no judgment. Resentment can eat away at you. I think I was just confused and didn't really understand, and it was more that.
"He doesn't need to raise me now, so I'm coming at it from a different angle. You can't control how someone treats you, you can only control how you react. If someone hurts you, it's crap, it hurts and it takes time, but you have to let it go, because they aren't necessarily going to walk through the door and apologise. You can't walk around carrying that with you for the rest of your life. I wouldn't expect him to have done anything different to my mum."
Berenice, her mother, died in June 2015, and the grief came over Nadia in waves. It was during a modelling trip to Spain that she knew she needed a break.
"I was in Ibiza with Vogue Williams a few weeks after my mum passed away," she recalls. "We were doing a job for a brand. I remember just finding it so hard. I thought, 'I'm not ready for this yet'."
The time away made her think about her own future. "I want to be a mum one day, but I know I won't be perfect even if I try my best," she says. "I hope my kids will have that understanding of me."
Nadia's childhood was spent at a stage school in Dublin, but when she became a teenager her life became "just carnage" and the acting fell away. She got into modelling and almost immediately began to do well. Constant rumours of her relationship with Rory McIlroy - always denied - enhanced her profile. A place on I'm a Celebrity followed - she'd the dubious honour of being attacked by Katie Hopkins, who called her "as thick as a house brick and equally interesting".
She understands the "symbiotic" relationship between her and the Press, but there's a price to pay, too. "Seeing photographers outside my mum's funeral was a wake-up call to me," Nadia says.
"There was nothing I could do about it, because it's public and a church, but it was a moment when I was asking, 'What am I doing to let this happen?' Hearing the gossip about myself, well, people close to me know the truth, but I suppose some people will believe whatever they read."
Nadia knows exactly what she makes in a year, and is careful not to overspend. She works at being squeaky clean and her social media feeds would lead one to believe her life is one long, gauzy dream. But how closely does it tally with reality?
"Well, sometimes there are 10 shots taken for one picture I use, and sometimes there are 30," she answers.
You'd imagine that if anyone was primed to join the #MeToo brigade, it would be a model-turned-actress, but Nadia is wary of burning any bridges. When I raise the spate of recent accusations that have circulated on social media and ask her if she can relate, she replies: "I don't want to get anyone in trouble. This moment is important because from now on we'll know what is right and what is over the line. If women had spoken up about this stuff a hundred years ago, we wouldn't have been listened to. I can easily say 'no' to someone, so I've never felt vulnerable to someone."