Nadia Forde meets Barry Egan: 'I didn't realise Dominic was going to be so influential...''
We got off to an awkward start, though unintentionally.
The room into which I brought Nadia Forde had, I realised when I sat her down, a giant framed picture of a certain world-famous young golfer with whom she had been once upon a time linked romantically and, she says, erroneously, on the wall behind us. Oops. I apologise profusely and we bash on. Nadia describes herself as "quite boring." She isn't. But she is quite cagey, defensive even.
So I decide to bombard her with some quick-fire questions to see how she fares (very good, as it happens) and what emerges (you can decide for yourself)...
What does she consider the most overrated virtue? "Beauty - because it doesn't last."
Which words or phrases does she most overuse? "F***, f***ing and you know?''
What is her greatest fear? "Losing the people I love." What is the trait she most deplores in others? "Lying."
On what occasion did she ever lie? "A few times," Nadia laughs, "when I've had to, to protect myself or others. But it's a trait I hate and I've found it's better to just say it straight because it always comes back around." Which living person does she most despise? "I don't despise anyone! Can't waste that energy!"
If she could change one thing about herself, what would it be? "I'm a nightmare to argue with." What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? "Loneliness."
What is it that you most dislike about life? "I wish life was longer.''
What is her most marked characteristic? "My cackle," Nadia cackles.
What is the quality she most likes in a man? "Loyalty."
Nadia has found that quality - and others - in spades with a man from Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire. She was introduced to a Welsh rugby player named Dominic Day by ex-Irish international player Peter Stringer and his then-fiancee Debbie O'Leary after a game in London in March, 2015. Nadia and Debbie are close friends. (Debbie jetted to Australia to support Nadia during her jungle stint on ITV's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here in 2014.) Dominic was then playing for Bath in England. Early this year, he transferred to Toyota Verblitz, based in Nagoya in Japan, and Nadia followed him - and her heart - east. Dom is moving to Melbourne Rebels in Australia early next year.
In March, after she finishes work commitments in the UK and Ireland, Nadia will follow him out to Australia. Until then, she will be here in Ireland, playing her first Leading Lady panto role as Princess Jasmine in The Cheerios Panto Aladdin at Dublin's Tivoli Theatre, while Dom is 6,000 miles away on the other side of the world playing rugby in Japan.
"Long distance [relationships] are not easy, but we make it work," she says. "Dom and I try and balance it. We are both still young," says the model, singer and actress who was born on May 3, 1989, in Dublin's Rotunda Hospital. "He is 31. We're both at the point where we still love travel and we still want to see as much as we can. We still want to work. As much as the few months in Japan was amazing for me and amazing for me to kind of discover a whole new world" - a physical world but also an interior, emotional new world - "I don't think I ever want to completely give up work. It is not for me. I love what I do. So Dominic and I just balance it. But it is hard."
Before she met Dominic, Nadia appeared to be lacking balance in her life. Does she feel she met Dom at the right time? "Yes. That is interesting. I met him a couple of months before my mum passed. I did hear that normally when somebody leaves your life somebody important comes into your life. Obviously at the time I didn't realise he was going to be so influential. The first night I met him I didn't realise he was going to be this great guy."
Why? You thought he was a total a******? I joke. "No! No!" Nadia laughs. "Not at all! But I didn't really grasp that he was going to be this kind of huge force in my life. He was really shy when we first met. I was having dinner with Peter and Debbie [Stringer] and he came in. They had planned it. He didn't really say much but just before the end of dinner, he asked could he take me for dinner again?"
Nadia can remember thinking: '''We're never going to go for dinner together'. We did actually meet for dinner, and that was kind of it. We spent the weekend together. It was as if I knew him for my whole life."
How do they keep the relationship from becoming stale, from becoming cynical? "He just makes me laugh all the time. He really does. It is such a cliche, I know, but he is the funniest guy. I never tell him that. I don't let him know that I think he is as funny as he is. He just takes the piss out of me all the time.''
Permanently piss-taking or not, don't, however, expect them to be going up the aisle of a church any time soon for a significant personal event. "People used to get married when they were 17. My grandparents got married when they were 16. It's just not the way it is any more," she says. "My parents got married when my mum was 22 and my dad must have been 31, 32, He was 10 years older. We live in a different world now."
Does she feel she needs to be married?
"I don't feel a huge pressure to be married. I think it will happen when the time is right. I'd like to be - one day. Back in my mum's time, it was the thing that was done."
Does she apply subtle pressure on Dom to ask her to marry her?
"On Dom? No. He might disagree!" she laughs. "No, no, I'm joking. It will happen when the time is right. I don't think you need to prove anything to anybody. I'm the happiest I've ever been - with him - and you don't need to change it. It's good at the moment. Do you know what I mean? It's working at the moment. Who knows?"
Is she a big white wedding kind of girl?
"If I get married one day - I think it'll be pretty small. But we'll see."
Will she ask her dad to walk her down the aisle? "I'm not answering that one."
A teacher back at school, when Nadia informed her that she wanted to pursue musical theatre, told the young pupil, "not to be so ridiculous".
"You need to think about nursing,'' she added to Nadia, who was to later put on her CAO form: 'Nursing'. She was going to train in Dublin City University and become a midwife. I remind her of the story, and ask if she is getting broody at hearing it. "I love how me becoming a midwife is now me becoming a mother!'' she roars with laughter.
"Look, absolutely I think that's part of what I am here to do, be a mother one day. I very much hope it happens when the time is right. It's the most natural thing and I just think it's bottom line what life is really all about. Family etc. But don't expect any babies from me soon."
But you can expect her on the stage very soon. "I'm very excited about playing Princess Jasmine in this year's Aladdin. There's something so special about spending Christmas time at home in Ireland and I'm really looking forward to being part of the magic of panto land once again," Nadia says of her role opposite Alan Hughes as Sammy Sausages and TV star Brian Dowling as the Genie, in Aladdin, which opens on December 13.
In 2012 Nadia played the Good Queen in Snow White (singing, in her very first panto, I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables) at Dublin's Tivoli Theatre. In 2013, she performed in pantomime when she played the Fairy (singing Barry Manilow's Could It Be Magic) in Jack and The Beanstalk also at the Tivoli.
What do the stories of panto teach us about real life? "Laugh often, don't take things too seriously and it'll all be OK in the end."
Nadia, who is here to talk up Aladdin, written and produced by Alan Hughes' husband Karl Broderick, says that the panto means, of course, that she will be spending the Yuletide without Dom.
"His season doesn't end until next year so he'll be playing. I'll probably be in bed recovering from 60-odd shows and hopefully sit in my jammies all day with my family and friends. My base is Japan but next year it is going to be Melbourne."
I ask Nadia does that life suit her? "It does because I think with my job, I'm always going to move. I think that is always going to be me. For the first time ever, I had nothing on" [work - not clothes; well, she has appeared scantily clad in FHM magazine) "and I just travelled around Japan. I stayed in temples. It was really an amazing couple of months for me. I felt like I needed it."
Was that a way of processing her mother's recent death? (Berenice passed away in June, 2015, after battling lymphoma cancer for the last several years).
"Absolutely. I think so. I think you can't go through something as life-altering as that - there isn't anything that has as much impact as life and death."
The death of the woman who gave her life, in other words?
"Yeah, I think life and birth bring everything into a clear view." From that vantage point of a new clarity, Nadia says she has "learned a lot about myself. I think I have learned what's important in life, in general. What not to stress about. What I value. What do I not value. How I want to live my life. I don't think I gave myself enough time to just live. I kind of felt like I was on a wheel," she says.
"I felt like for a few years it was a bit nuts [what was written about her.] I wasn't happy in my own skin maybe. It wasn't because of my childhood," she says referring to the breakdown of her parents' marriage when she was eight.
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, the positively saintly Bernadette Paolozzi in Clontarf.
"My dad remarried and my mum was not in a position to look after us. My nana is a saint," Nadia told me in an interview in London in 2014.
Can Nadia remember what she was like before her parents broke up - and what she was like after they broke up?
"Just a very happy, carefree kid who loved performing and spending time with family," she says. "I was pretty young so I only have a handful of memories."
Nadia once told me that her earliest memory was "making porridge with my dad. I was really young - maybe four or five. I just remember him holding me up and looking into the pan and stirring the porridge. He was teaching me how to know when it's right."
Is it still her favourite breakfast? Does Dom make it for her?
"I still make porridge the odd time and watch to see when it's exactly right! Dom was definitely the chef in the household but Celebrity Masterchef has switched that role for the moment." (Nadia does a star-turn on the aforementioned Celebrity Masterchef, which airs on TV3 in January, She has said of the experience that it was "worse than being buried by rats in the Australian jungle.")
"I'm more into a green smoothie now," she says, "rather than porridge." In her 2014 song Haunted, a requiem to her childhood, Nadia sings, seemingly addressing her mother: "When I look at you now/ Maybe someday, not this lifetime, not now ..."
Does she believe in God and Heaven? Does she believe will see her mum again?
"Yes I do believe in something after we leave this earth and I hope everyday that I will [see her mother again.]
"I am a different girl now. Do you not think? It's still me but I think you change every couple of years," she says. "I don't really care about what people think [of me] anymore, where maybe I would have a few years ago. I just think: 'What's the point?'
"Do you know what I mean? Life is short. Death is finite. That's it. And like - how much time have I been wasting, worried about stuff that is not important? I think losing my mother has definitely been the biggest lesson in my life, 100pc. I look after myself more, like exercise, like diet.
"You are here for one life and you need to make the most of it and look after you and spend time with the people you really love. I felt there was stuff said about me that wasn't true - rumours, things being said about me - and I was really losing sleep over it."
"Now I'm like: 'You can't please everyone.' I don't worry. I have definitely in the past lost sleep over what is going to be printed about me."
In 2014, Paddy Power gave odds of 6-1 that Nadia would be Rory McIlroy's next girlfriend after the break-up of his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki? Did that make her laugh?
"No Rory questions!" is the reply.
They say you truly stop being a child when your parent dies, I say, quickly changing the subject. Nadia was no longer a little girl when her mother died, and this was possibly complicated because her grandmother had taken on the role of mother to Nadia for many years, but the loss was nonetheless great.
"It doesn't take away my mum's role in my life. She just had a different way of it. I don't think I have learned any less from her because she wasn't around for a big portion of my life. I actually think I've learned more, in a weird way."
"You know, she was big on travel. And I found myself at so many points in Japan going: 'She would laugh if she knew I was here, if she knew I was doing this right now.' Or: 'This is totally up her street.'"
Or she was up that street with you in Japan, I say.
"Yeah. Maybe, maybe. I have learned so much from her. I think that was a big fear of hers before she passed away - had I learned anything? Because she had been absent for such a long time, and I had to kind of tell her, 'Yeah, I have. I have learned so much.'"
I ask Nadia what's the funniest story she's ever read about herself.
"Ah Jesus." She laughs. "Where do we start?! There was a recent story - that my boyfriend couldn't actually fit into the house we lived in in Japan. It was reprinted too - and in reputable newspapers.
"We've got plenty of space in our house. And that's just the tip of the iceberg!" It's an iceberg that Nadia is increasingly happy to ignore.
Nadia Forde is taking on her first leading lady panto role as the beautiful Jasmine in The Cheerios Panto Aladdin at the Tivoli Theatre from December 13 www.panto.ie
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