Rosanna Davison and Wesley Quirke: Watch us play
He thinks she makes him sound gay. She thinks she may have been married to her father, Chris de Burgh, in a previous life. Together they are Ireland's Posh and Becks and we love them. As they pose for these remarkable pictures by Agata Stoinska, Wesley Quirke and Rosanna Davison give Julia Molony their most revealing interview ever. Styling by Liadan Hynes
Published 17/02/2008 | 00:00
As Wesanna, they are Ireland's answer to Posh and Becks. A centrifugal force on the social scene, they have made a profession out of notoriety; appearing at social events and launches, lending their presence for the purpose of reassuring people they are at the right parties. Together, however, the entrepreneur's son and pop star's daughter have become something more than the sum of their parts. With their Californian looks, their willingness to embrace the limelight and the ease with which they move in international high society, they have become an emblem of young, moneyed Ireland.
As is often the case with those born into privilege, it's difficult to put a label on what either of them actually does. Even Rosanna admits it's a question she avoids wherever possible. Certainly, they both keep themselves occupied with the business of maintaining a profile, although how this terribly Noughties approach to working quite adds up to a career trajectory is not entirely clear. Wes, who until recently had been working for the family business -- his father, a former garda, owns Dr Quirky's, the landmark entertainment centre on O'Connell Street in Dublin -- is on a career break. He's been passing the time with diversions that seem to fall somewhere between productive and recreational -- he's just got his helicopter pilot's licence and he's launching a career as a model. And of course, he's been quite busy being photographed at social events with Rosanna.
It seems understandable that a young man in his position might exploit such an opportunity to indulge his inner playboy, but Wes comes across as so unassuming that I actually don't think he has an inner playboy. Certainly, he has no intention of becoming a professional partier. Although his brother, Andy, has also enjoyed flirtations with the social pages as a television personality and erstwhile boyfriend of Pippa O'Connor, Wes comes from a family that, in general, puts little stock on the value of notoriety. Instead, he says, it places emphasis on the importance of entrepreneurial instinct and a strong work ethic.
The only working male models I've ever encountered in Ireland were at a drinks- party launch -- a handful of bare-chested, dickie-bow-sporting himbos hired to hand out cocktails. It's not a way of making a living that I can easily see gratifying Wes, who, despite his lifestyle, seems to have little of the exhibitionist about him. If the somewhat limited opportunities offered by male modelling in Ireland turn out to be disappointing, as I suspect they will, there will be other things to keep him busy.
Having been relatively sheltered from the media as a child, despite having a famous father, Rosanna was thrust into life as a public figure when she was 19, as Miss Ireland and, subsequently, Miss World. With its rather gauche, cheesy connotations, the competition might not represent the zenith of international glamour, but it was something of a watershed for Ireland -- a moment when we put aside our reputation as Europe's frumpy cousins.
The experience, and her own personal sense of triumph was marked, however, by typically Irish accusations of cronyism, with comments about her famous pedigree undermining her win. Rather than taking the perhaps more obvious route of launching an international "lovely-girl" career, homebird Rosanna returned to Dublin and went back to UCD to finish her degree. Since then, she's joined the ranks of the working Dublin models, with promotional photocalls and product endorsements. Having now finished her degree, she's keen to capitalise on the notoriety she's earned, and is in the first stages of launching a career as a television presenter, as well as harbouring ambitions to write.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, she and Wes both attract quite a remarkable degree of vitriol in the press and, more particularly, in the blogosphere. On paper, they are an all-too- easy target -- the cheesy-pop heiress who became a beauty queen, and her boyband-hunky beau.
But the truth is Rosanna and Wesley are having too good a time to really let the sideline criticism get to them.
"I can take it now. I really take no notice," says Rosanna. "The main thing after winning Miss World was the whole stereotype of, 'This girl is blonde, she's obviously dumb.' That made me fight to work really hard and to get a really good degree. Y'know, I was offered a scholarship which I decided not to take. But I think the negative commentary, actually. . ."
"Makes you stronger," chimes in Wes, who has clearly been something of a front-seat observer of this phenomenon.
Rosanna is the more forthright and voluble of the two. She chats away easily and is charming in a kind of watchful way, choosing her words carefully. She reminds me a little bit of an Edwardian debutante. All impeccable Ps and Qs and gentle humour. Which makes a sort of amusing and endearing counterpoint to the side of her which, for example in these pictures, offers a frank and intimate glimpse of the less inscrutable, less drawing-room-polite side of her character. There are clearly two quite different aspects to her character and, when she is talking, occasional flashes of a steelier, more strident side break through; for example, when she speaks about how she handles negative press: "If I actually get what could be perceived as jealous remarks, then I actually think, 'That's great -- I've achieved something in my life that someone is jealous of. That's brilliant.' And I'm actually delighted," she says, although she admits she is not entirely immune to the mud-slinging that is inevitable.
"I don't think it's fair that some people should look at you to the point where they are actually picking out your faults and what you're doing. Everybody is entitled to do what they want to do. When people start to look at you and say, y'know, 'Why is she wearing that or drinking that kind of thing?' Y'know, that's invasive."
Wesanna have been a couple and social institution for more than a year now. Theirs couldn't have been a more archetypal Dublin social-scene courtship. They were first introduced by friends at Club 92, and Wes's first approach to Rosanna was a message through Bebo. There was enough of a tabloid-teasing whiff of sulphur about their romance in the early stages to attract notoriety. The margin between the start of their relationship and the end of Rosanna's previous one was tantalisingly narrow. But Rosanna insists that she broke up with James about a month and a half before it was reported publicly.
"I was just breaking up with my ex-boyfriend, James, at that stage, so Wes and I were just chatting for a bit on Bebo and then I broke up with James. I went away for a fortnight with girlfriends to Cyprus and New York, and then, when I got back, we went to the cinema."
It was around this time that one newspaper hacked into Wes's Bebo site and published romantic messages that appeared there from Rosanna. "That was seriously invasive, to the point of being illegal," she says. "They were just sweet little mails; y'know, when you're starting off a relationship. It was a shock. I got the call the Saturday night before the papers came out on Sunday and I just started hyperventilating. I was mostly concerned about James and his family, because I knew it would be released in such a way that made it look like I was cheating on him. So, anyway, I explained that to James and it was all fine. But, just for the sake of his family, I knew how bad it would look."
Since then, interest in their goings-on and Saturday nights has remained steady. "Our holidays have been photographed and there have been various occasions when what we're doing has been observed," Rosanna says, without much of a hint of complaint. Wes, who is naturally more retiring and less accustomed to the attention, sometimes gets irritated on his girlfriend's behalf by the whispers and mutters that follow her whenever she is out: "Yeah. People in the background mentioning your name, or whatever, and it's kind of annoying when people are talking about you to Rosanna behind your back."
Ultimately, however, Rosanna insists: "There's a lot of time spent being a normal young couple doing normal things. In Dublin, in the places we go to, there is a certain element of being on show for everybody. Like last night's party (a friend's birthday bash at Krystle) which, she says, was "as much a press free-for-all, as it was a party, because it was sponsored by a vodka company. But when that was taken away, we were there to celebrate a friend's birthday.
"To a certain point, I have to behave myself when I'm out," she says of the responsibility that comes with being in the public eye.
"I always have to remind her, 'Don't do that,'" says Wes in a voice of soft admonition with which one might address a child.
"He's always behind me, ready to pick me up off the floor," agrees Rosanna.
Wes, however, admits he succumbed to the same preconceptions about Rosanna that have plagued her in the past. "Rich girl, snob," he says of how he expected her to come across when they first went out. "I wanted to prove myself wrong and I was wrong," he explains of why he decided, despite his prejudices, to ask her out.
"He presumed that I'd be this stuck-up, snobby, spoilt cow with no sense of humour."
"It's true," he says, "most of them are like that. A lot of those young Foxrock-type girls are stuck up."
The relationship between them developed quickly. What is it about the dynamic that works so well? I ask. Rosanna launches into a rather quirky explanation of why they complement each other: "Wes is more streetwise than me. He'd know more about technology and cars. He knows all sorts of things about nature. He knows every bird, every flower name," she continues, while Wes begins to look good-naturedly perplexed.
"You're making me sound gay," he says.
"I was actually half thinking at the start, 'Is he gay?'" adds Rosanna. "Cause he'd be like: 'Oh, is that a chrysanthemum?' or whatever."
It was important to Rosanna that Wes came from a good family. Revealing a characteristic traditionalism, she explains her take on family values, which hint at the rather protective environment she grew up in -- in the Davison-de Burgh household.
"We both come from stable family backgrounds, which I know is important for me. It wasn't a conscious decision when looking for someone . . . a stability which I think is important for somebody's personality. I know too many people who have had unstable upbringings and that actually affects their personalities greatly and leads to all sorts of insecurities in their lives. It leads them to go to all sorts of extremes," she says.
She has obviously been shaped by her close family ties, and has spoken publicly before about her particularly strong ties with her father. In a newspaper article she wrote recently, she even went so far as to say that she has, at times, found his love for her "claustrophobic".
"Wes's brother-in-law is an astrologist and he was saying that, apparently, my dad and I were married in a previous life," she says, in a conversational departure that is gloriously bonkers and an interesting twist on the usual media-savvy Miss World patter. "I know a lot of people are sceptical about that, but it made sense to me because we have a connection, I suppose. We don't have to speak, but we'd know what the other was thinking.
"At the start of my career, he was much more hands-on, much more involved in my decisions, but he trusts my instincts now. He trusts my ability to make sensible and rational decisions for myself. But still his management looks after me in the UK, so he would liaise with them -- so he does involve himself a little bit in what I do."
She's still a good girl -- eschewing drugs (both she and Wes are vocally horrified by the levels of cocaine use in Dublin and are vehemently anti-drugs) and generally exercising restraint and moderation. Together, they come across more than anything as a nice, polite, well-spoken couple, which has benefited from the refinements of the privileges they enjoy rather than being spoiled.
Rosanna Davison might be earnest and innocent as ever, but as you can see, with Wes by her side, she's not exactly daddy's little girl any more.