Rosanna Davison: 'I have a soft spot for Bebo, it's where I met my husband'
Published 30/05/2016 | 02:30
Rosanna Davison looks impeccable.
Rosanna Davison always looks impeccable. But she conveys the second I sit down that she's a bit tired and, if you really look closely, maybe she has the tiniest look of it. It's the Tuesday after the May bank holiday weekend, and she had a late night.
"It was my brother-in-law's birthday on Sunday," Rosanna says, "so we ended up in Club 92 [in Leopardstown in south Co Dublin]. It's probably 10 years since I was in there and on Sunday I was probably 10 years older than anyone in there.
"The place was packed, actually," continues the 32-year-old beauty, in the bemused voice of someone who has grown up and moved on, and can't believe that the world they once inhabited still exists. It was one of her college haunts and, not unusually, she hadn't quite realised how time had flown.
"I don't go to nightclubs that much any more," Rosanna says, "but it was weird to go and realise how much time had passed. Sunday night was the fun night to go when I was in UCD. It was the place to be.
"That phase passes, and thankfully I enjoyed every minute of it. And I feel OK with it being over. I'm loving my 30s, but it was frightening to realise how fast life is going. My parents are getting older. Everyone's getting older. But you grow with your age and enjoy the stage you are at, I think. But when I was 20, I thought 30 was so old and now, well, obviously it doesn't feel old at all."
Talking about time passing and how life changes reminds me of the first time I interviewed Rosanna Davison. It was nine years ago, in 2007, one week after she did the shoot in LIFE magazine that labelled Rosanna and her band of glossy south Co Dublin pals as part of the 'SoCoDu' set, Celtic cubs who organised their social lives on something new called Bebo.
Oh, the innocence, in retrospect. The SoCoDu shoot, all shiny, golden limbs, and tumbling hair, short-shorts and shameless fun-seeking, had caused consternation, the like of which seems almost hilarious when you consider how the world and the web have changed since. I met Rosanna back then so that she could defend herself, to a degree, and she was then, as she is now, this very well-brought-up, well-turned-out south Co Dublin girl.
Now, though, she is all those things and also married to Wesley Quirke - her boyfriend of a year back in 2007, her husband of almost 10 years in 2016.
She was still 'just' a model back then, four years on from winning Miss World. Now she has years of study in nutrition under her belt, she has a massively popular superfoodie website, a newspaper column, a bestselling superfood cookbook, Eat Yourself Beautiful, and a second cookery book due for publication in September. The fun and games are over, you could say, or the manner in which Rosanna gets her kicks has changed.
"It was innocent and it was quite childish, really," Rosanna reflects, laughing. "But it suited where we were at then, and the novelty of making your own [Bebo] page was so exciting and new.
"I have fond memories of Bebo," she continues, "because that's where I met my husband. That's where we started chatting first. Online dating wasn't really a thing then. We'd met in real life, but we first chatted properly on Bebo and my friends were, like, 'You're talking to him online? How strange'. But now everything is done online."
Nine years ago, we didn't do our dating online, and we didn't do our hating there, either. No one could have imagined, then, the passion that would grow for anonymous bashing of complete strangers, and Rosanna, in common with a lot of well-known people, gets her fair share.
In 2003, when she won Miss World, if someone took against Rosanna Davison they just muttered behind her back, unbeknownst to her. Now, they have somewhere public to air and vent it. Does that get to Rosanna?
Read more: 8 of the best Irish celebrity feuds
"I don't really worry about that," Rosanna says in her cheerfully polite but firm way. "I have had so much positive feedback over the year since the book came out and hundreds of emails from people saying, you know, 'I lost 40lbs from following your advice', or another from someone who got their blood sugar under control, or got pregnant, or whatever.
"So I'm a very positive person and I focus on the positive. I don't focus on the negative and, thankfully, there is very little of it."
Wes, explains Rosanna, is a very positive person. He never speaks badly about people, she says, he is good at filtering negative people out of his life and he's good at letting negativity wash over him and away. She has become better at it, too, by association. Has that been hard to learn? No, Rosanna says, because Wesley is so good at nudging her along, away from the bad comments, away from the bad thoughts.
So, when I bring up the furore that followed her reported claims that a gluten-free diet cured Wesley of rheumatoid arthritis, Rosanna corrects what was a miscommunication and seems unfazed by it. "What shocked me most was the speed at which it blew up, especially on Twitter," Rosanna says, adding that while she was studying nutritional therapy, she was taught to avoid any medical claims or sweeping medical statements. She's always very, very careful about that, Rosanna emphasises.
Though she has a successful nutrition blog - rosannadavisonnutrition.com - Rosanna is careful about how much she puts online. "I'm still working out every day how comfortable I am with social media," she says. "You know, it's changing all the time, and with Snapchat now, you're expected to share everything. Some days I feel happy sharing, and others it feels like a step too far."
Wesley, she adds, doesn't love being included in her postings and she never features their home. Really, Rosanna says, she tries to keep her activity to recipes and nutrition-type posts.
"I'm quite shy, naturally," says Rosanna. "So that's where I'm coming from. I still wonder why anyone would want to know what I'm having for lunch, but they do. There's definitely a voyeurism to it all. It's become a necessary part of being in certain areas of business now, but I could see myself coming off all social media in the future."
To some ears, a claim of shyness might seem ludicrous coming from Rosanna Davison. She is a model, after all, who has put herself on show for a living for years, even posing naked for Playboy. That is different, though.
In fact, it was when her first book, Eat Yourself Beautiful came out last year, that Rosanna felt really naked and felt that she was really revealing herself. It was very personal, says the woman who turned vegetarian at 11 and then educated herself on alternatives to meat protein in her diet. The book did well and she's thrilled by that, and now her forthcoming follow-up will focus more on food and fitness.
But she got her fair share of criticism, too. Not least, comedian Oliver Callan had a go at her. He took a serious pop, commenting on "the irony of someone wearing more make-up than Ronald McDonald spouting about keeping things natural".
Again, Rosanna seems unfazed. "I had such a good laugh about that," she says, chuckling over her mint tea in a Foxrock village cafe, close to the home she shares with Wesley. She's not afraid to go out without make-up, she says with a laugh, though it is part of her job to look good. She has an image to uphold, but she's "like a scruff" going to the gym.
Perhaps her attitude is pure personal positivity, but it could also be that growing up with a famous dad, Chris de Burgh, taught her that it's best to smile through the slings and arrows. She gets more than enough positive affirmation and positive press, so why let the bad stuff bother her?
This, of course, is also a by-product of growing up and getting older. The reason Rosanna is so keen on her 30s, she says, is because inconsequential things don't bother her so much any more. She talks about how she always said yes to everything in the past, but now she sees that it's OK to say no sometimes.
"I used to think I was having a good day if I fit as much as possible in to it," Rosanna said. "But then, by the end of the day, I'd be too exhausted to do anything or enjoy anything. I was just dashing around.
It wasn't necessary.
"My resolution this year has been to declutter," Rosanna says. "Last year was so stressful with the book and everything, so this year has been all about feeling able to say no."
Does Rosanna feel she's the kind of good-girl character that has to say yes in order for people to like her?
"No," she answers. "That sort of worry is gone. I left that in my 20s. Because that's just part of life; you can't always do everything and keep everyone happy."
It's not just being older, though, Rosanna says. Being married has made far more of a difference to her life and her attitude than she had expected. She and Wesley are together a decade this year, but still, getting married in the summer of 2014 changed things.
"I love being married, and I had no idea how it would change our relationship, or if it would, because we'd been living together for five or six years, but it definitely makes you closer and makes you look out for and take care of each other more. We rarely even argue any more. There's just no point any more. We're both aware of just shutting our mouths, instead of getting worked up about something.
"I'm definitely more relaxed about things," she says, adding with a laugh that, "you don't care so much if you're not looking perfect. You're not looking for anyone else or anything. I'm definitely more relaxed in that regard, and I've become one of those people who has other couples over for dinner or drinks. Everything we do is in couples."
Clubbing, apart from exceptional circumstances, is off the cards, then, for the domesticated Davison. The baby subject comes up, inevitably, albeit as a product of the voyeuristic, social-media conversation. Characteristically, Rosanna is cheerful in the face of the intrusion into her fertility. Wesley loves kids, and she's "very broody", but she has a busy year ahead and she's determinedly not taking on too much. Also, she points out politely, they don't even know if it will happen for them, which is a nice way of saying, this is really nobody else's business.
Certainly, she is at a point in life where "family is everything". She laughingly recognises that her priorities have shifted since the days of Club 92, but in the best possible way. And anyway, we all know that among the young ones in the Leopardstown club, Rosanna looked nothing like an oul one, and utterly impeccable; as she always, unalterably does.
Photography by Kip Carroll
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Assisted by Claire O'Farrell
Hair by Michael Doyle for Peter Mark, Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, D2, tel: (01) 478-0362, or see petermark.ie
Make-up by Paula Callan for Callan & Co - The Experience, 1 St Mary's Rd, Ballsbridge, D4, tel: (01) 668-0060, or see callanandco.ie
Photographed at the gibson hotel, Point Village, D1, see thegibsonhotel.ie
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