Thursday 19 October 2017

Exclusive: Vogue Williams on her battle with anxiety and self-doubt

Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear
Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear
Vogue Williams wears 'Serafina' beaded bikini top, €90 from Virginia Macari Beachwear Couture Collection.
Vogue Williams with ex-husband Brian McFadden
Vogue on Mission Survive with Bear Grylls
Vogue alongside the Fade Street cast
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

When you cast your eye over Vogue Williams looking like a goddess in this shoot for the Virginia Macari Swimwear range, it's hard to imagine that she could ever suffer from self-doubt.

 Yet the stunning 30-year-old admits that even goddesses can be affected by the visions of perfection that assail us from all angles on social media.

"I see people's bodies and think they're amazing, but I realise I'm not going to look like that and this may not be the way my body is meant to be," she says. "As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, because everyone is different and you're never going to be someone else.

"I understand that it's hard seeing gorgeous girls on Instagram and wanting a body like theirs, but I think we need to be happier in our own bodies and understand that we're gorgeous just the way we are."

Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear
Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear

As anyone who follows Vogue on Snapchat will know, she keeps herself toned through regular gym sessions. She has an incredible body, by anyone's standards, but she admits that there are always areas she feels she has to work on.

"It's a constant thing," she says. "My skin isn't great at the moment, so I'm working on that now. I know wearing a bikini is a thing a lot of women dread, but I keep up my training regime whether it's winter or summer, so my body always stays the same."

The part-time model says that far from being a necessary evil, the gym is something she really enjoys as she likes being healthy. Another great benefit is that it helps keep her anxiety at bay.

This may come as a surprise. Vogue is great fun, disarmingly frank and always seems confident and effervescent, whether meeting the world's toughest women in prison for her Vogue Williams - Wildgirls TV series, or participating in (and winning) the Bear Grylls reality survival show, Mission Survive. Taking all that into account, the admission that she struggles with anxiety issues is unexpected.

Vogue Williams with ex-husband Brian McFadden
Vogue Williams with ex-husband Brian McFadden

"The most challenging part of my life is probably my anxiety, to be honest," she says. "I have to try to keep it under control and to make sure I feel alright. I struggle with it quite a bit, and it's an everyday thing that's always lurking in the background and creeping in the corner.

"Anxiety is something that has always been there and I'm starting to realise it probably always will be, but there are ways to manage it a bit better. Working out in the gym really helps, and it's a necessity because if I don't go, my anxiety creeps back up on me."

Her gym regime also keeps her in shape for the occasional fashion shoot. One of Vogue's favourite things about Macari's designs are that she uses quality, sensual materials designed to promote body-confidence. She also uses clever panelling and corseting to help improve the wearer's shape.

Vogue said she felt amazing in the designs. "I absolutely love the range and I love Virginia as well," she says. "She's always in a good mood and is such a laugh, and she has such a great eye for shapes. She's incredibly talented so I was delighted that she asked me to be part of her campaign."

Vogue alongside the Fade Street cast
Vogue alongside the Fade Street cast

Modelling is only one string to Vogue's bow. Indeed, it seems like she has been around forever, because she has packed quite a lot in since she first appeared on our screens in the RTÉ reality show Fade Street in 2010. Since then, she has become a successful DJ, has appeared on Dancing with the Stars in Australia, put out several very well-received TV documentaries, and of course been married to and then separated from singer-songwriter Brian McFadden.

The pair met in Lillie's Bordello in 2011, and Vogue recently revealed on Loose Women that they had sex on their first date. "Me and Brian did the hanky-panky on the first night we met and we did get married," she told the panel. "But I'm not saying I do that with everyone."

'Brogue', as they were known, seemed to have a great relationship, so shock waves ran through the showbiz world when they split in July 2015, less than three years after their wedding at Castello Di Vincigliata in Florence, Italy. Nonetheless they have remained friends, and Brian occasionally pops up on his ex's Snapchat.

When asked about what she has learned about love, the blonde beauty's answer is poignant. "I've learned that being in love is one of the best things in the world," she says. "It's exciting and a really nice, secure place to be, but it can also be heartbreaking. The only way to deal with heartbreak is time, unfortunately. I hate when people say that, but it's true."

Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear
Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear

The interest in the coming together and ultimate demise of Brogue was heightened as both were in the public eye, and as she gets older, Vogue has come to realise that sharing everything can come back to bite her on the bum. While people are naturally curious about her love life - the rumour mill went into overdrive recently when she was linked to British rapper Professor Green - she has decided to keep her private life to herself from now on.

"I'm not going to talk about relationships any more, because it just backfires on me all the time," she explains. "It's giving too much of myself away and leaving me open to more opinions when I don't particularly want them.

"If I get into a relationship again with someone in the public eye, I don't want to fuel that media interest again, so I'm just going to keep it to myself. When you give too much information away, it's out there and you can't take it back, so I need to find a way to keep more to myself."

Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear
Vogue Williams in Virginia Macari swimwear

Dealing with media speculation can be difficult, but Vogue says she tries to "ignore the bad stuff". She is also surrounded by a close family and people she has been friends with since the age of 12, which helps her to live a very normal life. At the moment, she's dividing her time between Dublin and London, and says that her heart is split between the two as she loves them both.

Vogue grew up in Sutton, and her parents - Sandra, and the late Freddie - divorced when she was seven. She has an older sister, Alison, from her dad's first marriage, an older sister, Amber, and brother, Frederick, from her parents' marriage, and a younger brother, Alexander, who was born to her mum and stepdad Neil.

She was, by her own admission, a bit of a messer as a teenager, and was suspended twice from school, much to the chagrin of her poor aunt, who was her year head at Santa Sabina. She might have been a scamp, but Vogue says she wasn't overly confident, particularly when it came to boys.

"I was really skinny and tall with a big mouth, and I definitely wasn't the prettiest one in the group," she recalls. "I hadn't grown into myself at that stage, and while you don't just wake up one day and become confident, I think you become more sure of yourself and what you're doing with age."

Vogue's initial career path may seem surprising. Encouraged by her stepdad, Neil, she went to Aberdeen for three years to do a degree in construction design and management. She then came back and got a degree in quantity surveying, and actually worked in the building industry for a time and loved it.

When the industry collapsed due to the recession, she began modelling. She doesn't regret her unusual career path or the years training for a career that she ultimately didn't pursue, because it showed her the importance of education.

Vogue Williams with ex-husband Brian McFadden
Vogue Williams with ex-husband Brian McFadden

"Those five years gave me time to grow up and taught me about living on my own in Aberdeen," she says. "It was when I learned to be an adult, and the experience taught me to listen to my stepdad a bit more and realise that he isn't always out to get me. We have a very good relationship, and I think it was important to have his influence, as he made sure I got a good education, and I appreciate him for that."

As she gets older, Vogue has come to have a greater appreciation of her parents, even though she may not have felt that way when she was younger. She went to Marbella for the swimwear shoot with her mum Sandra, and they're very close now. "I could never have imagined being as close to my mum back then, but we're really good friends now," she says.

"I always thought she was trying to be harsh, strict and controlling when I was growing up, but as a child, you need rules. I especially needed them because I was an absolute messer."

By contrast, Vogue's dad Freddie was more like her in personality. He was a bit of a messer too, she laughs, and understood her, so they were more like pals from when she was about 17. Sadly, Freddie died in November 2010 aged 68, when he suffered a stroke after having an operation to remove an aneurysm from his stomach.

"It was one of the hardest things I've gone through in my life," says Vogue. "Losing a parent is never easy, regardless of what age you are when you lose them. I don't think it's something you ever fully get over. My sister Amber helped me get through it, and we really leaned on each other a lot, but I also had a good support network around me.

Amber is my best friend and we get on incredibly well and speak to each other all the time. She lives in my apartment in Howth, but she gets the main bedroom, because as the older sister, she was always the boss and still is - so nothing has really changed there!"

Vogue was very active in campaigning for marriage equality, and although it was personal because Amber is gay, injustice on any level incenses the star. In situations like that, she tends to be very vocal, and wouldn't shy away from giving her opinion in case it offended some people.

She is currently working on a TV show about transgender people, and believes it's a subject we still need to work on in Ireland. Her hope is that her documentary will help to educate people, in order to address the huge lack of understanding that exists around the issue. Vogue is also being kept busy writing her first book and working with Bear Grylls, hosting some of his Survival Academy days out.

"It's really exciting to be working with Bear again," she says. "I'm so delighted I did that show, as it's not easy and it brought out a side of me that I didn't even know I had."

Now that she has hit 30, Vogue has learned that life is what you make it and you can only depend on yourself, and not other people, for happiness. She also tries to be positive because she believes that negativity spreads and doesn't make you a nice person to be around. She is always busy and finds herself pulled in many directions, and while she feels this probably doesn't help her anxiety, she adores her job and is very happy that she gets to do it all.

"I have so many amazing things going on in my life, and some very hard things too, but I'm really lucky," she smiles. "I just want to focus on the things in life that bring me happiness, like my job, my dog Winston, and my family and friends."

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