Rozanna Purcell: The Universal Mind
Since she caught the eye of Donald Trump last year, Rozanna Purcell has become something of a phenomenon in the world of Irish Modelling and beyond. Not your typical beauty queen, Ireland's Miss Universe talks to Barry Egan about Freud, Wilde and Beckett, murdering Hitler, and indulging in one too many Jaegerbombs. Photography by Agata Stoinska
Published 23/01/2011 | 05:00
Since she caught the eye of Donald Trump last year, Rozanna Purcell has become something of a phenomenon in the world of Irish Modelling and beyond.
Not your typical beauty queen, Ireland's Miss Universe talks to Barry Egan about Freud, Wilde and Beckett, murdering Hitler, and indulging in one too many Jaegerbombs.
Some would believe that while Roz Purcell came seventh in the Miss Universe pageant last year, judge Donald Trump's alleged toupee came last. Roz, the Miss Universe Ireland now on the prestigious books of Mr Trump's modelling agency in America, believes The Donald's extravagantly full hairdo is 100 per cent real.
Holding court on the top floor of Residence, a private members' club overlooking St Stephen's Green, the talk of the Irish Model universe vehemently denies any follicular charges against her new mentor. "I have seen it up close," she says passionately, "and I have seen him comb it, and I can tell you with all honesty that it is totally real."
Is it not a bit icky that he appears to have taken such a great personal interest in you -- signing you to his model agency in America -- and you look exactly like his wife, Melania? Does that not bother you?
"No," the light-brown, thickly coiffured beauty sighs. "C'mon, Melania is absolutely gorgeous. So I take it as a compliment. I think Donald Trump appreciates someone with a bit of character; someone a bit different from the typical beauty queen, to be honest. I am not the beauty-queen type who can go around the world and wave my hand with the tiara on my head. I prefer to model. That is what I want to
do. I am just myself. I am not fake or false."
Roz is quick to deny here that she has anything done to her body. The Mick Jagger-lipped hottie laughs when I point to her mouth as evidence of her perhaps having something done.
"Everyone thinks I have had them done, but my lips are exactly the same as ever. It is just good genes! I'm telling you," she giggles, her bee-stung lips practically wobbling with verve and conviction, if not indignation.
Roz then nearly falls off her antique Parisian leather chair when I ask her if she has had, as rumoured, breast injections.
"What?" she laughs. "I have seen that on TV. But I don't see why you would put a substance in your body that disappears in two years. They are real. Jesus, if I had anything done it would be a pretty bad job as I don't have the biggest boobs. They wouldn't be this small if I had had them done!"
Dispelling misconceptions about the contest, she says that it was very hard work: dawn wake-up calls, constant shoots and interviews. "You'd think the hardest questions would be things like 'What's your opinion on gay marriage?' But the toughest questions were: 'Describe yourself in one word?' I was like, 'um, ah . . . yeah . . . um'."
So, what's your opinion of gay marriage then?
"We're on this world to be happy as best we can," she says. "So I don't see why some people should have to live unhappily, whereas everyone else can be happy. I don't think it makes a difference whether a man and a woman get married, or two men or two women to be honest, in this day and age."
Have you ever had a non-heterosexual experience?
"No, I haven't. If I was gay, I wouldn't have a problem coming out. I really wouldn't. A lot of my friends in the industry are gay. Michael Doyle is one of my best friends," she says of the Peter Mark hairdresser.
I ask Roz what women would she look at now and think: "I'd turn for her."
"Oh, Lynn Kelly! I always say it to her: 'You are so hot.' Megan Fox. Angelina Jolie." She pauses for thought. "Oh, and that girl coming out of the water in that Bond movie -- Ursula Andress," Roz says, referring to Honey Ryder in Dr No.
No stranger to being a honey herself, Roz Purcell has the character and the cojones to match the looks. She had just turned 18 when she was approached by a model agent at the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin. The rest is hysteria. She has skyrocketed to a fame of sorts on the back of not winning Miss Universe last year, has she not?
Something of a forthright girl -- a beauty queen "without the cheese", as she is quick to confirm -- Roz says the last time she threw up after, or during, a night's drinking was when she was celebrating her last birthday in Dublin. "I hadn't drank in a number of months," she explains. "I had one too many Jaegerbombs. But I am classier than projectile vomiting," she laughs in reference to her skinful of Jaegerbombs.
Is beauty skin deep?
"I do believe beauty on the inside does shine through. However, it is all relevant to the beauty in question," she laughs.
She has taken a year off from studying her politics and history degree at UCD to further her modelling career around the world. She is jetting off next week to South Africa for two months of photo-shoot assignments. "It's the bikini season," she explains. She will then head to New York for the rest of the year to work for Mr Trump's agency. "I don't know when I'll be back."
Asked which less-than-savoury figure in world history she would travel back in time to murder before he did his evil deeds, Roz takes a sip of her coffee before saying: "There have been quite a few -- Stalin, Mao -- but I think it would have to be Hitler. Stopping the Holocaust by killing Hitler would have been a very good thing for the world and humanity," she says without exaggeration.
Would you sleep with an Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, if Ireland's debt to the IMF could be wiped out in an instant as a result? I ask her to think, before answering, of all the millions of lives and the future generations in Ireland you would be saving from financial ruin.
"I wouldn't, because for me it is all about emotions and connections," she says.
Would you sleep with him for a million euro? "No."
Two million euro?
I start to mouth the words to three million euro.
"I am just going to keep saying no because I don't think it'd be worth it."
How do you know? I have read previous interviews where you have made a point of saying that you wouldn't be attracted to a man for his looks.
"OK," she giggles, "maybe it is a little bit to do with looks, and also he doesn't really seem my type," she says referring to the hugely happily married leader of the country.
She went to Loreto College in Clonmel. It was mostly a happy experience until she was bullied when she was 14. "There was a time were I was bullied, and honestly, it was shit," she says. "That was a pretty horrible time. It went on for about a year. It made me very strong. I became respectful of other people's feelings because of it. But it was a terrible time, and I remember millions of times not going into school because of it.
"I told my parents and it got resolved. I slowly grew myself away from those people -- the bullies," she says, looking back on that painful period in her life. She has put the experience well and truly behind her. "I've a close relationship with the school and it wasn't the school's fault."
What is her fault, however, is the "one or two hearts" Roz has broken in the past few years. She says she isn't in, and doesn't want, a relationship. The longest she has ever gone out with someone is 11 months, and that is her only significant relationship to date.
She wants to concentrate all her energies on her career. She says she doesn't care if she gets to 50 and she has never had a big, significant relationship at all. She isn't at all romantic. In fact, she hates romance. She laughs that she appears "cold-hearted, but I'm not".
Asked if she has ever had her heart -- cold or otherwise -- broken, Roz laughs: "No, but I've broken a few."
What is love?
"I feel like I should finish this question off by singing the rest of the lyrics to the song! 'Baby don't hurt me. . .' I can only guess what it is and hope maybe one day I might find out, but for now I'm going to enjoy my life without it."
How does it feel to break a heart, oh cruel, cold one?
"That's an awkward question," she laughs. "Obviously, break-ups aren't easy, but that's just part of life."
The 5ft 11in, 57kg, blue-eyed supermodel from Clonmel -- she still has her country accent -- grew up in Killurney. She was born on September 3, 1990. Her earliest childhood memory is being bitten on the face by a dog when she was four and having to get stitches all around her eye.
Asked who she wanted to grow up to be as a child, Roz says she "always admired the Hollywood women, like the Bond girls; the femme fatales". Her heroines, she adds, were "Women like Mary Robinson -- strong women in society. I think she really inspired me to study politics."
Her middle name is Jane, and she took Eve as her Confirmation name. She says her biggest fashion faux pas ever was wearing a pair of tie-dye pants on an RTE children's programme when she was four. "I looked like a Smurf!"
That was not a bad look for a four-year-old, I inform her.
"They were blue tie-dye! Hello? That kind of explains why they were so bad!"
Today, Donald Trump's favourite Irish Model is rocking a decidedly un-Smurf-ish look: dark-blue Topshop skinny jeans, brown leather boots by Gucci, a dark-brown jacket with a shearling collar by Oasis, a white tank top by Victoria's Secret, and a dark khaki bag by Michael Kors.
You rich bitch, I jest.
"I'm a bargain hunter!" she protests.
She looks cool in the manner of Alexa Chung channelling Jerry Hall out on the dancefloor of heyday Studio 54. Describe your dance style on the dancefloor.
"I'm famous for doing a bit of robot moves!" she hoots.
What would get you up on the dancefloor?
"A fast-beat song; any sort of remix is usually good!"
I hope you will agree that Roz is clearly not your average girl or model. She has opinions on just about everything. RTE should give the lippy uber-babe her own talk show.
What do you think of Sigmund Freud's theories on the mind? "Well, since Freud's time our understanding of the mind has much improved," she says.
Do you think Finnegans Wake by James Joyce is a good read or overrated? "Honestly? Never read it; from what I heard it's overrated, but I think I'll have a read and I'll let you know," she says.
What's your favourite play by Samuel Beckett?
"Waiting for Godot," she says without hesitation. "I think this one stands out because it was the only play by him I wasn't made to study so I believe I enjoyed it more."
Do you believe in God? "To be safe -- yes."
Do you believe in heaven or hell? "That's a very old concept! I try not to think about it!"
Do you believe in life after death? "Life after death is a comforting theory, so I would like to think there is."
More than a fear of no life after death for Roz is the fear of a life full of cheesiness. Rozanna's loathing of cheese in life/romance/modelling and the like is, she explains, "because it's not how the real world works. And, for some reason unknown to myself, I just can't stand romantic movies."
I'm not entirely surprised. Roz doesn't do conventional. In her career and life choices, Roz is looking for edgy, not conventional. Define edgy, I ask.
"Apart from wearing rocker T-shirts and the likes," she begins, "for me, edgy is being unique in that I express myself in an honest way, and bringing something different to what is stereotypically expected."
Her greatest fear? "Looking back one day and not having reached my full potential and not fully doing the best job I could have." To that end, she's driven to the point -- and beyond -- of obsession with her career.
Do you think Oscar Wilde was wrong when he said youth was wasted on the young? "No and yes. I think when you're older it is easier to look back and see all the opportunities you had and how you had no real worries like bills and a mortgage. But I think it's fair to say the grass is always greener."
What's so good about being young for Rozanna? "I still have so many opportunities open to me in the modelling and acting world. I also have time on my side."
Roz was the smokin'-hot favourite to win the Miss Universe pageant last August. She didn't. She came seventh, as we know. She must be secretly kind of glad she didn't win Miss Universe, given the amount of cool coverage she's received and the fact that Donald Trump has snapped her up to model for his agency in New York.
"I can't say I'm not glad because I don't know what it would have been like to win,
but I do like that I have been given almost the same opportunities as the winner, but I have a little more freedom to decide my own journey."
What helped Roz on her journey was her mum's influence, of course. Cecily Purcell is a big admirer of the late French feminist and author of The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir. She has passed on that admiration to her daughter.
"I remember doing a school project on her in fourth year," Roz says, adding that her favourite quote of de Beauvoir's is: "One is not born a woman, but becomes one."
What would you say to feminists who say beauty contests are degrading to women?
"I would say I was once not particularly fond of pageants myself and my mother, having feminist views, wasn't either. However, after participating in them now and seeing the amazing opportunities girls get out of them and the huge boost it can do, not just for your confidence but your public-speaking skills, et cetera . . ."
What depresses you about modern life?
"I think the modern image of what a female should look like," she says. "The pressure this can have on young teenagers is hard."
Her father, John, is a horse breeder of note in Clonmel. He is also, she claims -- and she ought to know -- "the nicest man ever . . . he has been called that by all my friends! He is really witty and always supportive." Her mother is a school principal in a national school in Clonmel.
"I always looked up to her. She has always inspired me to be opinionated and be independent," says Roz, who has two older sisters. Rachel, 22, who has a marketing degree, graduated and is moving to Canada this year; and Rebecca, 27, who has a PhD in business, is head of the business school of St Patrick's College, Thurles, and is "very athletic, competing for an iron man in the next year; she's extremely intelligent and never fails to make me look bad".
Would you go into politics?
"I would like to think so, but I don't know how good I am at fixing potholes."
Would you run for the Park?
"I'm not Mary Harney."
I can see that.
Would you strip for Playboy magazine?
"I know I said to you earlier that I would never say never, but for this one -- never," she hoots. "I'm not sure it's as tastefully done as it used to be in the years of Marilyn Monroe." Unlike LIFE magazine, of course.
Describe yourself in a word.
Dress; shoes, both Penneys.
Suspender belt; stockings, both Cervin, Susan Hunter
Contents page and Page 10
Jacket; briefs; shoes, all Penneys
Briefs, American Apparel
Bra; briefs, both La Perla, Susan Hunter
Boob tube; briefs, both American Apparel
Susan Hunter, 13 Westbury Mall, Grafton St, D2, tel: (01) 679-1271, or see www.susanhunterlingerie.ie
American Apparel, 114 Grafton St, D2, tel: (01) 670-6936, or see www.americanapparel.net
Photography by Agata Stoinska
Assisted by Aoife Herrity
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Assisted by Jessica Gaffney
Make-up by Seana Long, Make Up For Ever, 38 Clarendon St, D2, tel: (01) 679-9043
Hair by Michael Doyle, Peter Mark, St Stephen's Green Centre, D2, tel: (01) 478-1297
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