Wednesday 26 June 2019

A bright future: Missy Keating talks growing up on tour and dealing with her parents' divorce

In her first solo interview, Missy Keating — who is launching her modelling career exclusively with this LIFE cover shoot - talks to Liadan Hynes about dealing with rejection; growing up on tour; how she handled her parents' separation; ambition, and her plans for the future

(L to R) Ronan Keating, Storm Keating, Ali Keating and Missy Keating attend the 8th Global Gift Gala London in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity at Corinthia Hotel London on November 18, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
(L to R) Ronan Keating, Storm Keating, Ali Keating and Missy Keating attend the 8th Global Gift Gala London in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity at Corinthia Hotel London on November 18, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Missy wears: Hoodie, Palm Angels; skirt, The Kooples, both Brown Thomas. Photo: Kip Carroll
Missy wears: Bandeau, adidas at Topshop. Boiler suit, Topshop. Underwear, Missy's own. Photo: Kip Carroll
Missy wears: Jumpsuit, Topshop. Photo: Kip Carroll
Missy Keating at the 2018 Marks & Spencer Ireland Marie Keating Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. Picture: Kieran Harnett
Jack, Ali, Ronan, Missy and Storm Keating at the 2018 Marks & Spencer Ireland Marie Keating Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. Picture: Kieran Harnett
Ronan and Storm Keating with Jack, Missy and Ali Keating and baby Cooper. Picture: Instagram

Liadan Hynes

Missy Keating and her family always knew that she was going to be a performer. Where her older brother, Jack, was into rugby, and her younger sister, Ali, is a passionate animal-lover, Missy was always the entertainer of the three children of Yvonne Connolly and Ronan Keating.

She's now 18, and in person, Missy is a mix of Miley Cyrus and Stranger Things actress Natalia Dyer. She's an exact blend of her parents: she has the piercing blue eyes and perfect jawline of her mother, Yvonne, a former model, now TV presenter and cook. Yvonne accompanies her daughter on the interview and shoot - "My momager," Missy teases at one point. The teenager also has an overall strong resemblance to her father, Boyzone frontman Ronan.

She is both a fun-filled teenager and wise beyond her years - one minute, she's bounding about the place, bear-hugging her mother, asking if they can go to McDonald's after the shoot; the next, she's a calm, unfazed presence, clearly at ease in a professional environment. She has always been like this, her mother tells me. Articulate, resilient, ambitious and quietly confident. Able for the professional world she entered aged 10, as an actress.

"Every audition is experience, whether you get it or not," Missy tells me, displaying the kind of Teflon attitude most adults spend years developing. "Nothing's ever really going to stop me. I think everything is experience. You can't do anything without gaining something from it."

Missy wears: Hoodie, Palm Angels; skirt, The Kooples, both Brown Thomas. Photo: Kip Carroll
Missy wears: Hoodie, Palm Angels; skirt, The Kooples, both Brown Thomas. Photo: Kip Carroll

Growing up, there were guitar and dance lessons. The Keating siblings spent their early years on tour with their parents and their father's band, Boyzone. What was Missy like as a child? She bursts out laughing. "I was a missy. I still am a missy. Growing up, we were all over the place; touring with my dad all the time. That was not a normal childhood, obviously. I remember my eighth birthday; the O2 in London, I think it was, sang Happy Birthday to me."

For Missy, growing up with a famous parent was her normal. "That's how it's been since I can remember. Boyzone just did their last tour recently, and I went to a few of their gigs. I sat back for the first time and looked around and I was like, 'All these people are here to see my dad', and that's amazing, and I'm so, so, so proud of him. But growing up, it was just never a thing that like, 'This is so weird'. Because it was all I knew."

The touring stopped when the children started school; after that, they would only accompany their father during the holidays. "So from the age of one to five, we toured 24/7. When we started school, Malahide was our base. In the summer, we would tour," she says.

Two worlds

Moving between the two worlds, from touring, to school was, she reflects, challenging at times.

"It was the same thing with acting. I was travelling around with a tutor, and I had six weeks off, and then I had to go back to school. And it was awful. But I mean that's just kind of what it's been like from the very start."

It was in Australia, at the age of eight, that Missy realised she wanted to be an actress.

"My dad filmed his first movie in Australia, and we went over. I was on set 24/7, and I was like, 'This is just amazing'." When the family returned to Ireland, Missy signed with her father's agency. Aged 10, she and her parents went to LA, where she did a two-week summer camp with The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. It gave her, she says now, the beginning of a sense of the knowledge and training she felt she needed as she headed into the auditions set up by her new agents.

"Before that, I hadn't really done much acting. This gave me a lot more knowledge about the whole thing. The camp was absolutely amazing. LA is my favourite place in the whole world. Everything about that place is amazing, from the shopping, to the food, to the people."

Seeing Missy perform at the end-of-camp show was a turning point for her parents, who could see the drive and determination in their eldest daughter. That same year, things would also change dramatically for Missy and her family, when Ronan and Yvonne separated.

"I had some really amazing people in my life, and close family that were able to support and distract Jack, Ali and me," she says now. "I always felt loved. Acting was also a great outlet for me, and I'm very grateful I had that. Over the years, more great people have entered my life, like John [Conroy, her mother's partner] and Storm [Keating, her stepmum], and I now have the most adorable little brother, Cooper. We're a modern family. I'm a modern girl."

Missy wears: Jumpsuit, Topshop. Photo: Kip Carroll
Missy wears: Jumpsuit, Topshop. Photo: Kip Carroll

On returning home from LA, Missy auditioned for Dark Touch, an Irish/Swedish supernatural horror. Ten-year-old Missy landed the lead, playing a survivor of a massacre in which her family was killed. "I had to dye my hair black, and it was a horror film," she laughs. They filmed for three weeks in Dublin, and three weeks in Sweden; her mum came as her chaperone.

"John Conroy filmed that," she says, referring to her mum's partner, a highly respected director of photography. "We met John, and my mom met John, so that film will always be special to us." Missy and Yvonne share a smile over our table of coffee and orange juice. Their closeness is obvious - Yvonne, who gives off the calm air of someone quietly very happy in herself, seems to act as a kind of touchstone for her daughter, who looks to her mother throughout the day for her opinion.

Entering the professional world at the age of 10, not to mention dealing with fame, wasn't the daunting leap for Missy it might have been for other kids. Given her father's huge success, none of this was new.

"I feel like because of travelling, and seeing my dad on stage and that kind of thing, I don't think I really found it that strange. I just loved it, and I felt, 'This is where I'm supposed to be'. It was like, 'This is right; this is normal; this is what I'm supposed to be doing'. Every single day we had early mornings, and I never cared," she says of life on set.

"I cared a lot more when I was getting up for school," she laughs. "I'd go and do a big long day on set, and I'd want to keep going. They would say, 'No, you're only 10. You can't work this many hours'."

Next up was The Sea, a film based on a John Banville book, with a cast that included Ciaran Hinds, Sinead Cusack and Charlotte Rampling. This movie was a lot more challenging, Missy admits. They were filming on Wexford beaches in the winter; for one scene, Missy had to stay in the water, submerging herself fully. And there was the cast of legendary actors. She relished it, though.

But then in third year, the acting came to a halt, albeit a temporary one.

"I had my Junior Cert, and it was like, 'no more acting', because it takes up so much time. I hated it; we had a lot of fights about that," Missy, says, sliding a knowing look at her mother. The two share a throaty chuckle. "Because of the amount of time spent not acting, the love for it faded a little bit. And by the time I finished my exams, I wasn't even that pushed to jump straight back into it. I kind of wanted to see other things."

Singing with dad

She decided to audition for the school musical in fourth year. It was the first time she had sung in front of anyone other than close family. "I used to sing with my dad, just my dad," she shrugs, "And he always said I had a nice little voice, but no one ever thought I would sing properly. When I was auditioning for the school musical, I knew it was just in front of the teachers, but I was so nervous."

It was the pressure, of course, of being Ronan Keating's daughter. As it happened, Missy landed the part, playing best friend to Georgia Gaffney, a classmate who quickly became her real-life best friend, and bandmate.

"She is like me, in another person. It's the first time I properly clicked with someone," Missy says. "And I think I came out of my shell when I met her, and she came out of her shell. She makes me confident in ways, and I make her confident. Like, I never would have sung in a room full of people before I met her." The two formed a band, GGMK, and before Missy knew it, Georgia had convinced her to put up a YouTube video of the two of them singing and Missy playing guitar. This led to a gig, where they played their own songs.

Missy wears: Bandeau, adidas at Topshop. Boiler suit, Topshop. Underwear, Missy's own. Photo: Kip Carroll
Missy wears: Bandeau, adidas at Topshop. Boiler suit, Topshop. Underwear, Missy's own. Photo: Kip Carroll

"It was amazing," Missy recalls. "That was one of the best nights of my life. I was so nervous before I got on the stage, but Georgia convinced me. That 30 minutes was the best time. After that, we did a few more gigs, and then it came to The Voice UK."

Georgia's sister teaches in a singing school in Dublin, which is one of the many sources of talent scouted by The Voice UK. It was organised that Missy and Georgia could also audition. They told no one, and on the day gave their band's name, so no one knew who Missy's father was.

"My mom didn't know, my dad didn't know; nobody knew," she recalls now, flashing a smile in her mother's direction. "Because my dad has done The Voice Australia, and X Factor Australia, I knew he would say no straight away. Because he has worked on it, he has seen the good and the bad that [has happened] to people. And I knew you'd say no because of school," she says, glancing at Yvonne.

Sometime later, the call came. They had made it to the London rounds. All expenses would be paid, there would be voice coaching, styling, and more rounds of auditions before they could hope to get in front of the judges.

"So I remember I came home one day, and I was like 'Mum, I've got such great news'." The pair burst out laughing at Missy's calculatedly enthusiastic presentation of the news. "My mom was amazing; she was so happy. It was the best response.

"Then we had to move on to telling my dad," she continues. "It was my little brother's christening, and I thought I'd do it on a day where Dad was in a good mood. I made sure there were lots of people around. We were in the kitchen; all the family and friends were there. I said, 'Oh my gosh, Dad. I forgot to tell you, I got through to The Voice UK'. He was like, 'What?' And he had to take a second. And after that, he was like, 'I'm really proud of you, that's amazing'. He's always very supportive. He was like, 'I'll always support you no matter what you do. I'm really proud of you. But let's have a chat'."

The chat the next day was an honest outline from her father of exactly what Missy could expect, and how she should be prepared for what might be to come.

"He just talked to me honestly about his experience with it all, and how because of him being him, the show could use who I was. He said it could go either way. They could use me, and I could go through, or they could say, 'Here's Ronan Keating's daughter', and I don't go through. I was pretty nervous before The Voice, because I knew there was a lot of pressure. But I love a challenge."

She loved the performance, was pleased with their standard. Her father's words, and her own natural resilience, seem to have stood to her when they were not chosen by the judges.

"I kind of prepared myself for either way. Beforehand, I had a big chat with my dad, and he was like, 'There's going to be cameras on you 24/7, before and afterwards. So every expression, they'll get. So just know that'."

"The other thing is that I've grown up knowing that everyone's looking, watching, has an opinion," she continues, "So just always be aware of that." Missy says this in a matter-of-fact way that doesn't convey the sense of someone who might feel this as a pressure, rather just as a fact of life to be noted, dealt with, moved on from.

A knock

"So when the audition finished, Georgia was so upset. I was like, 'It's OK. It's not the end of the world. That was an amazing experience, we got so much out of it, we met so many amazing people as well. It was a knock, but it also made us better, and stronger'."

There was a concert in Malahide after The Voice UK, but then the pair began sixth year, and the band was put aside. Missy has won a place in the Gaiety School of Acting, while Georgia plans to go on to study music.

Jack, Ali, Ronan, Missy and Storm Keating at the 2018 Marks & Spencer Ireland Marie Keating Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. Picture: Kieran Harnett
Jack, Ali, Ronan, Missy and Storm Keating at the 2018 Marks & Spencer Ireland Marie Keating Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. Picture: Kieran Harnett

After her course, Missy thinks she might move to London to pursue her acting career. Her father lives there, so she has a familiarity with the city. The move has been a long-term plan, but of late, she's not as sure as she once was. "I've changed a lot in a year," she reflects, "I've lots of really good friends. I appreciate Dublin a lot more than I used to. I don't want to run away yet."

There is a boyfriend here as well. "I've a really good group of friends, and when I go out I'm myself, because I'm comfortable with them. I really don't care about anything any more. It's age, I think. I'm more of a free, go-with-the-flow kind of person. See where the day takes me."

It is in this organic, not-pushed manner that her career as a burgeoning influencer, and now model, has come about. She has just signed to the modelling agency 1st Option, where her career will be guided by agency owner Jules Fallon, a friend of her mother's, who also manages Darren Kennedy and Amanda Byram. A long-time user of Instagram, Missy has a laissez-faire attitude to it - which results in the creation of the unforced type of content that people actually respond to.

"I post just what I want to post," Missy says. "I don't really get much hate. I get a bit from people being negative. I don't ever comment or block. I'm happy with who I am, and the people around me are happy with who I am. I think I've grown a thick skin over the years. I don't really ever read into it, or think about it too much. I've always been, 'If I'm happy with myself, and the people around me that I love are happy with me, that's all I need'."

@missyykeating

@1stoptionmodels

Photography by Kip Carroll

Styling by Liadan Hynes

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

Also in this section