A model adventurer: Daniella Moyles on her wanderlust, dealing with her mother's cancer and why modelling is 'cheesy'
Daniella Moyles is the model-turned-broadcaster with the wanderlust of an international adventurer from a bygone age. She tells us about how her mother Pauline's cancer diagnosis and the death of her cousin Kate gave her a new urgency to live life to the full, how modelling is 'cheesy' and why she is far from the conventional girlfriend.
Published 21/03/2016 | 02:30
Daniella Moyles says she dealt "very badly" with her mother Pauline's breast cancer in 2005.
I ask her what does 'badly' mean in the context of coping with a parent's cancer.
"No emotion whatsoever," she says.
"The night she told me she had cancer, I went to a Tommy Tiernan gig. I remember leaving the gig going - 'Why wasn't that funny? Why wasn't Tommy Tiernan funny?'"
"Obviously it wasn't funny, because you had just found out that your mum had cancer," Daniella says, answering her own question.
She can remember her dad, Tony, about six months into her mum's treatment, pulling Daniella aside and saying, "Why don't you ever want to visit your mum? Why don't you ever want to sit with her or brush her hair?"
And why didn't you want to do those things?
"I remember saying to him, 'Dad, if you start acting differently, she is going to know she's sick. You need to act completely normally. Don't visit her in hospital. Visit her at home. Don't be fussing over her. She needs to think that she's well'.
"Obviously this was insane," Daniella reflects now.
She can recall vividly, all too vividly, visiting her mother in St James's Hospital in Dublin one Christmas. She was 15; her mother was 39. Daniella sat awkwardly "at the very end of her bed, down near the windowsill".
Eventually, she told her mother: "I'm going to get the Luas into town and go Christmas shopping.
"I couldn't be around it," Daniella says now. "I couldn't. I wasn't able."
Did you walk around town in bits?
"No. I never cried. Nothing. I completely put it in a box in my head."
And you ever take it out of the box?
"Yeah. I did. It was actually my first experience with how powerful your mind is. Obviously, for all of this time - for the eight to nine months that this was going on - I thought I was acting perfectly correctly. In my head, this was logical. 'You don't act weird around her.' That's how my young mind dealt with it. My mum's doctor encouraged her to write a diary."
Daniella found it and read it. What Pauline Moyles had written about her daughter caused Daniella, she says, "to cop on. She had a little extract in it that said: 'Daniella is being so strong. I am so proud of her. She is really looking after her brother. I haven't seen her cry once. She is just the pillar of the family'.
"She was spinning this complete lack of awareness into a positive thing. It just hit me like a wave. I remember it so clearly. I went to her and I completely bawled my eyes out. 'I'm so sorry.' And to this day, I still apologise to her for how I dealt with it. She saw it as me being strong. But I wasn't."
Daniella jokes that, instead, her mother should have written, "My daughter is insane! She is a sociopath with no emotions".
"My mum is my best friend in the world," Daniella adds. "We are so close. She had me when she was very young. So we were like sisters. I haven't fought with her a day in my life. Like I said, she is my best friend in the world."
When we speak, Daniella is gearing up to launch a travel website, The Travel Two - it goes live today - with her next best friend in the world, and her flatmate of six years, Martin Gaughan.
Since January 1 of this year, they have circumnavigated the globe - "around the world in 80 days, if you're looking for an interesting angle", she says, sitting in a pub in Portobello with her dog, Millie, sleeping on her lap.
Daniella and Martin have, between them, visited a head-spinning amount of locations: from the deserts of Morocco to the jungles of the Philippines, to say nothing of Cuba, Trinidad, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Norway, Germany, France, Scotland, Canada and beyond.
Asked where the travel bug came from, the model-turned-radio-star doesn't give the standard 'Miss World contestant' type answer of wanting to see the world.
Instead, her answer is, like Daniella herself, complex, complicated and impassioned. It involves three parts, roughly around the same theme of death and mortality. Her mother's aforementioned breast cancer diagnosis. Her cousin Kate Moyles's fatal car accident in 2007, just aged 24. And the recent death of another cousin, Mandy, from cancer.
All of these traumatic experiences have shaped Daniella's urgency to live life and explore as much of the planet as she can. "If I was to really try to delve deep to understand it," Daniella begins, "those things contributed a lot to why I travel so often, and why I believe you should do it now and not wait. It was seeing my mum almost lose her life."
Seeing her cousin Kate die also sparked something within her.
"I think the first time I noticed an urge to travel far and see the world was when I was 17 and Kate died. I didn't really have any real direction at the time, but, when that happened, it was a real eye-opener for me about how easily it can end - and how quickly.
"Kate was so young, and it was so sudden. There one day, gone the next day. That was the first real shake-up of my entire world that I remember. I think it broadened my horizons and stretched them out.
"I don't know if I would have ever bothered taking risks or doing things like going to Thailand. I would thought, 'That's too much effort' and gone to Oxegen [the now-defunct music festival in Kildare]. But Kate's death made me go: 'What if I don't get the chance tomorrow?'"
I ask her what kind of person Kate was.
"She inspired me. She was an incredible person. She was a mother. She was somebody's daughter. She was somebody's sister. She was somebody who was very good to me when I was growing up.
"She was older than me," Daniella adds, "so I looked up to her and thought she was really cool. When I first started going out, she was my big cousin. She knew all the bouncers in the nightclubs and bars in Naas."
"I have seen so many people be unwell. I saw my mother go through cancer," Daniella says, "and very recently another cousin of mine, Mandy, passed away. She was only in her early 30s. She had a horrible time with cancer. Obviously, what I saw with my mum, I was much younger. So I was sheltered quite a bit from what she would let me see. But I did know that her life was in jeopardy. That stayed with me in a big way." In an era of irony and detached cool, Daniella Moyles seems to be all about emotional authenticity. She qualifies a lot of her often beautifully overwrought sentences by almost apologising "for sounding hippy-dippy".
Her hippy-dippiness is not just the stuff of youth - she is only 27 - but is very much part of the DNA of Daniella Moyles. She frets about her carbon footprint because of all the plane journeys she takes to satisfy both her wanderlust, and her new website. ("We offset all of the carbon emissions from our travels via a company called climatechange.org, who calculate your total flight accountability and charge you a fee based on the carbon footprint of that.
"They channel that money back into environmental and social issues to help combat climate change and poverty.") She is cool in an alternative way, over-analytical and restless.
"I'm a very restless, impatient and, I hope, ambitious person," she says. "But if only I could focus that a little bit better. I want to experience a lot of things. I want to try everything. I was never going to be someone who went to college for seven years to be a doctor. While I admire that," she says, "it is just not within my personality.
"Restless. Curious. Probably a little bit nuts," is how she describes her personality.
How does your nuttiness manifest itself?
"In the decisions that I make, day-to-day. I don't know how to verbalise that. I crossed over a Palestinian wall from Israel in 2013 without even thinking. I didn't even bring my passport. I'm an idiot, right? I just saw the wall and I was like, 'I need to go see that.'
"There were men with AK47s everywhere you looked. So I passed through the wall and we didn't come back until it was pitch-dark. You can't get back through the wall without your passport. So my friend had to go back to Israel to get my passport and bring it back. I just sat talking to the guard in mainly broken English. I could have got killed. I would do stuff like that all the time.
"It is kind of weird to self-analyse and diagnose yourself as nutty," she says later.
It's code for: 'I'm not boring', I say to her.
"I'd love to think I'm not boring," Daniella says. "I don't think that I have conventional ideals. I don't care about cars. I have no inkling of putting savings towards property, which, at the age of 27, might be something that begins to come to the forefront of your mind.
"Maybe that's stupid. Maybe that's living frivolously, but in my experience I would much rather live the way that makes me happy," she says. "Because that is all that matters."
What makes you unhappy?
"Feeling in any way unfree."
Unsurprisingly, her all-time favourite book is On The Road, Jack Kerouac's classic tale of life on the open road across America. "There are between 189 and 196 countries on the Earth, depending on which source you read and, as it stands, I have explored only 30 of those . . ." she wrote in LIFE magazine in June, 2014.
"I have done around 51 countries now," she says. "I want to visit all of them before I kick the bucket."
Her boyfriend, 98FM's Dara Quilty, is, she says, "a great yin to my yang.
"He is extremely logical and cautious. He is everything I'm not."
But he is not sitting at home with his pipe and slippers, is he?
"Almost!" she laughs. "He travels with me very rarely. That is just not for him."
So what do you think is the secret of your happy relationship with Dara, then? You don't live together, and the two of you rarely go travelling abroad together.
"I don't know," laughs the ever unconventional Daniella Moyles. "That's actually a good point."
In your dad's family, he was one of 14 children - do you want kids? Or is Millie the dog enough?
"Do I have those impulses? Not yet. Will I get them? Hopefully."
But do you want those kind of impulses?
She responds: "You know what? I have a lot of friends who are engaged at the moment, and some who are pregnant, and some who have kids - and I am so happy for them that they have that amount of love and, you know, stability and happiness in their life.
"But it doesn't give me any kind of desire to do that for myself, just yet. I'm not there. I've too much to see, too much to do. I have never, ever, wanted a conventional life. I mean, I have a Monday-to-Friday job," she says, meaning her popular breakfast show, Fully Charged on Spin 103.8 with comedian Cormac Moore, "so that is probably a contradiction in itself."
"Broadcasting has always been interesting to me. It doesn't feel like work. The second it does feel like work is the second I will reassess that situation. I feel once you are happy in that moment, once you feel alive because of the things you are doing. . ."
Were you always driven by impulse?
"I think so - which is kind of worrying."
Would you walk out of a relationship if you felt it wasn't working for you?
"I would. Dara knows me. He is with me four years. So he knows what I'm like."
So is going out with you a bit like dating the Irish weather? You don't know from day to day what you're waking up to?
"Yeah, I'm crazy. No!" she laughs.
Do your friends call you kooky?
"Yeah, maybe if you could find a variation on the word 'kooky'. They never know where I am, put it that way. I mean, my friends will ring me, 'Where are you now?'"
Does your boyfriend ever ring you with a similar question, such as 'Where is this going?'
"I don't know how to get into that," she laughs. "He is amazing, but I clearly am not the conventional girlfriend."
Daniella has what could, perhaps, be described as a healthy cynicism for the industry she started in nine years ago, the industry she made her name in. I get the impression from her, in fact, that she views modelling as being a bit cheesy.
"Oh yeah," she laughs. "Always."
Why do you see it as cheesy?
"Because it is. There are obviously facets within it that aren't. There is a high-fashion selection of models, and some in the industry, who do incredible things, and are really artistic, creative and brilliant and are competing with any country, in my opinion. Those are obviously very clear to see.
"Then, there is this other part of it that I was always just like, 'Why is somebody paying me to do this absolute nonsense?' In my mind, it was like, 'This is just the weirdest job'. You'd get up for an hour and go and stand with a sign in some ridiculous place and do some ridiculous thing. That just worked for a few years. I thought it was funny. I really thought the whole thing was funny.
"But I had a weird journey through the modelling industry because I started as a pageant-y, blonde photocall girl.
"Then I lost my hair," Daniella says, referring to the time she contracted dengue fever from a mosquito bite in Thailand when she was 19, and, as result, developed temporary alopecia.
"I moved into the high-fashion thing. I kind of bridged the two, which lent itself to longevity, because it is not something that many people can do. You're either a photocall model, [a market] which is very quickly saturated, or you're a high-fashion model, which is very hard to get a profile out of.
"But, for some strange reason, I managed to bridge those two for a little while, and that lent itself quite well to some opportunities.
"I think that is one thing I would never take away from modelling. You can give yourself some incredible opportunities to move and grow in different directions. But I was always very interested in broadcasting. I was curious about it.
"A lot of people ask me, 'Did you ever think about modelling abroad?' Never. Ever. I never put any kind of effort into making that something that would work out for me long-term.
"I just kind of turned up, and if something came up again tomorrow I would turn up again. And it just went on and on like that for years," she says, "while I tried to figure out where exactly I wanted to go to."
So are you doing the travel website because you see the modelling as having come to an end?
"The modelling is already over for me. Years ago."
"Well, I dip in and out. If the right job comes up. I obviously made friends in the industry, and there are a lot of people who I worked with over the years who I really, really respect, and I think that they do amazing things.
"So any of the jobs I do now, I do because I really want to; not because I have to, or I need the money, or I want to be seen at a certain place.
"It is because I really like that person, and I really like the job they're doing, and I want to be associated with it," she says, name-checking Brown Thomas, Arnotts and "some of the bigger brands and doing their campaigns. That still interests me. That's exciting. And it's fun. It doesn't feel like work. So I'm obviously going to do that stuff when it presents itself.
"But would I call myself a model?" she asks, rhetorically. "Not for at least the past two years. I still get labelled as that often. I understand that. That's what I've been for the longest time."
Daniella seems so close to her soulmate/flatmate/travelling buddy Martin that she might just have known him for eternity. "I met him back in 2010 when he was the producer of my first real TV-presenting gig, Bulletin TV for RTE2," she explains as Millie wakes up from her long sleep. "So, from day one, we've been travelling the globe together."
"We spent two-and-a-half wonderful years making TV on all the continents and he fast became my favourite person to get an email, phone call or text from, mainly because he would start most of them with 'WE'RE GOING ON OUR HOLIDAYS!' and proceed to fill me in on our next adventure.
"Thank god for whatever twist of faith brought us together on that show, because my life is so much richer for having Martin in it.
"He's always the life and soul of the party, and he collects friends no matter where he goes, in spite of language barriers. He's one of the best storytellers I ever met, with a dry wit that has given me many laughs over a bottle of vin rouge.
"The Travel Two has been a really satisfying project to work on with someone so like-minded, who shares my love for a decent trek, no matter the budget or the blowing of our savings!
"Long may it continue!" dashing Daniella says, as Millie jumps up to be brought for 'walkies'. Her owner is off to the Lebanon tomorrow.
If it's Tuesday, it must be Beirut.
Photography by Kip Carroll
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Assisted by Claire O'Farrell
Hair by Kim Delahunty, Sugar Cubed
1A Westbury Mall, Clarendon St, D2,
tel: (01) 672-5750, or see sugarcubed.ie
Make-up by Aoife Smith, Brown Sugar,
50 South William St, D2, tel: (01) 616-9967, or see brownsugar.ie
Photographed at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, D9, tel: (01) 804-0300, or see botanicgardens.ie
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