'I allow myself a burger once a week' - Alannah Beirne on learning to love your body
At 6'0" tall, Alannah Beirne stands out in a crowd.
At 24, she’s already been a finalist on Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model, signed with two agencies in Dublin and London, and is now throwing her hand at competing in Dancing With The Stars.
She was a last minute draft after former Miss Ireland Aoife Walsh broke her toe during rehearsals before the show had even aired and Alannah is making the most out of the opportunity to beam into our homes every Sunday.
“I was home for Christmas and when my flight back had landed, I found out I was chosen because Aoife Walsh had broken her toe,” she says.
“Her support has been great. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to come my way and I’ve grabbed it with both hands. When I got the phone call to come over, I was training within one week.”
Like most of the celebrity contestants, she has limited dance experience and is in the middle of a crash course in professional movement by choreographer and dance partner Vitali Kozmin; putting in 40 hours a week in rehearsals for a two-minute performance on the dancefloor at Ardmore Studios in Wicklow.
“I danced a bit when I was 13 with my best friend, I know how to dance to music but I was never good. Whenever we had a competition I was always put at the back and never chosen,” she laughs.
“I have to give all the credit to Vitali, he has taken the time to teach me all the techniques and we’re working hard each week to perform. He doesn’t give any compliments, if you get a smile from Vitali at the end of the day, you know you’ve done something right.”
The competition hasn’t just been one of professional benefit though, she is also reaping the physical rewards that come with a dancer’s exercise regime.
“For the first week, my body was in bits,” she explains. “We were doing the waltz and I was using muscles in my arm I never knew existed. You’re doing eight hours of dancing a day and your body tires, but your body gets used to it. I’m not losing weight, but I’m getting fitter and stronger and I love that feeling.
“I know I’m a model, but I allow myself a burger once a week, you have to work hard, but I think you should do everything in moderation.”
Beirne has a refreshingly healthy attitude to body image and she’s particularly excited about the changing standards of beauty in modelling - now, agencies are looking for tight and toned figures instead of rail thin models, as was the case in the early days of her career.
“I’ve never been so happy in my figure,” she says proudly. “It’s physically and mentally draining, you’re wrecked after it all. Model agents told me to lose weight and my hips were too big or my arms were too big. I’m happier now physically than I was when I was a kid because I was starving myself.”
She doesn't mean this literally, but now understands the importance of a balanced diet.
From the get-go, it seemed that Marty Morrissey is the sure-thing winner of the competition, but Beirne takes the challenge seriously and relayed the pressures of live television in a typically self-deprecating way.
“Everyone loves Marty Morrissey, so they’ll vote for him, and people love Erin McGregor and Jake, everyone has their favourites. I’m happy as long as I try my best. You can’t make them vote for you,” she explains.
“It’s all down to two minutes and a short VT, you have a little time to respond for the questions and I never know what to say. After a really intense dance, I have no idea what I’m saying, half the time I can’t even speak!
"The adrenaline is pumping, you’re out of breath, and you’re trying to stay focused…After the cha cha in particular, my ribs were in bits, my mouth was dry so I couldn’t speak properly and I just thought, ‘My God, I’m making a fool out of myself!’
The competition is still running for another five weeks and she isn’t thinking about anything post-DWTS until then.
"I’m keeping my flat in London, I have things planned, but I’m focusing on this for now, I don’t want any other pressure or anything that will be too distracting."