Pippa O'Connor: 'There's no excuses for sloppy tracksuits - you always have five minutes to make yourself look good'
Published 07/03/2016 | 02:30
About three years ago, when her website Pippa.ie was just starting to catch on, Pippa O'Connor Ormond almost had a deal to become the face of a well-known cosmetic range.
It was very exciting, she says now, and it felt she was in a time of new beginnings. When Pippa told the brand that there was another new beginning in the offing, and that she was pregnant, things changed.
"They said they had decided to go in another direction," Pippa says now, over a breakfast of fresh fruit and a scone. "Maybe they thought I'd fall off the face of the Earth once I had a child. In fact, it was quite the opposite."
It was, indeed. Pippa O'Connor Ormond has never been busier than in the last three years, during which time she has not just transformed herself into a serious businesswoman, but also become a mother, lost her mother and, now, is set to become a mother for the second time. It has been non-stop and, to a great extent, it has been transformative.
She is not the girl she was five years ago in her pre-wedding documentary. She's not even the relatively new mum she was a year ago, when I last interviewed her. There's a real sense, today, sitting opposite a five-months-pregnant Pippa, that she is all grown up.
Thanks to pippa.ie, she is, after all, one of Ireland's most watched, admired and emulated women, and the effect of that seems to be that she is very aware of how she portrays herself. She is her own brand, and she is careful of that. Also, she's just older and wiser. She has experienced love and loss and grown into being a wife and a parent and, Pippa says, that has mellowed her.
Pippa agrees she has done a lot of growing up since that documentary Brian and Pippa Get Married was on our TV screens. "I was young, I really was," says Pippa, smiling. "I was only 26 getting married, and so young and innocent and excitable, as you should be at 26. I was very different. I suppose I had a very different mindset then."
Pippa is aware, too, that her profile was very different then. Her husband-to-be, Brian Ormond, was the TV personality, well known from his time on Pop Idol in the UK, You're A Star. "And I was just the model girlfriend," Pippa says.
She displayed an untapped talent on Brian and Pippa Get Married, though. The then 26-year-old Pippa had a self-ease that was engaging, and even when she was being headstrong, she was able to make it seem attractive. The flower archway that he said they couldn't afford, but she wilfully insisted on, was a case in point and turned out to be the most commented-on moment in the show.
"Oh yeah," Pippa laughs, half embarrassed. "The flowers. But I still love flowers. I'd still do that to this day. Some things wouldn't change."
The idea of being "just" the model girlfriend must feel like a world away, though. These days, Pippa's a bit of a guru thanks to her website, pippa.ie. To say that it's a destination site for fashion, beauty and lifestyle tips is to undersell it, and to underestimate Pippa's appeal.
And Pippa's appeal is what it's all about. She is beautiful, but not intimidating. She is impeccably groomed, but wears mostly high street. She's someone that women think that they can almost emulate, and that is working for her.
After all, there are thousands of people doing these kind of websites, but not all of them click.
Pippa.ie doesn't just click, it earns Pippa a living, it launched her style-seminar Fashion Factories, it earned her a book deal and it made her who she is today. Which is a woman with a self-confidence that she never had while 'just" a model.
"I never strived to be a model," says Pippa, when I say that I never thought her heart was fully in modelling.
"If you're going to take it seriously, you need to be in London or New York, but that was never going to be me. I wasn't tall enough, or had the right look, or all the things they tell you you're not.
"I always wanted to move to the next thing," she adds. "I was always asking people how would I do this or that, or be a stylist, or how would I be a TV presenter. I was always trying to move away from it a bit.
"I just got a bit bored," Pippa concludes. "You turned up, you weren't there to speak or give an opinion or use your brain, you were just there to look the part, and that was it. And I found that kind of boring."
While she was pregnant with Ollie, three years ago, Pippa set up her website. She knew she had opinions and she knew she wanted to share them. She just wasn't sure if anyone wanted to hear them. They did, though. They loved the What I Wore section, where she itemised every garment of an outfit; they loved her make-up shortcuts and suggestions, and they loved accounts of her pregnancy and then her baby and her family life, which were just that bit more exciting and gorgeous than your average wife and mother's.
Very, very quickly, the site was a success, and tech types were advising her on how to get ads on to it, and how to actually earn a living from it. She had a small baby and a new business and it was very exciting, and out of that came the idea of her Fashion Factories, where she tours the country giving advice on clothes and style to Irish women of all ages.
Pippa can't say herself what her appeal is for the women who click on her site, who are clicking from all over Ireland and the UK, the US and even Australia.
"I went on one day and there was activity in Israel," she says. "Who is following me in Israel?"
Pippa concedes, however, that she strikes a balance that works for women. She's just the right side of perfect to be someone women can follow without feeling inadequate - though she might not exactly put it this way herself.
"I suppose I am a little bit conscious of how I come across on the site, but I like to think I don't want to be too aware or trying to hard, either," Pippa says. "You know, I am who I am. I like a bit of luxury, I have my lovely bag [today with a monogram of her initials on the zip] but my boots are from Penneys. Even if I wasn't doing what I am, I'd still be very much a high-street girl."
Does she shop a lot now, I wonder.
"Yeah," she laughs. "Yeah. I always did, but a lot more now. I have way too much stuff."
I suppose you have to, I say.
"Well," Pippa says, with a hearty laugh, "you could look and not buy. You could do your research without having to own every single thing." She justifies some of the buying by explaining that she needs a different outfit, from head to toe, for her Fashion Factories, of which there were 50 last year.
Pippa did her first Fashion Factory in the winter of 2014, having lost her mother a few weeks before. Her mother, Louise Mullen, died suddenly, without a chance for anyone to say goodbye, and Pippa was still in grief when she did the first Fashion Factory. "It seems weird now that I stood up so soon after and talked about stuff like clothes and make-up, but I just felt like there was no point in putting it off. It was always going to be difficult." And, she concedes, distraction helped.
Having Ollie was the making of her, as a woman of drive and ambition and ability, Pippa says, but her mother's death played a part, too. Both fostered a similar feeling in Pippa. If she could do this, if she could do new life and death, then she could do anything.
"Becoming a mother made me less self-conscious," Pippa says. "Now some people might say that becoming a mother does the opposite to them, but for me, it gave me so much more confidence in myself. Like, before, if someone wrote something mean about me, I'd have been in tears, but now I couldn't care less. They're not important to me. My family is important to me now. It's like, the less you care, the happier you are and the braver you are to do things.
"People's opinions of me don't matter so much to me any more," she says, which is funny, because it is people's good opinion of her that has made her successful. Her whole career now relies on their good opinion, but it would seem that the less she personally needs it, the better their opinion is.
Her mother Louise was around and very much involved with Pippa's first pregnancy, and she misses her now, second time around.
"Yeah," says Pippa. "It's weird, since then, loads has happened to me. Some of the biggest changes in my life have happened since she has gone, and that's weird.
"Probably self-consciously I've thrown myself into work even more. I'm lucky that I enjoy what I do. If I'd been in a mundane job I didn't enjoy, I think a sudden death like that could send you the other way. I was just on the cusp of something and she went, and it was like, 'Oh, what am I going to do now?' But instead of it slowing me down, it had the opposite effect, and I threw myself into my work."
The website, Pippa said, was initially just something she did "for the craic". When she saw that people were taking it seriously, then she started taking it seriously too.
"I think people didn't really know me before," she says. "Not properly. They knew me as this model and as 'Brian and Pippa', so it was definitely hard to break down a perception of me. I was lucky that, for whatever reason, women clicked with me. I suppose I was writing like I was having a chat, and people related to that. And then I started getting into talking about being a mum and a lot of people felt a lot in common with that."
The site was an easy thing to start when she was pregnant and then easy enough to work around a small baby and, still, Ollie is incredibly cooperative when it comes to her work. He comes with her to work a lot, he's in a creche part-time, and Brian is very hands-on with him.
"On a Monday and Tuesday, Brian will often take him off for the whole day," she says. "They'll go and visit [Ollie's] great-granny and stuff." Brian and she are very 50/50 with the parenting, Pippa says, though he will be much busier when his new show for TV3 starts. Win Your Wish List is a format that's already a hit in the UK, she explains, where it's presented by Shane Richie.
Brian's great with her from a business point of view, but it's a source of pride to her that he's so good with Ollie, too. Brian was a father already when Pippa met him, to his daughter Chloe, who is now 16, but that isn't necessarily what makes him such a great dad. "You can have 10 kids and never get it right," says Pippa.
"Brian's amazing with kids and babies, he's just one of those people," she says. "He'd never be the kind of dad who'd say where's the vest or the sock or the nappy, like he was babysitting or something. Now, the child might not be very well dressed, but he'd take the initiative to do it."
The idea of being a good example of a working mother is important to Pippa. The women who follow her value that kind of thing, and she knows it.
"I'm not a good example of it today," says Pippa, "I haven't done a thing to my face and I've just blasted the hair, but that's because I'm going to the [photo] shoot."
Still, her idea of not being a good example of motherhood is different to most other women's. Her hair is clean and smooth, with no root regrowth, her skin is impeccable and her nails are an unchipped pale pink. That a woman should look any less well-tended is a bugbear of Pippa's, however.
"What I always say to the women in the Fashion Factories is that you always have the five or six minutes in the morning to make yourself look good," Pippa says. "Those are essential minutes to put on your face and have a shower. And once you have the knack of doing something really quick, then you can do it. There is no excuse for someone not to have their hair washed. Or to be in a sloppy tracksuit. It's going to take the same amount of time to put on a pair of nice jeans and some flat boots, so it's about making a conscious effort.
"And you know yourself that on the days you feel awful [those are the days] that you haven't washed your hair, or you're in your pyjamas working or with the kids; then you have a bad day. Why would you do that to yourself? Why would you feel crap? And people say, 'Oh, I'm only going down to the creche, who's going see me?' but it's not about that. It's about how you feel in yourself.
"I've done it," she adds, "but I don't do it any more. Because then I'm in a bad mood and I have a bad day, and it might sound superficial, but people underestimate the importance of beauty and fashion and what it does for us. I'm not saying you've to sit down and do a contoured face at seven in the morning, but everyone can put on a bit of tinted moisturiser and nude eyeliner and mascara, and that's that.
"A lot of it is about having and making time for yourself. You sometimes have to be a little bit selfish. You have to look at your child and think, 'OK, I am going to let your auntie or your granny or your dad take you out on Saturday afternoon, and I can go and get my nails done.' It's OK to do that. It doesn't make you a bad mother. You have to do what you need to keep yourself sane. They're not going to die. The house isn't going to fall down. If you don't take care of yourself, you're no good to anyone."
At the age of 31, Pippa is coming mercifully early to this realisation. Some women come to it much later. Some come to it when it's too late. And some never arrive at it. But Pippa has grasped it and, good for her, she's hammering it home to other women too, and has acquired the sense of authority required to make them listen.
Having her second baby in May isn't going to shake that, either. Of this, Pippa is certain. "Is it an Irish thing or is it international?" she asks of people's desire to predict doom and gloom and the end of days once a baby comes.
When Pippa was expecting Ollie, everyone muttered about how that would be the end of all the going out and the working and all of that. It only made her more determined to do the opposite, Pippa says, and she did. She still has her good times - it takes her 20 minutes to do "the whole lot" face for a night out, since you ask - and she's working more, and more happily than she ever was.
She recorded an episode for the new series of The Restaurant for TV3 and she really enjoyed it, though it was harder work than she thought. Pippa laughs to admit that she kind of thought that she'd bring in her ideas and the chefs would help her to shape them and then, well, cook them for her. "It was much harder work than I thought it was going to be," she laughs. "But it was great fun, too."
Pippa is no Roz Purcell or Rosanna Davison in the kitchen, she concedes, nor in the area of exercise, which she hates and avoids. She would love to do more TV, and sees a gap in the market for a fashion and beauty show. A book is coming out in October. It's more substantial than the website tips and chat, Pippa says, and fleshes out just who she really is.
"I'm sure it will be different and more full-on," Pippa O'Connor Ormond says, "but people with lives busier than me, with multimillion-dollar companies, often have more than two children and they're doing fine. I suppose I'll look more tired and have more wrinkles, and a few more grey hairs, but so what? I'll just have to buy more expensive eye cream."
Maybe she will, maybe she won't, but whatever she does, there will be followers to applaud her for it.
Pippa O'Connor Ormond will be appearing on 'The Restaurant', TV3, Wednesday, March 9, at 9pm.
Photography by Kip Carroll; Styling by Liadan Hynes; Assisted by Claire O'Farrell; Hair by Michael Doyle, Peter Mark St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, D2, tel: (01) 478-0362, or see petermark.ie; Make-up by Vivien Pomeroy, see vivienpomeroy.com ; Photographed at Palmerstown House Estate, Johnstown, Co Kildare. Palmerstown House Estate is available for weddings, private functions and corporate and business events - for more information, tel: (045) 906-901, or email email@example.com, or see palmerstownhouse.ie.