Wednesday 24 January 2018

That's what friends are for

What is the magic of a best friend? Is it someone who will stand by you, stand firm and never judge; who will cheer you up, make you laugh, even carry you home? We spoke to 19 people, models and their best friends, about what it means to be, and to have that special person in your life - the friend who never fails or falters, who understands you as you wish to be understood. Photography by Kip Carroll. Styling by Nikki Black

Yvonne Keating and Cecelia Ahern can trust each other. Photo: Kip Carroll
Yvonne Keating and Cecelia Ahern can trust each other. Photo: Kip Carroll
Thalia Heffernan and January Russell photographed by Kip Carroll for LIFE magazine
Kerri Nicole Blanc, daughter Kayla photographed by Kip Carroll for LIFE magazine

Emily Hourican

Back in the days when romantic love was a bit suspect - when marriages were hard-headed strategic alliances, whether for kings or butchers, and not dizzy til-death-do-us-part fantasies - many of the great love affairs were platonic, not sexual. After all, if you couldn't chose your life partner, the next best thing was to find compensation for a possibly dreary, or ill-fitting, domestic life by forging a rich friendship outside it.

And so, alongside the iconic love-ins, the Romeos and Juliets, Tristans and Isoldes, there have always been plenty of iconic friendships that have set the bar for the rest of us: the ultimate bromance of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony; Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald; Johnny Depp and Keith Richards.

But once the more modern era of romantic and sexual love began - the on-going quest for a soulmate who would also be the Significant Other and, of course, a genius in the sack - friendship got rather left behind, relegated to schoolgirls who write, "Jayne n Suze BFs 4Ever" on their copybooks while waiting for 'real' love to strike

But thinking that friendship is a lesser gift, the second city of the emotional empire, or just a place-holder for romantic love, like baby teeth or those seat-fillers at the Oscars who sit in for celebrities, is a mistake. It is still, will always be, one of life's greatest delights. And, unlike romantic love, it is unconfined by age or existing relationships - friendship is not exclusive the way romance is, there is always room for one more. And so the wonder of a new friend can happen at any time. There is no cut-off point, no age limit to meeting and forging a new friendship, often just as intense in the initial stages as a love affair. Friendship is something that crosses countries, cultures, gender lines, age gaps, if not with ease then with determination.

After all, in the language of bumper-stickers and fridge magnets, "Friends are God's way of apologising for family" (actually, Tennessee Williams said it first, but the bumper stickers weren't slow to catch on to something that has instant resonance for so many of us). They are also God's way of making life more bearable; richer, funnier, more poignant, more comprehensible. Better.

Here, 19 people talk about what it means to have a best friend, one person they can completely trust, and rely on - to cheer them up, talk them down and always have their back. A couple of things crop up again and again - loyalty, of course; a sense of fun; the ability to go long periods without speaking, only to find the friendship remains unchanged; and the importance of having someone in your life who 'gets' you.

In a world where little lasts for long, these friendships go the distance; proof of not just how much we need them, but how capable we are of sustaining them. Proof that the schoolgirls were right: BFs 4Ever.

Teodora Sutra and Robin Clifford


Head of supply for the UK and Ireland for Airbnb.com

I got to know Teo through my friend Irma, and I remember the first time I met her, she came bouncing down the street with her beautiful sister Gaby and I thought, 'Here we go, double trouble!' It's an image of the two of them that I will never forget. Gaby melted my heart that day with her smile, and I remember walking home thinking, 'Well they can both improve my life', and I was right.

I found that I felt better about myself when Teo and I talked. I could tell her my problems and her attitude was simplistic in terms of how to crack on with things and be positive. Sadly as we got closer, this has escalated to her beating me up when I try to have a whinge!

I also found it hard to get to know her initially and I felt she had a special quality about her that I needed in my life. Because of that, I did not want to be an also-ran friend, so I pushed the boat out in terms of trying to understand her. So many people meet and admire Teo, but they have no clue about the magic she has in her heart.

Teo's outlook on life always makes me view things differently. She is also great fun on a night out - albeit, an average dancer - and she is the best holiday pal you could wish for. When I tell her about important stuff like sport, she just says, 'I don't care about any of that', which always horrifies me. When Kerry play in the football, I can't be around her, it would not be safe.

I think we all wear a mask in public, up to a point, but when I'm with Teo there is no point in trying to hide anything. She knows me as well as anyone could. She is like a charger for my battery. Teo is someone who dragged me up when I was struggling in my life, who has helped me change my outlook completely. I usually have no patience, but with her I do. Once when I wasn't looking, she pushed me into her grandparents' lake in Latvia and I nearly drowned. As I was scrambling for my life and she was laughing so hard on the pier, I thought, 'God it's so nice to see her smile.' She wanted to help me and kept trying to reach in for me but she was laughing so hard, she couldn't keep her balance.

Teo has two little cats. When I walk in, they lift their sleepy heads and kind of say, 'alright' and give me a nod. When Teo walks in, they are sprinting to the door, so excited, because they know how great she is, how she improves their lives and how they feel better when she is in the room. They get it, as do I - that she improves my life, and the fact that I get how amazing she is, makes me feel better about me!



I used to be part of a charity called Helping Hands where we handed out little gifts and clothes for homeless people in Dublin on Christmas Eve. A couple of years ago, Robin contacted me and wanted to donate money towards the gifts. My little sister Gabriela and I met him in a hotel to collect the money, and because he knew she was coming, he brought a big box of chocolates with him and prepared some animal facts that he thought she would like (although it proved the opposite on the day).

Then he came along on Christmas Eve to help hand out the gifts, and I just thought, 'What an awesome guy with a great heart.' After that, he would mail me a lot, so I thought, 'This dude really wants to be friends,' and it was lovely!

Also he said he never fancied me and doesn't find me attractive at all. Some would be insulted, but for me that always helps in a male friend.

I think when I met Rob first, he thought I was an alien; everything about my life and work is so different to his. We shared a house together for a while, and at first he didn't know there were such things as clip-in hair extensions or fake eyelashes. One day I'd come home from work with really long hair, the next with short hair; I think he sometimes got a big shock.

Any night out where I get too tipsy (there have been a few . . . ), Robin knows when to call me a taxi and get me home safe. He's always there to talk if I ever need to, or just to give out about something!

To me, having a great friend like Robin means I have someone that I know I can be myself with, tell anything to and, most of all, trust. With him, I have a holiday buddy, a person I can moan to about life, someone I can ask for advice on boys and style. He's an all-round good friend. Now I just need to find him a girlfriend!

Kerri Nicole Blanc and Kayla Blanc

Kerri Nicole


It's important to realise and accept that best friends come in many different packages, and while I have many friends who I love and cherish, it's that one particular friend, someone who is there come rain or shine, who I would consider a 'best' friend - whether that is a mum, a dad, a childhood friend, a husband or wife, a brother or sister or even a dog or cat.

In my case, that person is my daughter Kayla. She has the most amazing and beautiful personality. Just her presence can light up any room. She has an ability to make everything ok, to put a smile on my face even when I really don't feel like smiling. I know that with Kayla by my side, I can get through anything. She gives me an inner strength that I never knew I had.

With Kayla, my days are never dull. From the moment she pokes my eyes open with her finger in the morning, to walking her to school, and drowning the entire bathroom at night, she constantly keeps me going, with a smile on my face. Kayla makes me want to achieve things for myself and to give her the kind of life that my parents gave me.

My handbag now consists of a box of crayons, a Kinder egg and spare pairs of socks, and my entire bed is taken over by a three-year-old every night at 2am on the dot. A late night out for me now means leaving before midnight, like Cinderella, but genuinely I have never in my life been so happy. We do absolutely everything together and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Obviously there will come a day when I may not be cool in her eyes and I may be the last person she wants to be seen outside with, but hopefully that won't be for long. I'm sure every mother and daughter go through it at some stage, but my mum and I are extremely close, so hopefully that will always be the case for me and Kayla too.

Alison Canavan and Jenny Crawford


Creative director at Kazumi

The first time I met Alison was on a Louise Kennedy fashion show, many moons ago. She made an impression instantly because she was so tall and striking. She was also dark and exotic-looking, not your typical Irish girl.

As a hairdresser though, it was her hair that really struck me first. It was so beautiful, you could do anything with it. So it was work first, and then a friendship developed. Alison is very loyal, and that's a big thing for me. This industry can be very fickle, and even more so in the last 10 years, but Alison isn't like that.

When my father wasn't well and I was under a lot of pressure, she was a great help. She has been through a lot of emotional stuff herself, and we would stay up late and talk for hours. We both have the habit of speaking our minds, and some people can't take that, but we are passionate about being honest.

Some people might think Alison has had a charmed life, but it wasn't always so. She's been through so much. Once, when she was in New York for work, I went over to visit, to make sure she was ok. Once there, she insisted on taking me out, introducing me to loads of people; she was making sure I was ok! That's the way we are together.

The modelling business has a life span, and it can be very difficult when you're trying to transition into something else, to move from being a top model to finding another career for yourself. I admire the way Alison goes about that - with such life and passion. She's a single mother too, which isn't easy. Sometimes I will meet her and her son for lunch, just so I can play with him and give her a bit of a break. There is a lot of begrudgery out there, but Alison has always tried her best and given 100pc at everything she does.

When I cut her hair recently, because she wanted to raise awareness for cervical cancer, we both cried and cried. It was an incredible thing for her to do, and I admire her so much for that.



Jenny has been doing my hair since I was 15 and first started modelling. I'm 37 now, so that's 22 years together. She is one of the kindest, most genuine people I've met in this industry, and she's been through everything with me. When I broke up with Glenn from OTT [boyband], she was my shoulder to cry on. Later, she was there for my break-up with the father of my son, and losing my dad.

She has always had my back. Jenny knows the real me, not Alison-the-model, and she gets me. I can be quite a difficult person to get, I think because of what I do for a living. There are so many personas put out there that often people don't give you a chance - they make their minds up about you before they know you. Jenny isn't like that. She is so genuine, an amazing person, who spends time getting to know people. She's honest, hard working, and I trust her implicitly. I know, no matter what I say to her, it will never go any further.

Best friends are very rare, although friends can be plentiful. We both lead busy lives now and it can happen that we don't see each other for ages, but when we do, it's as if no time has passed.

I have just cut my hair really short, to raise awareness for cervical cancer and the importance of getting regular smear tests. I decided to do it after I got a mail from a young mother who is going through cancer treatment at the moment. I wanted to do something to show my support, so I decided to cut my hair and donate it to the Rapunzel Foundation who make wigs for women with cancer.

This was a big, big decision for me, because I've always had really long hair, so it was really emotional. And Jenny is the person I trusted to do it. As Jenny was cutting she suddenly looked at me, and we both started to cry, and she said: 'I'm cutting out all the shit you've been through over the last few years. You've been through the wars, but this is a new beginning.'

That's what she's like - really upbeat and positive. She always cheers me up. I can never be down for long around Jenny. She knows everything about me, and when I'm with her, I don't have to be anyone but myself. She'll also say 'shut up', if I'm going off on a tangent or start moaning too much. She's blissfully honest, in the most caring way possible.

Daniella Moyles and Martin Gaughan


TV director

"Daniella and I met through work. She was auditioning for a presenter role on Bulletin TV, a series I was producing. Needless to say, she got the job and the rest is history.

Having a best friend is all the obvious stuff, like been able to pick up the phone at any time of the day, but for me, it's also knowing that no matter what complete rubbish comes out of your mouth, it will be met with zero judgment and I suppose, in turn, that allows you to feel comfortable enough to be whoever you want to be around that person. One thing that bonds us is that we both have the exact same amount of a want for travel.

Once, we were travelling to Australia together on a shoot and we had a very short stopover in Hong Kong airport. Daniella mentioned she'd never been to Hong Kong before so, instead of heading straight to our departure gate, we left the rest of the crew in the airport - who all laughed at us and said we would never make it back in time - and proceeded through immigration.

Once we arrived in the city, we had just enough time to sprint out of the subway, take one photo and race back to our gate in the airport where we were the last two to take our seats on the plane. There's nothing like getting on a 12-hour flight after a 90-minute run.

Daniella and I are very lucky, I think. Most friends I know wouldn't dream of living and working together, but it works for us, possibly because we're so easygoing. That, and the fact that we both know we are completely addicted to Nutella, so we've taken on the role of being a feeder friend to each other.


Model and broadcaster

I met Martin on my first TV job - he filmed my screen test, and then went on to be the producer of RTE2's Bulletin TV. We spent two deadly years travelling and working together all over the globe, which sounds very glamorous, but, in reality, is tedious and tiring!

People get irritable and it can become a difficult work environment, except when Martin is on the crew. He kept everything running like clockwork, while simultaneously keeping everyone in high spirits. Despite how talented he is as a producer/director, I've always told him that he's on the wrong side of the camera. He has that perfect mix of level-headed and eccentric that makes his company addictive.

Early on in our friendship, I got an email from Marts with the subject line 'Rio's not going to work out'. A couple of days earlier, we had, very briefly, talked about the idea of one day visiting Rio de Janeiro for the Carnival festival. So I opened the email, and it read, 'But I booked it anyway.' This is why he's one of my favourite humans on the planet. Also, I once watched him spend an entire day aerating soil, buying plant food and trying to figure out his new water-saturation gauge, just to save his wilting indoor palm tree. You can't buy heart like that!

Other memorable moments in our friendship include crossing the border from Palestine into Israel together in the middle of the night; an impromptu photoshoot a la Vogue magazine at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. And the night he introduced me to Panti Bar.

Friends should make you feel magical. If they don't, they're not your friends, they're just people you know. Life should be a richer, more fun and a smiley place for knowing each other. Plus everyone needs at least one friend who just refuses to let you not have your shit together - so I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Marts for teaching me how to use the washing machine, and sending me monthly emails reminding me to pay my bills.

Also, he eats Nutella out of the jar with a spoon right alongside me in my weaker moments. Now, that's a real friend. Life is just better for having Martin in it, and I hope we're friends until we're old and grey, with a lifetime of stories.

Lynn Kelly and Sarah Kelly



Sarah was at the hospital with my dad when mam gave birth to me. All two foot of her, a year and four months old! I never remember not being stuck at the hip with Sarah as a kid. She is my only sibling so we were always together. Double trouble.

We looked alike but with total opposite personalities. Although we were both such messers! Sarah was afraid of nothing and is still the same. Everybody needs a best friend - somebody who just gets them, and for me, Sarah is that person. I don't open up to very many people and I am quite guarded, so it is nice to have somebody I don't have to explain things to.

For an outsider, it might seem strange that Sarah is my best friend, because I am very much our mam's daughter and Sarah our dad's daughter and we have different opinions on just about everything, but when it comes down to it, we are always there for each other. I am the first person Sarah calls when anything good, bad or ugly happens, and she is mine.

As kids, we got up to constant mischief together. We used to make up adventures and go off rambling miles and miles away from our house and my mam would murder us when we eventually came home.

We were forever getting 'lost' and our bedtime was a constant struggle for Mam and Dad. Now, we have grown even closer since Sarah became a mother, and I love Rocco more then words could possibly describe.

I can't imagine my life without Sarah. Yes, we bicker and fight about silly things, but I can't imagine not having her in my life. We don't get to see each other every day but we talk every day, and that will never change.



Lynn is my only sister. We did everything together when we were younger, and our mam used to dress us in identical clothes until we were about 10, so everybody thought we were twins. Lynn is the first person I tell everything to and she was there for me every step of my pregnancy with Rocco, and every single step of the way since he has been born.

I was in labour for hours and hours, and Lynn never left my side - even sleeping on the floor beside my bed in the labour ward. She is terrified of needles and when I was getting the epidural she was white in the face. She was more afraid then I was; I actually think she spent the whole time trying not to faint.

I am such a joker and I love when I get Lynn laughing. Once, the two of us get going there's no stopping us; its just like we are kids again. We spend so much time together now with Rocco. Lynn likes to think she is his second mam. He loves spending time with Auntie Lynn and I know she idolises him. She is that person who I know will always be there for me and support me 100pc. She is my backbone and she knows I will always be hers.

Yvonne Keating and Cecelia Ahern


Model and TV presenter

Cecelia and I first met at Nicky [Byrne] and Georgina's [Ahern] wedding. Our partners at the time - my husband, now ex, and her boyfriend - were friends and we met through them. Cecelia is quite a bit younger than me, nearly eight years, so I didn't really see the friendship deepening much beyond the dinners and nights out we sometimes had. We were at different life stages, because of the age gap, and because I had kids and she didn't. But maybe because of that, because there was no pressure, no expectation, we became friends.

What really attracted me to her was her sense of mischief. She definitely has a dark sense of humour; also her intelligence, creativity, and kindness. She will always make a conversation or a night out more interesting; any time spent with her is fascinating and amusing. She thinks outside the box, or so it seems to me. She certainly doesn't think the way I think, and that really attracted me to her.

Over time, I also learned that I could trust her, and she me. We both know that whatever we say to each other will never go any further. I found that I could trust her to keep my confidence, but also to say the kind of thing I needed to hear, often in a way that made me laugh.

When times were bad in my life, she was someone for me to lean on and rely on. I remember at the lowest point in my life, I had lost a lot of weight. I was practically skin and bone, and one day she said to me, 'You have to eat, you'll get sick.' And I said, 'I can't, I've tried but I can't, I've got so skinny.'

And she snapped back, 'Oh well, every cloud has a silver lining . . . ' She didn't mean it, she was just making a joke, but it was a funny thing to say, and she cracked me up at a moment when I badly needed it. With her, I have found, I can go from tears of laughter to tears of sadness, and back again.

We get each other, and we're comfortable with each other. We both lead really busy lives - she works full-time, travels a lot, and yet is one of the most hands-on and loving mothers I know. How she juggles all that, I do not know. Sometimes we talk every day, other times its only every week or month, but we instantly pick up where we left off. Neither of us ever says, 'Oh, you didn't call . . .'

Cecelia is a feminist and very supportive of women and what they can achieve, but she's also really girlie, and loves fashion, hair, make-up. She is smart and strong and unconventional. She isn't the same as everyone else, she's just herself.



The first time I met Yvonne was at my sister's wedding but we really didn't become close until years later. What began as a couples' double-date friendship developed into our own thing.

I value my friendship with Yvonne hugely. Through the various evolutional moments in our lives: motherhood, work, the joys and the tough times that test you, we've been there for each other. Through coffee breaks, long lunches, late nights and early mornings we've laughed and cried, sometimes in the same breath.

If I had to sum up a moment in our company, it's pure mischief and honesty. It's always comforting when someone 'gets' the core of you without you even having to explain, and I know that Yvonne gets me. What's beautiful now is seeing our children playing together and seeing that connection continue.

It's not what you do with your life that's most important, it's who you've had the pleasure of spending it with. Yvonne is an inspiring person; a strong woman, an excellent mother and a gem of a friend. She ticks most of the boxes for me. It's just a shame she's not very pretty.

Thalia Heffernan and January Russell



January and I met through modelling, about five years ago. This industry is widely publicised as being very bitchy, but that's melodramatic, I find. I'm lucky in that I have connected with a lot of special people through modelling, January, in particular. She's just so much fun! She walks into a room and it immediately brightens up. We have similar interests and when we're working together, no matter what the job is, we manage to make it enjoyable.

There can be a lot of waiting around in this job, but we pass the time very happily. By now, we've worked together for so long that she knows me inside out. I remember one moment I was about to have a total meltdown, everything seemed to tumble and fall apart, and January was there, and knew exactly what to say to calm me down. The moment passed, because of her, and I knew then that I had a really special friendship.

We play off each other very well - if I'm giddy, she'll get giddy, and together we can lift a room when we're on form. We can also cause havoc! January knows the industry, so she knows what the pressures are - things about weight, stress, that kind of thing - and that really helps.

People joke that models always hang out together, but there's a reason for that. It's because we understand each other, and so it's easier for January and me to vent to one another than to our other friends outside the industry, who don't get it because it's just not stuff from normal life.



The first time Thalia and I really spent time together was on a test shoot we both did for a photographer, and afterwards we walked back to her place on Leeson Street together. I remember she was wearing her school uniform, and had big, wild, curly hair. She's younger than me, but I remember thinking she was really cool. She's really alive, really fun, she brings everyone together and has a special kind of aura.

Any time I've had relationship problems, with boyfriends or family, I have found that she's great to talk to. She always has a different perspective to me, and that helps. Your good friends are your life, you need to have them around you. Without Thalia, my life would not be the same. She works so hard, and she understands all about the parts of the industry that aren't so good; having her in my life makes me happy, I love her to bits. I know we'll always be friends, even when we're no longer working together.

Ruth Griffin and Sarah McGovern



Ruth and I met through modelling, about 15 years ago, and what connected us, I think, is the fact that we always had the same mindset - we enjoyed our jobs, but neither of us took ourselves, or what we did, too seriously. It was always just a very natural friendship. Modelling is an uncertain profession; you never know where the next job is coming from, and Ruth and I were both very proactive in that we always had other things, other work, going on.

Ruth is honest, genuine, welcoming and loving to everyone. She is the person who makes sure everyone feels included - she's a real girl's girl - and so funny. She has great wit - quick and lively. There have been times when things have been hard, and I always know she will make time, she always has that ear open.

And, at the very end, after asking questions and listening hard, she'll give great advice, but never force her opinions on you. Over the years, she has always been there for me. You need your friends to stand by you and tell you the honest truth, and Ruth does that.

Before weddings and babies, we'd meet for lunch, maybe in Milano, and go out all night. Those were the days when we didn't have to get up the next day, and we still reminisce about them. We'd go on girlie holidays - to Greece or Portugal - and Ruth, although she is very level-headed and straight, when she wants to, can really let her hair down. I'm probably the sensible one, making sure everyone gets home safe. Ruth and I can talk about anything and everything. She is one in a million, and I admire her for everything that she does, and is.


Former model and mother

To have a really good friend is to have someone who you can say anything to, and you know that person will always have your best interests at heart; someone who will be loyal and supportive and discreet, someone that you love seeing and spending time with and laughing with and who understands you completely.

Even before we became friends, I always liked Sarah because of her warmth, and the friendliness and politeness she showed to everyone she came into contact with. She's such a very lovely, kind person, with a wonderful sense of humour and fun. I met Sarah about 15 years ago when I first started modelling. At the time we were in different agencies but we seemed to always work on the same shows and fashion jobs. I have always admired her work ethic and professionalism, but most of all, Sarah is just the loveliest woman. She never, ever has a bad word to say about anyone.

She is kind, gentle, honest and very warm and funny, and she has helped me so many times over the years that I couldn't pick just one moment. We've also been away on a good few holidays together, along with a few of the other girls. We were in Greece on a holiday before we all had babies and we spent a night chatting and drinking too much wine in a very deserted bar and ended up making our own little dance floor.

Myself and Aoife D'Arcy, who's our Third Amigo, ended up going for a very early morning swim in the pool with Sarah begging us to get out before we drowned! Sarah used to be a students' union president, and she's still very responsible. We called her Head Model because she organised us all. It's so lovely to know that Sarah is there any time I need her and I hope she knows it goes both ways. I admire her tremendously. She's as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.

Irma Mali and Andra Vilimiene



About 12 years ago I met Andra's husband. I remember he chatted to me for a while and then, said: 'You know what? I think you and my wife would get on well.' I didn't believe him at the time, but here we are now. The minute I met Andra, I felt that special energy. I couldn't understand what it was. But now I know. I can't even call her my best friend. She is my soul sister, my better half.

It's very important to have a friend like Andra, to know that you are not on your own. There are no expectations or needs from each other. Only support and love. The connection we have is never going to go away, no matter if she is beside me or 1,000 miles away, we always feel close to each other. Sometimes we don't even need to talk. We know what's going on. And any time I need advice, I know she is the only one I can trust to tell me.

As soon as we are together, it feels like the world around us just disappears. We could travel to the end of the world together, but the problem would be that we wouldn't see anything around us, we are too happy in each other's company. Andra knows more about me then I do. I remember one time at the doctor's when I couldn't answer the questions he asked - but my best friend knew everything!


Nutrition student and waitress

We were first introduced to each other by our partners, and spent a fabulous, unforgettable day in St Stephen's Green together. Both our partners died within a year of that first meeting, but our friendship remains. Sometimes we say that they look down from heaven and say: 'We've done a good thing introducing them.'

When I met Irma that first time, I was blown away by her personality. She reminded me of an angel on earth - gentle, kind and naive but at the same time very strong inside. Because I have no family here, this friendship is very valuable to me. It's a full bucket of all the moments we have shared: moments of joy and pain, laughs and tears. The friendship is about being honest and supportive, listening and being comfortable in each other's silence. It means to love and be loved, no matter what.

Our paths in life are very similar and we can understand each other without words. It's difficult to explain but even when we are far away from each other physically, we can feel connected, especially if something is wrong with either of us. We come from Lithuania, we have the same traditions and culture. We have shared the same grief, and our daughters are the same age.

There are so many connections between us. Irma makes my life very colourful and more fun. We can even dance together. Somebody posted a saying by Friedrich Nietzsche on Facebook recently: 'And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.' I'm glad we can hear the same music. I honestly feel blessed and thank God every day for having Irma as a best friend forever.

Michele McGrath and Orla Hopkins


Model and singer

Orla and I both grew up in Skerries, which is a small town, so we knew of each other, but she is a few years older, so we didn't really know each other. We properly met because we both have a love of dancing. Orla owned a dance studio and a dance shop. At the time, I was working as a singer and dancer and I needed special tights, so I went into the shop. We started chatting, and realised how much we had in common.

That was 10 years ago, and we've never looked back. Since then, we have taken many dance classes together - most recently Dancing in High Heels, which was great fun - and shared so much. We're both big into music as well and go to gigs together, and we've had so many great holidays over the years, including Orla's hen party in London.

Orla is such a go-getter, she has had her own successful dance studio since she was a teenager, and two dance shops. She is amazingly positive, driven and ambitious - recently she started fitness competing, which is not for the faint-hearted. Orla has such positive energy. She is the type who, if you are going through a hard time, will always see the glass as half full and encourage you onwards.

I'm a bit younger, and her guidance and career advice have always been so wise and helpful. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding, and luckily her husband is one of my best friends too. Now that she is mum to Noah, I love doing things with him.

Ours is a friendship that is solid and loyal. We don't need to speak to each other every day, but we're always there for each other, and I guess that's what a real friendship is. She is loyal, kind, caring, thoughtful and a great listener.


Dance teacher and owner of Dance Dimensions

I knew Michele by sight when we were younger - she was so stunningly beautiful, it was impossible to miss her - but five years is a big gap when you're young, so it wasn't until she came back from Lanzarote and popped into the shop one day, wearing a deadly little cap, that we started to be friends.

The age gap closes as you get older, and even though I do sometimes feel like an older sister, I'm like that with most of my friends, even the ones who are my age.

Michele and I are very similar. We believe in not letting anything hold you back in life, not people or circumstances. We encourage each other to get on with things - just do it! Where we really clicked was in our passion to do our thing, and when the recession hit and things got very rough for my businesses, I remember asking Michele, 'Will I just give in and give up?' She said, 'No way! I have faith in you, you can do this if it's what you want . . . '

Eight years on, and the businesses are going great, so she was right, and told me exactly what I needed to hear. She's a risk-taker, but she also makes you stop and think about what you're doing, and why. There have been so many wonderful moments, including what I call 'Michele Moments,' because she can say the funniest things, and makes me laugh so much. She was the life and soul of my hen party.

Now that I have a son, Noah, who's five, Michele is amazing with him too. I work Saturdays, and if ever I can't get someone to mind him, she will take him, for the entire day, and he won't want to come home afterwards! Michele is reliable, passionate, a go-getter who won't let anyone stand in her way, and the best person to talk to if you are ever doubting yourself. One phone call and you're back on cloud nine.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

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