Nadia Forde: 'I owe my glamorous and successful life to my nana'
Singer, model and reality TV star Nadia Forde has a mother-child bond with her nana, always turning to her for advice and yet not always paying attention to her fashion tips. The one lesson she has taken to heart is to never to give up professionally or personally, she tells our reporter
Published 18/07/2016 | 02:30
Nadia Forde's parents sadly broke up when she was eight years of age. She was initially shuttled between her two aunties - Cindy in Clontarf and Beverly in Leopardstown. Nadia and her brother Stephen eventually made a permanent home with their granny, Bernadette Paulozzi in Clontarf.
Nadia describes Bernadette as "the glue that holds the family together. I think every family member is always afraid of what 'Nana' might say ... We all hold her opinion in high regard. She's just been that one constant in my life since I've been born, so I guess that's why she's the pillar of my family and I think my brother and other family members would agree."
I had the pleasure of meeting Bernadette with Nadia during one fun evening in Dublin. Bernadette was quite the character, full of life, full of joie de vivre. "My nana leaves a huge impression on everyone," Nadia told me proudly.
"My dad re-married. And my mum was not in a position to look after us. My nana is a saint," Nadia also told me during an interview in the Bluebird Cafe on the King's Road in Chelsea in the summer of 2014.
I ring Nadia in Japan and ask her what impression her nana has made on her, and more importantly, on her life.
"Just to fight," she says. "To keep going."
Does she owe her life to her nana?
"Yes. To the way my life is now - yes."
Earlier this year, Nadia relocated to Tokyo with her boyfriend, rugby player Dominic Day. "I'm just spending time in Japan with my boyfriend, that's all really," she says.
She says of Bernadette, "Maybe the best way to say it is my nan took over the responsibilities of raising me and my brother when I was eight years old."
The model, who was born on May 3, 1989, in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital, laughs loudly down the phone from her new home in East Asia when I ask her if she would like to be a grandmother herself one day in the future. "Definitely, but I really like living day to day; I don't want to wish life away, but hopefully I will be a gran myself," she says.
The 27-year-old says that her nana has experienced a lot in the past 70 years. "Marriages, divorce - when it was really frowned upon in Ireland - she's also experienced losing her daughter," Nadia says, referring to her own mum Berenice (who passed away in June, 2015, after battling lymphoma cancer for several years). Bernadette's daughter dying before her, Nadia says, "goes against natural order of life. So that, in particular, has been a difficult thing to come to terms with." (Obviously this was tremendously difficult for Nadia to come to terms with as well.)
I ask Nadia to tell me about the day-to-day routine with her nana growing up. Did Bernadette make her breakfast, bring her to school, pick her up, make her tea, put her to bed etc?
"Oh yeah," exclaims Nadia," she used to burst into my room first thing in the morning singing at the top of her lungs! That was my alarm clock for school. She would leave for work, and I'd normally see her late afternoon when she'd come home. My aunty was heavily involved too, so she made a lot of our dinners."
So what kind of woman is Bernadette Paulozzi?
"She's loving, glamorous, fiercely protective, and stubborn," Nadia says. And she believes she has "definitely" inherited that quality from her.
"She's sensitive yet she's pretty much the head of our family. She's also hilarious, even when she's not trying to be funny," Nadia says.
"She's honestly hilarious. She doesn't even try to be. Its just how she lives her life. My nana literally has no filter. She'll call me up to tell me if she didn't like my outfit that she might have seen a picture of me in, and when I'm home visiting her she sneaks into my suitcases and 'reorganises' it while throwing out the pieces that she hates!" Nadia laughs.
"By the way, she has no idea I'm onto her. I always quietly go to the garage; and low and behold there's the dress or top I was missing. She is fiercely protective of all her family and even of my friends, if she sees anything or reads anything I'm the one who needs to tell her it's all ok. I think she's starting to realise now how it works though."
Nadia's illustrious modelling career is all down to one woman. No prizes for guessing which.
"It's actually all because of my nana!" Nadia roars with delight down the blower from Japan. "We were shopping for my communion dress, so I was about seven years old. The lady who owned the shop asked my nan if I could be part of her photoshoot in her shop ads (store windows and a spread in Social and Personal magazine). My nana agreed and from that job I got an agency and that was it. I used to model a couple of times a year... all throughout school and then I signed with Assets at 16. It was a great way to pay for my singing and dance classes so I enjoyed modelling at that age. It was like playing dress-up," says Nadia, who went on to become one of Ireland's top models as well as appearing on ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! in November 2014, to say nothing of Nadia Goes To Hollywood on TV3 also that year.
Her modelling career aside, how large was her nana's influence on Nadia's life.
"A huge influence. She pretty much raised me," Nadia continues, "so even now I find myself stopping mid sentence and just thinking, 'Jesus I've turned into my nana'. I wouldn't have it any other way, though.
"I've a few funny stories about nana," Nadia says. "Like the time I sang the national anthem at the Ireland game against Sweden. . ." Nadia recalls of September 2013, when she sang Amhran na bhFiann before the Ireland v Sweden game. "She turned up in a bright yellow jacket [Sweden colours] and she was sat next to the president [Michael D Higgins].. Not her finest fashion choice!
"But on a more serious note," Nadia adds, "my nana had raised her three kids and suddenly found herself raising me and my brother and we have pretty much taken up the last 25 years of her life. We have been her priority when she could've easily walked away from the responsibility. I don't think it ever even crossed her mind; she was just there, constantly." "Which," Nadia says, "is more than any child could ask for."
What has Nadia learned about life from her gran?
"One thing I've learnt from her is never give up, professionally or personally. My nana has experienced a lot of highs and lows in her life but she's never let it stop her. She just keeps going, keeps herself busy, learns the lesson and moves on. Sometimes when I reach moments in my life where I could choose to quit, she's the first one to tell me otherwise. Even if I haven't discussed anything with her, she'll call me and already know what's going on."
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