Monday 25 September 2017

Vogue Williams: 'Everyone thinks I made up or changed my name and I'm actually called Joanne!'

Vogue wears: Headpiece, price on request, Mark T Burke. Dress €1,145 Umit Kutluk. Photo: Patrick Bolger
Vogue wears: Headpiece, price on request, Mark T Burke. Dress €1,145 Umit Kutluk. Photo: Patrick Bolger

Gillian Fitzpatrick

From a Bear Grylls survival mission in the Costa Rican jungle to judging Ladies' Day at the races, life is nothing if not varied for Vogue Williams.

"My family are genuinely my best friends," says Vogue Williams. "I spend all my days off with my family. And there's a freedom that comes with being insanely close to your siblings and your parents: everyone can be themselves. None of us are concerned with appearances or putting on a show."

For Vogue - a 29-year-old model, reality TV presenter and DJ who first came to prominence as part of RTÉ reality show Fade Street - it must come as a relief not to have to put on a show when she relaxes away from the prying eyes of the cameras.

Her family is mum Sandra, and her two older siblings, Amber and Frederick. Her father Freddie, passed away aged 68 in 2010. She has an older half-sister, Alison, from Freddie's first marriage, as well as a younger half-brother Alexander, whose father is Vogue's stepdad Neil Wilson - a man she describes lovingly as "a third parent".

Blue 'Roma' coat, €295 and 'Firenze' dress, €195, Paul Costelloe Studio at Dunnes Stores; Cluster earrings, €125, crystal set cross necklace, €130 and matching cross bracelet, €125, Paul Costelloe 'Fitzwilliam' Collection, available from Kilkenny, Nassau Street and leading jewellers. Photo: Patrick Bolger
Blue 'Roma' coat, €295 and 'Firenze' dress, €195, Paul Costelloe Studio at Dunnes Stores; Cluster earrings, €125, crystal set cross necklace, €130 and matching cross bracelet, €125, Paul Costelloe 'Fitzwilliam' Collection, available from Kilkenny, Nassau Street and leading jewellers. Photo: Patrick Bolger

Still, Vogue admits that recently telling Frederick that she was going to miss his wedding to take part in a jungle reality TV show with Bear Grylls was heart-breaking.

"There were tears," she says, "from him as well as me. I was genuinely devastated not to be there on his big day but at least I could be honest.

"I was able to say to him: 'I'm really sorry but I've absolutely got to take this job and I can't be there,' and he gets that. It's not ideal, but it happens."

Vogue is happy to confirm that she's now been forgiven, before adding with a smile: "After all, I forgave him first when he missed my wedding. I've actually never brought that up - I've been taking all this heat when he wasn't able to come to mine either!" she reveals, laughing warmly.

Vogue married former Westlife singer Brian McFadden in a lavish ceremony held in Florence in September 2012, photographs of which were featured in a glossy Hello! magazine spread.

"I understood then that my brother just wasn't able to travel," she continues. "He was living in Australia at the time and it was something like €6,000 to fly to Italy for the ceremony. He didn't have the money to pay for the airfare and, anyway, that's a huge amount to justify for one day.

'Make a Wish' dandelion hat, €425, Mark T Burke millinery. Silver Grecian dress, €1,200 available from Umit Kutluk salon, in Arnotts, Dublin; Kalu, Naas; Luxe Room, Kilkenny and McElhinneys, Donegal. Photo: Patrick Bolger
'Make a Wish' dandelion hat, €425, Mark T Burke millinery. Silver Grecian dress, €1,200 available from Umit Kutluk salon, in Arnotts, Dublin; Kalu, Naas; Luxe Room, Kilkenny and McElhinneys, Donegal. Photo: Patrick Bolger

"He was really upset of course to miss my day and I was really upset to miss his but we're such a close family and I see him all the time." Bear Grylls: Mission Survive saw eight celebrities - including singer Jamelia and actress Emilia Fox - spend 12 days traversing gruelling terrain in Central America. Under the guidance of the survival expert, the contestants were expected to build their own shelter and live on food that was hunted or foraged.

The six-part series, which concluded last night, saw Vogue make the final line-up alongside rugby player Mike Tindall and Olympian Kelly Holmes.

"I was pretty naive before I went out there," Vogue says. "I mean, I had a 12-week blow-dry in advance. I got my HD brows done and eyelash extensions applied too. I brought enough make-up to do a smokey eye for goodness sake! I had a mass of toiletries too; deodorant, facial moisturiser, it was all there. That never got a look-in, of course.

"I had been told that we'd have unlimited cleansing wipes, socks and underwear but they never gave us anything. I had to beg for underwear, which is just demeaning. We only had two pairs of socks, so you'd have to wash one pair and dry them beside the fire in the evening, before rotating them. But one evening one of my socks burnt!

"Bear was totally unsympathetic, telling me: 'If you don't look after your kit, your kit won't look after you.' So that was that. I had a huge hole in one sock. When the comedian Tom Rosenthal was leaving I unashamedly stole his socks."

She also says that she didn't entirely appreciate the full impact of jungle life until after she left.

Vogue Williams wears: Turkey feather mohawk, price on request, Mark T Burke millinery. Couture lace blouse, €890, black leather skirt, €625, studded leather obi belt, €290, Umit Kutluk. 'Absolute' drop earrings, €19.95, Kilkenny Stores. Photo: Patrick Bolger
Vogue Williams wears: Turkey feather mohawk, price on request, Mark T Burke millinery. Couture lace blouse, €890, black leather skirt, €625, studded leather obi belt, €290, Umit Kutluk. 'Absolute' drop earrings, €19.95, Kilkenny Stores. Photo: Patrick Bolger

"I went up to my hotel room and took off my jungle clothes before hitting the shower. When I went back into the room I was smacked by this horrible waft: my jungle clothes. That's what I had smelled like. It was bad. Really bad actually! Even though I'm adamant that I was the cleanest person there."

Having shed close to a stone during her time in Costa Rica, Vogue is looking particularly trim. The jungle diet may not be one that fans can follow themselves, but Vogue shares her usual diet and fitness tips on her popular blog, mynameisvogue.com.

Although the Dubliner says that she's not really a typical "girly-girly," she still likes getting dressed up and having her hair and make-up done - and certainly she's passionate about fashion.

Indeed, her style file on the blog is particularly adored by her fans, while her Twitter and Instagram accounts each enjoy some 50,000 followers.

"I don't profess to being any sort of fashion expert per se but for a long time people would ask me where I got a particular item or how I put a certain look together, so in the end I reckoned it was easier to throw it all up on a blog. I also post fitness tips and advice and recipes to my Instagram account.

"I try and eat really healthily during the week so all that nutritious stuff gets profiled. I'm not great at deprivation but every so often I'll do a juice detox - but I'll make sure it's one that has a soup every day and I'll still cheat a bit by having some salmon or a chicken breast. I used to eat chocolate every day but I've gotten out of that habit now and I no longer crave it. I do give myself a day off every week too. If I'm going out for dinner, then I'm going out for dinner and I'm going to enjoy myself."

Vogue wears: Headpiece, price on request, Mark T Burke. Dress €1,145 Umit Kutluk. Photo: Patrick Bolger
Vogue wears: Headpiece, price on request, Mark T Burke. Dress €1,145 Umit Kutluk. Photo: Patrick Bolger

Vogue's fashion know-how is being called upon on Monday when she judges the Carton House Most Stylish Lady at Fairyhouse.

Although we've met at the Kildare hotel for our race-day fashion shoot, she says she doesn't yet have a specific winning look in mind for the €8,000 prize.

"What I am hoping to see is something striking; something that little bit different that stands out from the crowd. I'm bringing along my mum and my aunties to Fairyhouse too. They all have amazing style. What I like about ladies' day is that it's not just about the day itself, it's all the excitement with your friends in the run-up too; picking out your outfit, getting ready and seeing what everyone else has gone for."

The theme of this year's competition is Elegantly Irish, and Vogue admits to having a 'weakness' for Irish designs. "I'll be wearing an Irish designer and I love spotting Irish design talent. It doesn't have to be something crazy expensive - but even the smaller boutiques carry really head-turning Irish-made clothing and accessories."

With her jungle stint concluded, Vogue is now busy lining up her next TV and DJ projects. She's spending a month in LA this summer filming for an as-yet unannounced show, while she says she has further work with RTÉ in the pipeline. Vogue, who has a weekend radio show on Spin 103.8, will also be DJing in Ibiza in July. "Ultimately I'd have my eye on something like The Late Late Show gig. Why not? I like to ask questions, I like to be nosy and I love to meet new people."

At the moment, Vogue is based across the water and is just about to move house - though she spends plenty of time in Dublin too. "London is our home because that's where we need to be for work. Although when we eventually have kids I want them to go to school in Ireland. It's a nice place to grow up."

Vogue Williams, Brian McFadden
Vogue Williams, Brian McFadden

One advantage of her brother Frederick's wedding, claims Vogue, is that he's now first-in-line to provide a grandchild. "I'm feeling the baby pressure more now," she reveals. "I'll be married three years this September. I've decided that my brother is going to be the first one. He's already 33 so he's definitely up first. That takes the heat off me a bit."

Vogue, who will celebrate her 30th birthday in the autumn, says she feels she still has "a bit of time yet".

"It's not a case of 'if' or 'maybe' because I love being around babies and I definitely want to have my own baby. But right now I'm just getting to where I want to be with my career and there are some exciting things lined-up work-wise.

"In saying that, I wouldn't put it off forever - I'm hitting the big 3-0 this year so I'll have to get a move on at some stage and I certainly won't put jobs before children indefinitely, but it's not on the agenda right now." She says that her husband would also love a baby, but his two daughters from his first marriage to Kerry Katona - Molly, 13, and 12-year-old Lilly-Sue - keep him busy for now.

"We see them all the time," says Vogue. "Sometimes Brian will head up to them during the week and take them out to the movies or for something to eat. But it's harder now with them in school and they're getting to an age where they want to stay at home and hang out with their friends too."

She describes her dynamic with Kerry Katona - whose personal and financial struggles have been well documented in recent years - as "fine". "I'm not really one to be looking for an argument or getting all confrontational with anyone anyway - and these days regardless there is no confrontation or argument to have with Kerry. Everyone's well passed all that. It's all good."

And although children are a while away yet, Vogue is still having fun coming up with baby names. Unsurprisingly given her own unusual moniker, is seems unlikely she'll opt for anything too mainstream.

"Everyone thinks I made up my name or I changed it at some stage and I'm actually called Joanne. But I like having a different name. Brian and I squabble all the time over baby names - because I want to give any children we have an equally mad name as the one I was given.

"Our friends in Australia had a baby girl about four years ago when we were living there and they called her Sailor. Now Liv Tyler has had a boy and she's named him Sailor. So that's top of the list at the moment."

For now, she's particularly looking forward to this summer when she gets to play mammy to her brother Alexander, who is coming to live with her and Brian for two months.

Vogue Williams and Brian McFadden
Vogue Williams and Brian McFadden

"He's studying in Berkeley and has a placement with one of the financial firms in London," she explains. "Brian is ecstatic because Alexander plays golf for Berkeley and Brian's big into his golf as well. He'll be bringing him on to the course pretty much every weekend I suspect."

Another matter close to her family is the marriage equality referendum, which takes place next month. Her sister Amber is a lesbian and it's an issue she's clearly passionate about.

"If the country doesn't vote for marriage equality we'll all be taking a huge step backwards," she says. "We'll be taking 20 steps backwards, actually. It's such an obvious thing to me I can't understand why anyone wouldn't support it.

"I would hate to feel that some people in this country have fewer rights than others. That's horrible."

Understandably for someone surrounded by beloved siblings; half-siblings; parents; step-parents, and stepdaughters, Vogue states that getting married is very much "part of being a family".

"When people ask me what I took from marrying Brian, I always say that it made us a unit. I love Amber's girlfriend and I really don't want them to break up. Any time they have a little fight or a spat I'll give Amber a good grilling, asking her what she did and telling her to sort it all out!

"But ultimately I want her to be able to create own family unit if that's what she wants - because isn't that what we all want eventually?"

Those who would like to enter the Most Stylish competition can register at the Carton House marquee beside the parade ring in Fairyhouse, from 12 noon on Monday

Styling: Bairbre Power.

Hair: Matthew Feeney, Aviary Lane, aviarylane.com.

Make-up: Ashley O'Rourke, ashleyorourke.ie.

Headpieces by Mark T Burke, 34 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, marktburkemillinery.com. A selection of Mark's hats are sold at Arnotts, Dublin 1, The Galway Hat Shop, Eyre Square and lovehats.com.

Umit Kutluk, 27 Merrion Square, Dublin umitkutluk.ie.

Shot on location at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, (01) 505 2000, cartonhouse.com

Photography by Patrick Bolger.

How to get Vogue's ladies' day style

by Fashion Editor Bairbre Power

Vogue Williams has a very international wardrobe studded with unusual gems from Australian designers she discovered when she was living in Oz. This shoot gave me the opportunity to introduce her to some talented Irish designers she hasn’t worn before and, as I suspected, Vogue — who possesses an innate, quirky take on style — fell madly in love with their work. The millinery magic was created by the super innovative Mark T Burke and couturier Umit Kutluk has taken his label more mainstream with the launch of a ready-to wear collection, which includes the stunning portrait neckline dress pictured left.

Mark T Burke translated that childhood experience of blowing dandelions into a spectacular headpiece while his gold halo hat  is a total crowdstopper. But it was his mohawk which proved to be a total 3D experience. Made from dipped turkey feathers, the hat created the drama I craved for high impact.

For a more demure, Grace Kelly-inspired look, I chose a tailored, ice blue coat with bracelet sleeves and matching dress from Paul Costelloe’s latest Studio for Dunnes Stores collection. The easy-wear combination caught Vogue’s eye and I accessorised with the Paul Costelloe ‘Fitzwilliam’ collection, available from jewellery stores nationwide.

“Oh my god, this is so soft,” Vogue enthused as she slipped into Umit’s butter-soft black leather skirt. I knew she would love it as she wears leather trousers a lot. The studded obi belt cinched her in and provided a lovely hard/soft contrast with the whispy lace top.

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