Friday 24 November 2017

How Lisa lost a shoe, but gained husband

Stephen McDermott had to get her family's approval before he could marry Bellamianta tan queen Lisa

Lisa and Stephen McDermott met in Tyrone, 2006. Photo: Arthur Carron
Lisa and Stephen McDermott met in Tyrone, 2006. Photo: Arthur Carron
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Lisa McDermott fondly remembers the shoes she was wearing the night she met her husband Stephen 11 years ago at the Fort Bar in Tyrone. The Grecian-style strappy sandals were embellished with Swarovski crystals, and she had saved hard for them along with her new outfit. She was enjoying being the belle of the ball - well, until she encountered Stephen.

"This big galoot came rambling along and stood on my foot," she says. "I roared at him and said 'You've ruined my new shoes, they cost a week's wages and I'm raging. Come over and say sorry to me'. He came over and was very polite and mannerly, but he couldn't stop laughing because I was behaving like a lunatic. I sat on a high stool, put my foot out and told him to kiss it and he did it. That was the start of a wonderful love story, although I still cry about those shoes to this day."

Stephen compounded his error that night by then trying to kiss an unreceptive Lisa. She had just broken up with someone, and two weeks later, she spotted Stephen standing next to her ex in a nightclub. Fuelled by some Dutch courage and a dare from her friend, she walked across the dance floor to Stephen and "snogged the face off him''. I tried to walk away, but he grabbed my hand and said, 'You're going nowhere missus'," she recalls.

After a few similar meet-ups, Lisa and Stephen eventually exchanged numbers and that was it. Although Stephen is quiet, Lisa says he is very funny, personable and kind, and she loves his smile. She knew he would fit in really well with her family, which was very important to her as she's very close to them. What did Stephen find attractive about Lisa? "She is so fiery and I could see the ambition in her straight away, which I wasn't used to," Stephen says. "She wears very little makeup and is a natural and radiant beauty."

Stephen is from Tyrone and comes in the middle of Margaret and Pat McDermott's six children. He started his career as a painter and decorator, and has just started a new job as production supervisor for J&B Engineering. Although she has a completely Tyrone accent, Lisa (36) is originally from Cork city, and is the eldest of Martina and Mick McKeown's three children. She studied both drama and hospitality here and in Scotland, and then returned to live in Tyrone, where the rest of her family lives.

After a varied career, that included managing restaurants and singing in a band in Greece, she enrolled at her local college to study beauty therapy. She worked as counter manager for Estee Lauder, as business development manager for Menarys department store chain with 18 stores, and managed three outlets for cosmetics brand, Molton Brown, in Belfast.

When they met, Stephen quickly realised that if he didn't get approval from the whole family, he was gone. Lisa was living with her maternal grandparents, Anne and Patsy, and it was Patsy that Stephen spoke to when he wanted to propose. They ended up drinking too much in celebration, which meant that Stephen wasn't feeling too good the next day when he was due to propose. He popped the question while he and Lisa were enjoying their Saturday tradition of fish and chips in the local cafe with her gran. Well the girls were enjoying it, but our hero was feeling a bit green around the gills. He blurted the proposal across the table, and Lisa accepted. "Nan was chuffed because she could get her house decorated forever with him in the family,'' laughs Lisa.

They were married in February 2008 in Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown, and their kind family came together to organise and pay for it. "My nana picked and paid for my wedding dress so I didn't even choose it," says Lisa. "Nana knew what she wanted me to look like and it was beautiful. I didn't know who was on my guest list, and I didn't send invitations, as my aunt Mary did all of that. Doing it that way made everyone feel so included."

Lisa and Stephen now have a son Lorcan (8) and a daughter, Aoibheann (7). Two years ago, Lisa and her friend Linda Stinson decided to go into the beauty business together and launched Bellamianta tan. "We saw a gap in the market for 'clean' products," Lisa explains. "Linda and I knew what we wanted in our formula and we also wanted it to be vegan-friendly. It was important to us that it was made in Ireland, and we found this lovely factory in Mayo where everyone is amazing. We have been very hands-on in the process. Our first order was for 5,000 bottles, which was a lot of money for us as we've self-financed all the way up. Our husbands, Stephen and Jason, have been amazing too." The women were terrified that the products wouldn't sell, but within six weeks, they had sold out. The tan doesn't smell, dries in 60 seconds and gives a gorgeous colour. They now have a full range of nine products including a brilliant mitt and body shimmer oil, and there are six more in development. The brand has become so popular it is now stocked in 3,500 locations, and they are steadily making their way into the UK. "Independent pharmacies and salons made us," says Lisa. "They were so willing to take a chance on a new brand."

Stephen is delighted for Lisa that the brand is doing so well. She's still the fiery, passionate girl he met in 2006, and he says that she deserves success as she puts everybody before herself. "I'm not driven by financial reasons," Lisa says. "I measure success by family, happiness and doing something you love."

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