'I can't deal with that no sugar sh*t' - how Vogue Williams looks like this
Published 09/05/2016 | 02:30
Vogue Williams says that people are surprised at how happy she is with being single. There's a distinct possibility, too, that Vogue herself is surprised at how happy she is being single, since announcing the end of her marriage to Brian McFadden last summer.
"I think people are weirded out that I like being single," Vogue says, sipping on a post-workout smoothie in a cafe next door to her Howth gym. "People are like, 'Are you not going to go on a date?' And I'm like, 'No, I'm not. I've been in relationships for, like, 11 years. I don't want to go on a date right now. I like getting up, doing whatever I want, not telling anyone what I'm doing. If I was lonely, of course I'd do it. But it takes a lot for anyone to spark my interest. I went out with one who sparked my interest for six years and I married the other one. I'm in no rush to get into anything else."
Given she turned 30 at the end of January, this puts Vogue at the age of 19 when she began her two serious adult relationships. For all of her growing-up years, she was the kind of girl who had a boyfriend.
"Yeah," she laughs, "I hate being that girl, but I was that girl."
Vogue hates being 'that' girl because it suggests a tag-along girl, a girl who feels incomplete in herself, one who needs a man to make her feel confident.
And Vogue is not that girl. She hates being that girl, but at the same time, she makes no apologies for it. Her two big loves were big loves; she doesn't regret them. But this is a new phase, and the post-workout shake, the fact that she lives in her gym gear when she's not on TV or on red carpets, and the fact of her new bootcamp business venture all speak of a position of strength. She's no plus-one.
In fact, the way things are going for Vogue, any man who sparks her interest down the line may have to live with playing the plus-one role.
With this in mind, it should be noted that Vogue doesn't want to talk only about her ex, Brian. She's "blue in the face" from it and, she comments, people must be "sick of hearing about it". Inevitably, though, it arises. It's a big thing in anyone's life, to marry and to split, particularly when that arc happens relatively quickly and at rather a young age.
There is more to Vogue than that, though.
Sitting in this Howth cafe beside her gym, in her Alexander Wang for H&M sports jacket, her workout tights and loose T-shirt, Vogue is the epitome of no-make-up good health. She has terrifically golden skin, shiny, scraped-back hair, and a tremendous sense of ease and charming self-confidence. She also has two iPhones on the table. One is her phone for Ireland, the other for the UK. She exudes a sort of calm, but her schedule for the following week is anything but zen.
There's her first appearance on Loose Women the following Monday, to promote the fact that UK channel TLC is now showing her RTE-produced Wild Girls series. That appearance, after we meet, earns Vogue a lot of column inches on both sides of the Irish Sea, with her revelation that, as a teenager, her bi-curiosity extended to kissing her girlfriends.
After the Loose Women appearance, Vogue rattles off for me her week of "meetings Tuesday; then Manchester for a shoot; and then Leeds for a shoot at the end of the week." This list adds up to evidence that Vogue is in-demand in the UK. She is someone there. She became someone there as the wife of the guy from Westlife, but now she's someone in her own right.
"London seems like such a small place now that I've been there for a while," says Vogue, who splits her time between London and Dublin, where she still has a radio show on Spin 1038 and a column in the Sunday World. "Like, I know so many people there now. It's such a small circle that I work in, that I'd go to a party now on my own, no problem; because I know I'll know people. A few years ago, I would never have done that."
She wouldn't have because she was married, and because her identity was not formed as Vogue Williams. A few years ago, she was Brian's wife, or even 'Brian's wife that is so different to Brian's previous wife, Kerry Katona'.
"I would never have done things on my own, or spent much time on my own, ever," Vogue says, laughing. "My main thing last year was to try and get comfortable with being on my own. My sister [Amber] is the same. We would never just sit in and be on our own. Our auntie lives upstairs from us, right above, and if Amber's not there, I can always call up to her.
"I still wouldn't choose to spend time on my own, and I wouldn't choose to be with people I didn't want to be with, but I am much happier to be on my own now than I used to be."
When she's in Dublin, Vogue lives with Amber, her elder sister, in the apartment that it was reported she bought with Brian just weeks before announcing their split. Howth is Vogue's native stomping ground anyway, where she did most of her growing up, only around the hill from where we sit now. She is a home bird, at heart, she says, and most of her time off work is spent with her sister and her extended family, most of whom live nearby.
Until the age of "six or seven", Vogue Williams grew up close to Howth in Dublin's Portmarnock. She is the third child, after older siblings Amber and Frederick. Her mother Sandra married again - Neil Wilson, whom Vogue describes as "a third parent" - and they have a son, Alexander. "But I wouldn't describe him as a half-brother, he's just my brother," she says. "And I have a half-sister, Alison, from my dad's first marriage. I bumped into her yesterday; first time in ages. It had lots of layers. Like any family."
"There were definitely difficult times growing up," Vogue concedes, "but it was always generally OK. [My stepdad] and my dad were very different people, and I probably get my work ethic from my stepdad. He was quite wealthy when we were growing up, but we were never handed everything we wanted. We had to get jobs and he just pushed us to achieve, and we all had to go to college."
In November 2010, the day after her TV debut on RTE's Fade Street, Freddie, Vogue's father, died suddenly, during an operation to remove an aneurysm. There she was, on the brink of something she had wanted forever, and she got one of life's hardest experiences instead.
"It doesn't feel like he died five years ago," Vogue says. "It feels like I saw him the other day. Maybe because I see his brother and sisters so often, it doesn't feel like he's gone. Even the other day, I went into Mattress Mick to get a base for my bed, and he was, like, 'I have something for you'. And he came out of his office with a picture of him and my dad. They used to hang out, supposedly."
"Every day I get something like that," Vogue says of her dad. "He was a car salesman. He knew everyone. He was a really great, fun person; he'd just take the piss out of people. It's probably where my sister and I get it from."
Vogue was 25 when Freddie Williams died. She had been modelling since her teens and her TV-presenter ambitions were getting a start on Fade Street, and, personally, she had been in a steady relationship for six years. Grief was a blow, but she seemed to be in a solid position to get through it.
"I was with my ex through all of that," Vogue says, "and he was really good, the poor thing. He was older than me, and it must have been, like, 'What am I supposed to do? This is so awful."
In April 2011, Vogue met Brian McFadden in Dublin's Krystle nightclub - how very Fade Street - and it was, according to him, love at first sight. Certainly, it was a whirlwind. He was working in Melbourne at the time, on Australia's Got Talent, and Vogue went out there to be with him. He proposed marriage eight months after they met and Brian and Vogue got married in Tuscany in September 2012.
"I think I just wanted to run after my dad died," Vogue says, "so I ran to Australia. It's only looking back that I think that, though. I never would have done anything like that before; it was so out of character. I was always such a planner, so my family were, like, 'What's she doing? What's going on? Her career's gong really well over here; why is she leaving?'
"But I suppose I just ran away from it. At the time, I saw no reason not to. But looking back, I see that I wanted to get away from the grief. I see now it might have been better if I hadn't run, and if Brian had lived in Ireland; I would have been with him anyway, but he lived in Australia, so I went there."
Talking about Brian, Vogue is never anything less than polite and cheerful. She never gives away any reasons for their break-up and never betrays a hint of bitterness towards Brian. She only speaks of their relationship in the most positive terms, and never with a hint of regret. In fact, the only time she slightly bristles in the whole time we talk is when asked why she, at the relatively young age of 26, decided to get married, instead of just enjoying going out with Brian?
"Because we were in love and we wanted to get married," she says, "same as anyone else who gets married." Her family didn't suggest that she was too young or that it was too soon, either. "Because I'm not one for making stupid decisions," she explains, "and it wasn't a stupid decision. I don't think that at all. How mean would that be?"
Vogue was not in love with Australia, however. She worked hard and she started to make an impact there - significantly on the Aussie Dancing With The Stars - but ultimately she and Brian moved back to the UK and Ireland. She hated being so far away from her family and he had his daughters from his marriage to Kerry Katona - Molly (now 14) and Lilly-Sue (13) - back in the UK. Together, Brian and Vogue did another dancing show, Stepping Out, on ITV, and slowly, while also working here with RTE and Spin 1038, Vogue began making inroads in the UK.
Last summer, just weeks after Vogue wrote about them buying their first place in Howth together, she and Brian announced their split. It has been determinedly amicable, a determination that she says is hard work, but rewarding work. Given that she's not given to being alone or spending time alone, was the prospect of both a big fear in the lead-up to the split, I wonder.
"Yeah, it was," Vogue says. "I hadn't been on my own for 11 years. And Brian and I didn't hate each other when we broke up. Then it could be, 'I hate you! See you; I don't ever want to see you again'. But it wasn't like that. And maybe that would have been easier.
"We're working on being really good friends. And it is work. It's not like me and Brian have never had a fight. It was really hard and nothing was as easy as it seemed, us just going out and being friends. But we've made it happen. And maybe it's easier because neither of us has moved on yet, but we're really working on being friends."
Vogue sees Brian all the time when she's in London - she brought him to Matilda The Musical, a show based on the Roald Dahl book, for his birthday last month - and she still sees his daughters, too. As the child of separation and of a stepfamily situation, Vogue knows the value of constancy and the potential distress of a parent-type figure leaving your life.
Her stepfather is not a stepfather, he's her other dad, she says, and to Molly and Lilly-Sue, she hopes she is a reliable presence.
"I follow them on Snapchat," she laughs, "and I see them and talk to them. Whenever they come to Brian in London, I see them. I'm definitely not going to disappear. They're my little friends now and they always have been."
Talking about her new series, Vogue Williams On The Edge, which begins filming for RTE around now, she talks about how awful it must be to be a teenage girl these days, and she obviously has Brian's girls in mind.
"I do say to them that they need to be careful," Vogue says, with reference to one episode, concerned with internet trolls. "But they're very intelligent girls, they're very clued-in, and they get it. I'd prefer they weren't on any social media, but they're 14 and 13; you can't stop them."
"But kids don't think of their actions before they do them," Vogue continues. "Posting awful things about people you don't even know? And then revenge porn! What is the world coming to? It's good that people are getting prison sentences for that kind of thing now. Because you can't just ruin people's lives.
"Luckily for me, I don't really have anything out there like that of me," she says with a laugh. "But some people, that's what they do, they send [naked] pictures of themselves. But you have to accept that if you send them to one person, you can be sure that more than one person is looking at them. That's it."
As well as internet trolls, Vogue's forthcoming series is going to look at addiction in all its forms, hence her recent comments about potentially taking LSD on camera. Addiction will also cover the trend for intense exercise and 'clean' eating. As someone who works out every day of the week, Vogue has known both the temptation and the undesirability of both.
"I do a half-hour workout every day," Vogue says, "And I've never been in better shape. I always exercised, but I exercised wrong. I see people on the treadmill for 25 minutes and I think, 'What's the point?' If you did weights and two minutes of sprints on the treadmill, you'd get so much more out of it.
"I used to do loads of cardio and I didn't eat right; but I got a lot of personal training and I still get a bit, and I did a lot of bootcamps and talked to nutritionists and I know how to eat better now."
Vogue also won last year's Bear Grylls: Mission Survive, a 12-day ITV jungle survival show, which taught her a lot about exercise and nutrition. She's now a "good" eater for six days of the week, with one cheat day, but she does not espouse or believe in any particular diet.
"No diet is a good diet. I eat healthily most of the time. I cook in batches and freeze stuff, so I always have something proper to eat, and I bring snacks in my bag everywhere I go. Hummus and oatcakes. Fruit. Nuts. I'm never hungry. If I crave something, I have it, because if you don't, then you want it so much more.
"Like, I tell people to have a takeaway if they want it. Have it once a week. I recommend that to people, otherwise they won't keep it up. There is too much advice about all this stuff you can't have, and that makes it really difficult for people. Like, all that no-sugar shit and everything. I can't deal with all of that."
Vogue has one "cheat day" per week and she laughs out loud as she lists off what she eats on that day. "I'd get pizza," she says, emphatically.
"Actually, I'd probably get two takeaways that day. And I'd go to the shop and get crisps and chocolate and sweets. I love Dip Dabs and those kind of sweets. But I eat all that and then I get an awful headache, and I feel sick by the end of the day and I want to be healthy again. But if you don't do that, and just have whatever you want sometimes, you can't stick to being healthy."
By way of shedding light on the poor wisdom of crash dieting, Vogue says she lost a stone in weight during the Bear Grylls show and gained it again in three weeks, just by returning to normal eating. One other thing she got out of the Bear Grylls experience was that she met Nat, Grylls's personal trainer, with whom she is now working on her upcoming bootcamps.
"We basically saw that there was a gap in the market, because, at most camps, you'd be working out all day and then it would be four or five o'clock and you don't want to go to bed at six, but there was nothing else to do.
"So we thought we'd bring in extras in the evenings and make it a full, packed weekend away. There will be training all day with Nat, and I'll be training with them. There'll be nutrition talks and then I'll get Ashley, my best friend, who is a make-up artist, to come and do make-up tutorials and maybe get people to do hair demos. And I might do styling talks.
"I want to have it in really nice places, where you have a lovely room and surroundings, and for it just to be a really good, fun experience and a weekend away for people."
With all this going on, it's hardly surprising that Vogue has little time for even the idea of a new relationship. She also knows that if she starts dating, her split from Brian and her friendship with Brian will alter. She has thought about what it will be like if and when he meets someone else, and she's being resolutely mature about it.
"I'd have that initial jealousy, I'm sure, but you'd move on from that, and I'd be happy for him. He deserves to be happy. But I think he quite likes being single, too," Vogue says with a laugh, agreeing that, like her, he was involved in serious relationships most of his adult life and married, for the first time, very young. "He was a baby back then," she laughs. "A baby."
In contrast, it seems, the split between Vogue and Brian seems very mature.
"Yeah," says Vogue. "So far, so good." Which is true of how it's going for the Howth girl in general, and all by herself, to boot.
Photography by Kip Carroll
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Assited by Claire O'Farrell
Hair by Michael Doyle for Peter Mark, St Stephens Green Shopping Centre, tel: (01) 478-0362, or see petermark.ie
Make-up by Ashley O'Rourke using Urban Decay, see ashleyorourke.ie
Photographed at The Gym Howth, 1a St Lawrence Road, Howth, D13, tel: (01) 816-7080, or see thegymhowth.com
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