'We come in to this world with nothing and go out the same, so who is anybody to judge anyone else?'
'MAYBE people think that I'm going to be a diva, but when they meet me, they see that I'm genuinely not. Even Gerald had that perception at first, but he changed his mind within two minutes of talking to me.
"I'm very easy about everything, and am not demanding when it comes to things like photo shoots, for example, looking for particular hairdressers or make-up artists – I just go with the flow. I'm very laidback and am not contentious or opinionated at all."
I'm having a champagne afternoon tea in The Shelbourne with Lisa Murphy, and am querying why opinion on her is so divided? While I personally think she is adorable, funny, gentle, kind and hugely genuine, and have never encountered anyone who comes away from meeting Lisa with a single bad word to say, there is a very annoying perception among some people that she is some class of a gold-digger or airhead. Is it because she is blonde, busty and beautiful, and her current, and two previous, fiances are all well-known men? And does it upset her that some people have a preconceived notion of what she is actually like?
"Well, even if anything pejorative is written about me, I know who I am as a person," she smiles. "I have immense dignity and morals that were instilled in me by my parents. I don't know whether people look at me and think I'm going to be all about myself, but although I like to keep myself well groomed and look a certain way, that's not the most important thing to me in life.
"My family and friends come first for me, and they get very upset if they read nasty things about me. Gerald [Kean] gets upset and emotional about it, most of all. He's very protective and goes on the defensive, whereas I wouldn't bat an eyelid. We all come in to this world with nothing and go out the same way, so who is anybody to judge anyone else? I remember where a member of staff, a lovely Filipino lady, kept calling me Miss Lisa. And I told her just to call me Lisa, but she wouldn't and I was embarrassed as I'm no better than she is and treat everyone the same. So I called her Miss Eleanor."
While the falsity of some perceptions enrages anyone who actually knows her, Lisa is wise enough to know that responding publicly is always a bad idea. Even around the time of the launch of her former fiance and Lord of the Dance star Michael Flatley's autobiography, when some upsetting and disrespectful remarks were made, she refused to comment and has never spilled the beans on this or any other relationship. It is simply not her style, and a credit to her classiness that she never retaliates. Does it not drive her mad to remain so discreet the whole time, even in the face of severe provocation?
"If you have nothing good to say about somebody, I suggest you say nothing at all," she says. "If I've been in a relationship with somebody, what went on between me and them is private. When I see other people commenting on their relationship break-ups, I just think they're lashing out through hurt, and they should take the time out to get through it themselves. You grieve for someone if you've been with them for a certain amount of time, so it's best not to say anything you might regret."
To those who may not know her background, Lisa (41) grew up in Ballinteer, with her older brother Paul, and younger siblings, Noel and Kira. Paul was fine when he was born, but suffered brain-damage following a vaccination, which was a devastating shock for Lisa's parents, Des and Eileen.
"I have the most amazing mum and dad, and we were so wrapped up in cotton wool growing up, maybe because of Paul," she says. "We were very sheltered and spoilt – in a good way. Mum was the disciplinarian and I couldn't mess as a child as Paul would emulate me, and although she says now that she was probably a bit strict, I don't remember that as I had an amazingly happy childhood. And I have always been very close to my dad and am very like him."
In 1995, when he was only 25, Paul was knocked down and killed by an ambulance outside his school, St Michael's House in Cheeverstown, which was heartbreaking for the whole family. "We were all devastated," says Lisa.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with it. The house revolved around Paul, and mum had to fight her whole life for him around getting schooling and services. She protected him and minded him so well. It was lucky that mum and dad were so close and united, as losing him was so hard for them, and they moved out of our house for a couple of years as mum didn't want to be in the house. Everything reminded her of him."
Contrary to the image of her as a glamorous, outgoing girl who is happy in the limelight, Lisa is actually quite shy. Her sister Kira used to tease that she was the "biggest square", growing up, with her pleated skirt down to her ankles, but she didn't drink, hid in the bathroom at slow sets and didn't even go to her debs. She was so shy that her best friend Rachael was gobsmacked when Lisa took part in RTE's Celebrity Jigs 'n' Reels, having wagered a year's salary that Lisa Murphy wouldn't dance on live TV.
"I was very quiet and had only a couple of friends, whereas Noel and Kira had a wealth of friends," she says. "My mum had to ask the school principal if I could be excused from reading out loud in class, as I'd be hyperventilating with nerves. I struggled terribly with shyness, especially around boys, having gone to an all-girls primary school. I don't know how I ever dated at first as I was afraid to kiss boys, and my first real boyfriend was when I was 18. And then I just landed in the limelight all of a sudden, out of nowhere, and I wasn't seeking it, but it was full on from then."
Lisa went on to study accountancy at Dublin Business School, and met boxer Joe Egan at the Club 92 nightclub. They dated for nine years, and Lisa lived between Belfast and Dublin for that time. While Joe was working in the UK, Lisa resumed her studies and worked in accountancy in Dublin, which she loved, and after they broke up, she met dancer Michael Flatley in Lillie's Bordello. They dated for six-and-a-half years.
"I always tell my girlfriends that they won't meet a man in a nightclub, although I met two of my three in clubs," she laughs. "I didn't know much about Michael when I met him, as I had been living in Belfast and hadn't seen Eurovision. We travelled around the world, but it was all about Michael and his career really, and I was there to support him. My mum was a stay-at-home mum and supported dad in his career, so I grew up not knowing anything else."
Several months after Lisa called time on her engagement to Michael, a woman approached her in the bar of the Four Seasons, and said that her friend and celebrity lawyer, Gerald Kean, would like to meet her.
While she said 'no' initially, they got talking and Lisa recalls how Gerald was the quietest and shyest she has ever known him to be. She didn't know who he was, but found him charming and a gentleman. He asked for her number and they went on a date, and that was seven years ago.
What might surprise people, who think Lisa's world is a never-ending round of champagne drinking and going to balls, is that she is an astute businesswoman who runs her beauty salon, New Lisa Life, in Sandycove. She also recently started working three days per week in The Hospital Group (www.thehospitalgroup.ie), which provides cosmetic and weight loss surgery, as well as non-surgical procedures such as Botox, fillers, laser and skin treatments.
"I'm a patient consultant, so I talk to people who have made a decision about changing a part of their body they are unhappy with," she says.
"I am well qualified to talk about it, as I had a breast augmentation in my 20s. I got mine done because I was quite shy and embarrassed when it came to intimacy, and I felt inadequate. It made a huge difference to my confidence, and I have no regrets.
"While surgery isn't for everyone, I am very much into how people feel, and it's great to see how happy and confident they are afterwards and how much happiness it adds to their lives. Everyone has hang-ups with their bodies, and who is anyone to judge someone if they want to feel better."
Lisa says that she is confident in her looks now, but goes to the gym regularly and has had fillers in her lips, as she felt they were too thin. She owes her perfect smile to a recent trip to Budapest, because years of drinking fruit juices and teeth whitening had damaged the enamel on her teeth.
"I went to a few places here for crowns, but the quotes were very expensive," she says. "I earn my own money, and I'm quite frugal and don't just squander it. Gerald offered to pay, but I said no, as it was too dear, so I went to Kreativ Dental in Budapest (www.dentalplusireland.eu). It was 60-70 per cent cheaper there and the quality and service was amazing. Thomas, the agent here from Dental Plus Ireland, arranged my trip, and I haven't stopped smiling since I came home."
She has something else to smile about, as while they have been a bright light on the Irish social and charity scene for many years, Gerald and Lisa split earlier this year, but are now happily back together. There have been so many on-off stories in the press, so what is the latest on the wedding?
"Things are great," she says. "We are enjoying each other and the engagement is back on. We haven't made any plans for the wedding yet, but watch this space. I'd rather not say anything until we have a concrete plan – sure we could be hit by a bus tomorrow.
"Gerald is very kind and genuine, and doesn't take himself seriously. He's a giver, and is great for doing charity work, and is a very happy, fun, gregarious solicitor."
Gerald has a daughter Kirsten (17) from his previous marriage, and Lisa loves children, so are they planning to have a family?
"I have a dream of having children one day, and have fabulous nieces, nephews and godchildren that I love and adore," she says. "People might presume that I'd be out on the town, but for my birthday this year I had a sleepover with my nieces and nephews, Sophia, Alanna, Charlie, Megan and Josh, and my friend Rachael's children, Lauren, Sarah and Matthew. It was the perfect night."