They're Ireland's sexiest couple, but Roz Purcell says Bressie's looks aren't important
Roz Purcell talks body issues, boyfriend Bressie and baking -- and how she can eat whatever she wants thanks to her dedication to training, writes Andrea Smith
I'm very happy in my personal life but I don't speak too much about it. I know people are interested and it's not that I have anything to hide. But I look at some couples and people on TV who, literally, sell themselves out and I have no ambition to be like that.
"It doesn't appeal to me at all. I love having my little cocoon, my little bubble, my own personal life, and I just think that it's something that's really precious."
I'm having tea with the stunningly beautiful Rozanna Purcell, in her favourite place, Coppa Cafe at the RHA on Ely Place.
Roz is dating musician, Niall Breslin, aka Bressie, and I've just asked her whether it's hard to guard her cherished privacy when she and Bressie are both in the public eye. After all, she came in the top 10 in Miss Universe 2010 and is one of the most sought-after models in the country. And, as for her handsome boyfriend, when The Voice of Ireland first aired, practically every woman in Ireland tuned in just to gaze at him, and his public appearances and DJ slots were mobbed by adoring female fans.
"Looks have never made a damn difference to me, so people might think he's wasted on me," laughs Roz. "I guess, because we're both kind of known, it makes it more of a big deal, but the two of us are on the same page and we don't talk about our relationship in public. There isn't much to tell, because we're just an average couple."
It's hard to believe that Roz is only 23, because she seems to have been around for a long time. When she was 17, she left the horse and cattle farm she grew up on in Tipperary to come to Dublin to study politics and history at UCD.
She had the time of her life at Belfield, but realised after a year and a half that the course wasn't for her. She had also begun modelling, having been spotted by a talent scout while shopping, although it took her about two years to make the transition from college student to professional model.
"I was just bouncing around, and taking it all with a pinch of salt," she says. "They'd say, 'You need to make more of an effort Roz, you can't arrive wearing Converse, with your hair in a bun, streaky tan and manky nails'. I was into looks, because UCD is a college that is almost based on what you look like and where you went to school. Then I realised that I got booked for more jobs when I arrived with no make-up or tan on, because I was more of a blank canvas for them to work on."
If you had told the sporty Roz that she would become a model and beauty queen when she was at secondary school at Loreto Convent in Clonmel, she would have been surprised, as she wasn't into her appearance then.
"I was horrendous," she insists. "I thought my older sister, Rachel, would become a model, because she was the gorgeous one that everyone looked up to, and I used to feel like such a runt beside her. I always had frizzy hair and loads of freckles, and used to put Sun-In in to lighten my hair, so it had a weird ginger tint. I was never put together properly, always had mismatched socks and did my make-up all wrong, but I didn't really care."
The funny and kooky Roz has two older sisters, Rachel and Rebecca, and has always had a great relationship with them and with her parents, Cecily and John. Her mum was also her teacher and principal of her primary school for four years, and while this would be many children's worst nightmare, Roz didn't mind.
"She treated me the same as everyone else and I don't remember it being weird," she says. "I definitely wasn't a teacher's pet, and was the one who rebelled the most in the class."
There was still a little of the rebel in her when she entered a heat of Miss Universe Ireland, and as she rocked up to the competition in Lillie's Bordello, Roz didn't care if she won. She did win, however, and as part of her prize was given a coveted membership key to the upmarket nightclub.
"It was wasted on me, because that was my first night in there," she says. "I was pure country, going to Coppers and D2."
All of the potential candidates for the title took part in a magazine photoshoot, and when Roz saw her competition, she got a bit of a fright. "All of the other girls seemed to be in great shape, with chiselled abs and everything," she says. "I had puppy fat and a baby face and had never been to the gym or worked on my core. Knowing I'd have to be in a bikini, I started running, and that was when I started becoming body-conscious."
Roz came second in Miss Universe Ireland that year and won the competition the following year. She was tipped internationally as one of the favourites to win the pageant in Las Vegas, which led to her being invited to Colombia for two weeks to be trained by the coaches -- they liked the prestige of being able to boast that they trained the winner.
"I went because I was so fearless back then and up for anything," she says. "My parents warned me to make sure I packed my own bags coming home! I learned so much but was glad it was only for two weeks, as it was so surreal.
"They were saying things like, 'your nose isn't perfect', so any longer and they would probably have had me under the knife. Even when I went to Miss Universe itself, some of the girls arrived with bandages on from surgery."
Roz enjoyed the pageant, but found being the hot favourite difficult, as some of her fellow competitors would remark that the competition was fixed in favour of the "stupid Irish girl". When she didn't make the top five, her coaches and family were devastated, but the irrepressible Roz consoled herself by tucking into the sweets and handmade cookies that had been torturing her in her room in the run-up to the pageant. From the competition, she was signed to Donald Trump's model agency in New York, and was delighted as she had always wanted to live there.
"It was cool but I was under such pressure," she says. "They'd measure me every week and they chopped my long blonde hair off and dyed it red. I was living in an apartment with 17- and 18-year-old models. We'd spend our days going from casting to casting with a queue of 2,000 other people, and constantly being rejected.
"I'd live on Diet Coke and coffee all week and pig out on chocolate cupcakes at the weekend, and feel bad about it on Monday. It was a vicious circle, and made me realise that you can have such a love/hate relationship with food when you're modelling."
Roz came home after four months, and did some modelling through the Andrea Roche agency -- she says that Andrea is the one person in the industry who has always treated her with admiration and respect. Then Roz went to model in South Africa, which she greatly enjoyed.
"I wish I could be as fearless and naïve as I was when I was younger because I had some of the best experiences of my life travelling the world," Roz says. "I didn't think twice about anything then, but through experience, I've become quite fearful. I double-think everything and go through all the pros and cons."
The Tipperary girl is also extremely interested in food and its role in fuelling the body, and hopes to do a sports nutrition course. She loves whipping up dishes with a distinctly healthy twist by opting for vegan, raw, and gluten-free creations on her blog, Natural Born Feeder.
"It's great," she says, "as I can eat whatever I want because of my training, so I get to enjoy my passion, which is baking, while having a job that is the polar opposite. I always say to my friends that I'd love to have a little coffee shop in the middle of nowhere one day, and make all my own jams and scones and grow my own herbs and fruit."
Check out Roz's blog on www.naturalbornfeeder.com