Transformed: Madeline Mulqueen on life with Jack Reynor
Model, blogger, fitness enthusiast and 'that girl' from The Rubberbandits video, Madeline Mulqueen speaks exclusively about life with her boyfriend, Hollywood star Jack Reynor, her fitness journey, and her charity work in Africa. The beauty also opens up for the first time about getting back on track after the accident that left her unable to work for months last year, and how she finally figured out what was making her depressed.
Madeline Mulqueen and her boyfriend, actor Jack Reynor, hadn't been together that long when they decided to head off to see the world. The What Richard Did star had got his big break, and was setting off to film the Michael Bay-directed Transformers: Age of Extinction. And Madeline decided to go with him.
"We just said, 'Feck it, why not?'," laughs the beautiful brunette, who in person is a mixture of the brunette good looks and petite physique of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, and the tomboyishness of Kristen Stewart. Having met in Dublin, they hadn't been dating long, but felt sure enough in their relationship for Madeline to give up everything to go with Jack on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that would take them around America and Asia. "We had a good feeling about things. We just wanted to experience the world together, in a way," she recalls. "We did it together, and it just felt like me and him against the world. It was great, we were a great support to each other, and we didn't kill each other, so that says something," she says, smiling.
She was 22 when they left in 2012. "We just set off for the year. And it was such an adventure. It was something that I always wanted to do, to travel for a year. And it was the perfect opportunity. So basically we up and left, and came home engaged," she explains with a laugh. "And that was it."
There's something of the fairy-tale about Madeline's life. Girl meets boy, boy becomes movie star, girl and boy become engaged, live happily ever after. But there's nothing of the princess about her.
You probably still know her as that girl from the Horse Outside video, a song by Limerick band The Rubberbandits. The video, made in 2010, has had almost 14m views on YouTube. Its success is hugely down to Madeline's turn as a brassy, hard-as-nails bridesmaid in a blue dress. Watching it, you can see she relished the role with an up-for-a-laugh, not-taking-oneself-seriously attitude that she seems to have retained to this day.
The video changed everything for her, she says now. At the time, she was living in Limerick, studying early childhood studies, modelling, and working in a cafe part-time to help fund her student lifestyle, when The Rubberbandits, who are friends of hers, called and asked if she would be in their video the next day.
"It wasn't even a casting or anything. I was at home getting ready for work," she recalls. "They called me and said, 'Here, we need a bridesmaid for a video we're doing.'" She knew of their YouTube videos, so never thought it was for TV, or that it would be any sort of big deal. "It was just the lads. They were saying all their mates were doing it."
She arrived with her best friend Niamh in "these tacky dresses, caked in make-up, and just saw all these cameras everywhere. We were like, 'What's going on here?' We totally winged it."
The attention the video would subsequently attract was both unexpected, and, to a certain extent, unwelcome. "I went into hiding for a while. It went a bit mad. Especially around Limerick. There were so many people setting up fake profiles of me. Trying to find where I lived. People mailing all my friends, 'Who's your one?' That was really strange. Because it was a group thing. And all of a sudden, it was like, 'Oh no, why are they just asking about me?' It was mental."
This ambivalence about the limelight is typical of the now 25-year-old. It's a level-headedness that probably stands her in good stead, engaged as she is to a man on track for global fame.
"I think you need to keep coming back to yourself and realise that you're the same person," she says of surviving their mercurial life. "It's not you that's changing; it's just everybody around you. And being able to have something you relate to in every situation is what keeps you from feeling like the whole world is going mad."
When Transformers: Age of Extinction came out, she set off again with Jack for the worldwide promotional tour. "The uncertainty makes it a bit stressful," she says of the red carpet. "You don't know what schedule you'll be on for anything; it's just go, go, go. If you're not prepared for change or for the spontaneity of it all, it can be stressful. You feel out of your depth.
"But if you just go for it and realise that everyone's there for a reason, and, at the end of the day, they do want you to enjoy yourself. I think the way me and Jack look at it, anyway, is it's a celebration. It's something fun. We're there to support each other. It's a nice finish to the process, because obviously Jack's been working on the movie for X amount of time, and I've seen some of it when I visit."
These days, Madeline visits Jack on set in between her own busy modelling work, rather than joining him for the full filming schedule. "We kind of know roughly two, three months in advance what's happening," she explains, which allows them to rarely leave more than two or three weeks between visits. "We are lucky with both our careers, in that we know when we're going to be free. It's always nice to have things to look forward to."
She's naturally a glass-half-full type of person, but this is helped by her dedication to a healthy lifestyle; she is a qualified personal trainer. Shortly after moving to Dublin - Madeline moved there after college on her own, to pursue her modelling career - she was involved in a charity boxing match.
"I wanted to do something different, get to know people," she says. "I just fell in love with the training, got really into it." Shortly afterwards, her mother won a personal-training course, which she gave to Madeline. "I was never really into fitness as a teenager, just because I took my naturally slim figure for granted. It was naturally slim, yeah, but it wasn't strong, or healthy. I obviously enjoyed the party lifestyle as a teenager, and the takeaways and all that."
The course was part-time, and she loved it. "I realised that it is actually not that hard to keep yourself on track and keep fit and healthy. So I kind of just went ahead with it, with the outlook that I was doing it for myself."
It also gave her something to do while on set with Jack. As a qualified personal trainer, she trains him for films, and on the set of Transformers, it became something of a group activity. "We really enjoyed it. It's something I'm really into, and he wouldn't necessarily be into, so it's a nice balance."
He does take her instructions, she laughs. "Oh my god, yeah. It was great, because a few other people working on the movie joined in. It was like a big group, you know what I mean." Now she regularly trains Jack for his movies. "It's great - it's like having your purpose there. I'm not just going over visiting," she laughs.
This year, she discovered an unexpected bonus to what had until now been something of a hobby, after signing with London-based fitness agency W Athletic, which provides models, many of whom are athletes, stuntmen or dancers, for specifically health-and-fitness-related modelling. "It was really cool, because I didn't actually think that that was a direction my modelling career could take. It was like, 'Oh wow, I can actually achieve something with a hobby that I'm really into'."
During the summer, though, Madeline suffered a freak accident that threw everything into disarray - her training schedule, her fitness levels, her ability to work and her mental health.
She hasn't talked to anyone publicly about this yet, she tells me, describing the accident that forced her to take almost three months off work. She and Jack moved to his native Wicklow in the summer, and when she was packing up their apartment, she was hit by a fire door as it closed, and knocked unconscious.
"I was totally knocked out. I was packing everything into my car, and I turned to go back into the corridor, and the door was closing at the same time. From here to here was totally swollen," she says, indicating a large part of her face. "I looked like the elephant woman.
"I was like, 'Fine, I'll take two weeks off, wait for the black eye to go away and everything'. And then, four days later, I woke up with whiplash. Couldn't sleep, couldn't move; I was in constant pain.
"It was horrific. And you're just constantly in a bad mood. Because you physically can't do anything. I was on quite strong anti-inflammatories for my neck and my head. That wasted away my digestive system. I lost so much weight. It was a really tough time. Because I was on the path of reaching my goals. There were a lot of things happening, and then it all had to stop."
As a naturally active person, used to a rigorous training schedule, she found the enforced inactivity put a strain on her mental well-being. "When I'm not doing anything, I just go crazy. I get total cabin fever. And obviously I felt really low because of that. And when you feel like you can't do anything, or you're restricted, it's just very frustrating."
Jack was there to look after her as she was unable to drive, train or work. "I had to really listen to my body and go, 'Yeah, OK, its time for me to stop, or else I'm going to do more damage to myself'," she says now.
"I got back into training before going to Africa, at the end of the summer. But not as much as I'm used to. So still, it's a gradual path trying to get back to it."
While the physical recovery seemed to be getting there, she found the mental bounce-back wasn't happening as quickly. The rest period forced her to address another issue that had been lingering in the background, masked by the general business of life.
Just over a year previously, Madeline had had a contraceptive bar inserted.
"I noticed, as I was getting better physically, that mentally I was still really low," she says of the recovery period after her accident. "And I was like, 'OK, there's something not right'. It was one of those things where, when I got the bar put in, my body was telling me, 'It's not right, it's not right for you'," she recalls. "It wasn't agreeing with me. I said, you know, 'I'm going to leave it a while, power through.'
"Eventually you just accept it, put it to the back of your mind. Obviously, life is so busy; I was distracted. Then, when I actually stopped and took a good, long look at myself, I realised it wasn't working for me. I wasn't the same. Just generally low. And you know when you're trying to put reasons on why you're low, instead of actually knowing why? And you really know at the end of the day. Your body tells you. So I made that one of my other big missions to sort out."
Blessed with a fairly sunny outlook, Madeline had never suffered from any sort of depressive episodes before. "Obviously you go through highs and lows, and the stresses of life, but you know how to deal with it, to an extent. And I thought that I had the skills to deal with the highs and lows of that. But when something is nagging at you so much, and you're like, 'Hang on a second, I can't put my finger on this'. So I went to the Well Woman Centre and straight away, they were like, 'I agree with you; you need to get this taken out'."
She felt better immediately, she says. Within two weeks, she felt like her old self again for the first time in over a year. "Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. I think I was so aware of trying to get my body back. I was like, 'Ugh, I have to get better, I have to heal'. I was just stressing myself out more and more. I was making myself worse.
"It was quite the process," she says now of her battle to get her fitness back. "But once you realise that it does take a while, it becomes a lot easier. Because you just want to see the final result. To just be OK. But it's the small steps to doing that."
The move to Wicklow has been a great help when the madness of life threatens to overwhelm. "Jack's from Wicklow anyway, and we visit there quite often. His grandparents are there.
"We're such home birds, really. And obviously from being away for the year, it made us more so. Wicklow is absolutely amazing."
Her own family moved from Limerick city to the countryside when Madeline was 12, and she laughingly remembers her teenage disgust towards her parents. "I loved the city; I was such a city bird. Being able to see my friends, go to town, see the guy I fancied on a Saturday."
Now though, she relishes the sense of escape and calm that living in the country offers. "I think when we came back from America, I really felt the difference between being in the city and being in the countryside, in terms of getting a sense of peace and a sense of disconnection from the madness of the constant 'going' of life. I really feel like I can breathe, and I can decompress, when I'm in the countryside."
In her downtime, she loves "cooking and baking. I love baking so much. Jack's actually the cook," she qualifies with a laugh. "I bake. Good team. We fight over clean-up then."
As well as a growing modelling career, Madeline is one of the new wave of celebrity bloggers, having launched her blog - liveblogrepeat.com - last year. "It's like an online journal for me," she explains "I can look back and see what I've done in the last year, and it's a great forum for me to express myself. It covers everything that I'm interested in and passionate about. I don't feel restricted. I don't feel pressure. I only write when I've something I'm interested in, or something to talk about. The way I see it is I share things, rather than promote things." She compares it to ringing her mates to tell them about a new beauty product, or her latest Penneys find. "It's that, on a larger scale."
At the end of last year, she undertook a trip to Zambia, the Catwalk to Kabwe project with Zamda Ireland. She travelled with fellow models Teodora Sutra and Irma Mali, and journalist Siobhan O'Connor, to help build shelters at Sables, a centre that provides support for vulnerable children in the city of Kabwe.
The trip, which will feature as a documentary on RTE, was gruelling but Madeline loved it, saying the 10 days with the children were not enough, and she is already planning to return next year.
"I've always wanted to work with children. I think I'm just a big kid anyway, so it's not that hard, and I do have that maternal instinct. I adore children, I think they're just the most interesting thing to walk on this planet. And absolutely I can't wait to have kids. But I will," she bursts out laughing.
So far, she says, the wedding plans haven't crystalised into anything definite. "We're just enjoying being engaged. We keep saying we're going to get married when people stop asking us when we're going to get married. Because we've so many things going on. I don't even know what's happening next month, never mind next year."
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