Thursday 27 October 2016

Ireland's global superstars (who you've probably never heard of )

Published 20/09/2015 | 02:30

Fitness guru Maeve Madden
Fitness guru Maeve Madden
Fitness model Maeve Madden
Dermot Clemenger. Photo: Annika Berglund
YouTube cookery star Gemma Stafford
Food blogger Katie Quinn Davies
Eamonn Harkin. Photo: Natalie Keyssar

For generations, Irish people have spread out across the world, spawning everything from political dynasties to global corporations and making us back home proud to claim them - and their descendants - as our own. So who are the new Irish talents making their mark abroad? Here we meet the expats who have made big names for themselves in their adopted countries

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Maeve Madden: Fitness guru, London

From Newry, Co Down, Maeve, (27) is a fitness model and blogger. She has more than 20,000 Instagram followers and representation around the globe.

"I first moved to London about 10 years ago as a professional dancer in Michael Flatley's show Celtic Tiger, but unfortunately my career was cut short due to injury. I returned to where my siblings were living in London and, with the support of my parents, attended university studying International Business and Early Childhood Education.

"Being a competitive dancer from the age of three, the passion for fitness just came naturally and living in London sparked a greater interest in fashion, beauty, health and fitness. After graduating, I knew I wanted to break in to modelling and I signed to my first agency in London. However, at 5ft7in inches, I wasn't tall enough for runway work, and my agency felt I could really push the fitness angle. I started getting castings for health-related jobs, and it really took off. I have four cover shoots coming out this year alone, and now I'm represented by model agencies in London, New York, Dubai and Dublin.

"Taking my brand online happened when I joined Instagram and started to post photos of my lifestyle journey. People started to take interest in my style and physique, and asking for fitness video tutorials rather than just pictures. I started posting a couple of videos each week and my following increased rapidly. I just launched my website, Following a fit lifestyle is very popular on social media, and I love motivating and inspiring people, wherever they are.

"I see sharing my lifestyle as a platform to being a positive, motivating role model for girls and guys around the world. I'm mainly based in London at the moment and my job involves a lot of travel, but Ireland will always be my home."

Eamon Harkin: DJ, New York

Thirty-eight-year-old DJ and club promoter Eamon is from Derry. Under the alias Mr Saturday Night, he runs one of the most popular nights out for New York city's glitterati.

"Growing up in Derry I always had a strong interest in music. I went to university in London, and immersed myself in the music scene there. I was interested in DJ culture and record collecting. After college, I worked in a pretty regular 9-5 doing web design and tech for a bank, but DJing was the one thing I kept coming back to. I was never really a gifted musician, but I realised music was something that was central to my life. The path towards it was a murky one though, because I had no clear role model.

"I got a chance to come to New York with the day-job, and I was at a point in my life personally where it just made sense to go. I told my mum I'd be back in a year - that was 11 years ago! Over here, I was further away from home and had less of a safety net, so I jumped in to the community of DJ culture.

"Today, myself and my business partner Justin Carter run Mr Saturday Night, a dance night that's become an institution in New York nightlife. We started in 2009 in a traditional nightclub in Manhattan which didn't work because we had a different vision. So, we took matters into our own hands; found alternative spaces, hired bar staff, set the drink prices and managed the musical aspect by buying our own sound system. Things got particularly busy and successful for us five years ago, but I only gave up the day-job a year ago - around the time I got married and moved into a house in Brooklyn. It was a real transition period for me, as I'd just started my own record label, too.

"Now I work from home, making sure things are running at our new space, which is called Nowadays, listening to new music and working with artists. I still DJ every Sunday too, but I've learned there's more to life than just hard work, and to relax and smell the flowers."

Katie Quinn Davies: Food photographer and stylist, Australia

A food photographer and blogger who gained massive ground for her work while living in Sydney, Dubliner Katie (40) has now published two cookery books, and her work continues to flourish globally.

"In the year 2000 I met an Australian guy in Ireland. We got engaged and moved over to Melbourne together in 2006. I had worked as a graphic designer for over a decade but had become complacent with the design industry and felt there might be something else that would stimulate me more. I saw going to Australia as a huge change in my life - but I ended up working in design again.

"However, that feeling was still in my head so when I got an inheritance I decided to use some of the money to buy cameras and train myself to be a photographer and food stylist. I'd previously studied photography in IADT in Dublin, but let the skill sit dormant.

"I took a year off work, and started looking at food magazines and cookbooks, and I taught myself to style food. I'd pick out food that was difficult to style and keep practising. I've always been able to cook, so that helped! I uploaded the pictures to photo-sharing site Flickr and started to get a following. I did a course at a nearby college, and the tutor told me to set up a blog which would be like an online portfolio for my work.

"That was in 2009, when blogging was really taking off. I've never been a writer and I didn't know a lot about it, still I thought I could use it to my advantage.

"I think 'What Katie Ate' took off because at the time, the food industry was all about perfection, very clean looking styles. I found my own messy, layered, textured style, inspired by my design background. I moved to Sydney around this time, and after a few months living there and blogging I was mentioned on Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow's newsletter. That catapulted the blog in to the limelight. That same morning, I had a meeting with Penguin books in Australia who said if I cooked, styled and shot my own recipes, they'd be interested in publishing a book.

"My first book, named after the blog, came out in 2012, and has been translated into 18 different languages. My second one, What Katie Ate At the Weekend, launched in late 2014. They take about a year to create, as I do absolutely everything - cooking, styling, photography and graphic design. Now, Monday-to-Friday I work as a photographer doing food, travel and lifestyle shots for magazines as well as working on my own stuff. I'm not blogging as often - unless you're working on it full-time, they're difficult to maintain.

"There was talk of doing a TV show, but I'm not interested in being a celebrity chef. I have to follow my heart, and that means doing what I'm doing."

Dermot Clemenger: TV Judge, Sweden

A judge on Swedish reality show Let's Dance, Dublin-born Dermot (42) is an international champion dancer and runs two prestigious dance schools in his adopted country.

"My dance career in Ireland started at the age of five at a local dance class that my two older sisters attended. My first teacher saw a talent in me, so I started competing and won my first All-Ireland Ballroom Championship when I was 11. I left Ireland for Liverpool in 1990 to pursue a dance career full-time.

"In 1993 I started to dance with a girl called Diana from Sweden who I met at a competition in London. We won the prestigious British Open Championships in Latin American dance, and went on to represent Sweden at all the major events around the world over the next six years. Though we travelled regularly to Sweden to compete in ranking events, we made London our home so we could be close to our coaches and our fellow competitors. In 1999 we started to tour with a well-known production called Burn The Floor, and did that for five years. During that time we got married and, in 2004, moved to Sweden full-time just before the birth of the eldest of our three children.

"I was asked originally to be a part of Let's Dance, the Swedish version of Strictly Come Dancing, in 2006 as a dancer. Then they asked if I would consider doing an audition for one of the four jury members because of my experience. They offered me the position the day after my audition and I've just completed my tenth season on the show.

"After 10 seasons on one of Sweden's most-watched TV shows, I've become a household name here. It's still a bit weird for me that I am living in a foreign country where everyone knows who I am. I play a lot of charity golf events and do what little I can to help people in need. Here in Sweden the media don't hound us for stories or pictures like they do my colleagues from Strictly, which means that I can have my privacy.

"I like coming home to Ireland and being anonymous. I can go wherever I want and know that I won't be bothered for autographs or pictures, and can relax and enjoy time with my family and friends. I would, however, like to do some TV work in Ireland, so hopefully one day an opportunity might arise!"

Photo: annika berglund

Photo: xxxxxxx

Gemma Stafford: Online cookery presenter, USA

Hailing from Wexford and now living in California, 32-year-old Gemma is a trained chef who hosts an online baking show that has half a million subscribers.

"I've been captivated by baking ever since I was a very young girl. My mum is an amazing cook, and she promised me I could go to Ballymaloe when I grew up, and I did! Since graduating, I took my qualifications and used them as a passport to travel to Italy, Australia and then the US.

"I moved to the United States in 2008 to do a bread apprenticeship. It was not a spontaneous move; I knew at a very young age I wanted to live in America by the time I was 25. I was hired as an apprentice baker in California. Now, I make my living as creator and host of the online cooking show Gemma's Bigger Bolder Baking.

"After working as a pastry chef for a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco and running my own catering business, I was ready for something new. At the same time my husband, Kevin, a brand marketer for major entertainment companies, wanted to produce something of his own. We discussed combining our passions and creating a cooking show, building an audience online through YouTube. We honed in on the Bigger Bolder Baking concept early on and focused on creating simple recipes that delivered over-the-top results.

"The fact that I am a professional chef helped build trust with the audience. The show has become one of the fastest-growing cooking shows online, with more than 25 million video views in just 18 months. We make money mainly through advertising and sponsorships. Since we produce Bigger Bolder Baking for free, the ads that run before our episodes help pay for us to create the show. In addition, we work with brands that we believe in to create things that we wouldn't be able to do on our own. For example, we worked with appliance manufacturer KitchenAid on a milkshakes video.

"I'm extremely excited about the future of the Bigger Bolder Baking brand. The YouTube channel was really just the beginning. I would love to take it on the road and meet my fans in person. My first stop, of course, would be Ireland!

"My love of great food came from my family and my culinary education there. I use my show as an opportunity to share more about our culture because people are fascinated by Ireland and her people."

Irish Independent

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