Friday 24 November 2017

'I'm an awkward, nervous person' - Nicola Hughes talks Made in Chelsea and Alex Mytton

She's the Irish girl on E4's posh reality-TV show 'Made In Chelsea'. Nicola Hughes tells our man how, underneath all that bling, she really is 'introverted', and how, even in the face of his love-rat reputation, she trusts her boyfriend, Alex Mytton, saying, 'He's a keeper'. She also admits that now they are living together in London, he has turned the model 'into his mother' when it comes to his dirty washing. Photography by Kip Carroll. Styling by Liadan Hynes

Nicola Hughes: Top, American Apparel. Shorts, Topshop. Shoes, Fitzpatricks. Necklace, Melinda Maria, Arnotts. Photo: Kip Carroll.
Nicola Hughes: Top, American Apparel. Shorts, Topshop. Shoes, Fitzpatricks. Necklace, Melinda Maria, Arnotts. Photo: Kip Carroll.
Nicola wears: Sleeveless coat, River Island. Necklace, Melinda Maria, Arnotts. Photo: Kip Caroll.
Nicola wears: Jumper, Marks & Spencer. Shoes, Fitzpatricks. Necklace, Melinda Maria, Arnotts. Photo: Kip Caroll.
Nicola wears: Top, American Apparel. Shorts, River Island. Necklace, Melinda Maria, Arnotts. Photo: Kip Carroll.
Nicola wears: Jumper; skirt, both Marks & Spencer. Shoes, Fitzpatricks. Necklace, Melinda Maria, Arnotts.
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

It was box office. May 12, 2014: viewers of the E4 hoity-toity reality show Made In Chelsea got to watch Alex Mytton 'fess up to cheating on Binky Felstead, after rumours had been circulating for weeks on the show that something had happened in Scotland.

Alex: "The Edinburgh thing is true. We did have girls back to the hotel room that night, and someone did stay in my room."

Binky: "It's fucking disgusting and I can't believe you haven't told me this before. Again, I've had to find out from someone else."

Alex wasn't finished unburdening his guilt: "Well, there's two other times as well. Away in other cities, I kissed two different girls. I've got stuck down a tunnel of lying."

Broken-hearted Binky: "I'm fucking angry. I'm just going to leave you to it."

Possibly disregarding the general opinion of everyone on the planet that she needed her head tested - and her heart encased in protective steel - Irish model Nicola Hughes has been going out with bling bad boy Alex since late August, 2014.

She's the Irish girl who shot to fame on Made In Chelsea. Even allowing for hyperbole, Nicola is probably the most famous Irish female on TV in the UK after Laura Whitmore.

Her every movement seems to have been documented on social media and in print - be it a swimsuit shoot in Marbella, hanging out in Los Angeles with the other members of Made In Chelsea, or soaking up the rays in the Caribbean with her always topical bf, Alex.

Not quite the stature of Posh 'n' Becks yet, Nic 'n' Alex appear to be going in the right direction towards becoming a brand. Alex gushed to OK! Magazine thus: "I've thought about proposing to Nicola when I've been drunk." While Nicola was quoted as saying: "We've thought about what our kids would look like."

They met in the Naas Court Hotel in Co Kildare in 2014, and almost instantly became love's young dream, with holidays in Marbs and Barbados - on board a private yacht, naturally. Unsurprisingly, their romance was more tropical storm/whirlwind than anything too run-of-the-mill. They seem nuts about each other.

You expect their relationship to be more toxic than it is. Indeed, you expect her to be cagey and say as little as possible when you meet her. In fairness to Nicola, she didn't shirk the big questions about Alex, over lunch in Dublin. She says, when they started going out, she didn't ask him whether he had commitment issues.

"No, I didn't. . ."

Did you have any worries that, because he cheated on his last girlfriend, he might cheat on you? "Obviously, there is always a doubt in every girl's mind that their boyfriend is up to no good," she answers.

"I didn't watch the show. Basically, I met him, told my friends and they were like, 'Oh, Jesus! You need to watch the show. You need to know what he's done'. I was like, 'No, I don't want to. I want to get to know him first'."

"So I gave him a chance and got to know him. Fell for him. Then, eventually, as time went on, I started watching the show and having loads of questions. He was just like, 'I was new to the show. I didn't really know what I was doing. It was a weird environment. Things happen'."

So is he a keeper?

"Yeah. As far as I can see."

Does he feel the same about you?

"Well, he has me living with him," she says, "so I would be surprised if I wasn't a keeper."

The couple's domestic arrangements are enough for a reality show on their own. She loves playing "cringe-y country music", while her reformed love-rat has a thing for slamming house music. They don't, however, fight over the CD player remote control . . .

"I fight over his dirty laundry everywhere. It kills me."

Has he turned you into his mother?

"Literally," she laughs.

"I am turned into a wife or a mother. I guess that's just what happens when you live with someone. I don't slave over him. He has a cleaner. I just do the washing. It is one of my things.

"I don't cook. I don't clean. I tidy. That's just about it.

"If clothes are on the floor," she adds, "I'll pick them up. That really annoys me. I am a bit OCD about how things have to be in certain places. Alex thinks I'm lazy, otherwise. He's lazy. We're both lazy. It's a two-way thing." Laziness aside, Nicola adds that she adores living in Chelsea. "It is so much busier than Dublin. I do love Dublin, and I love coming home, but I can't imagine myself moving back here. In my 30s, maybe," says the 25-year-old.

Would Alex move over with you to Dublin? "His whole life, his career, is based in England. He couldn't really live here. He would love to live in the countryside, but more the English countryside than the Irish countryside.

"I have brought him to Mayo, and I have brought him to a few different random places, but I guess he doesn't know Ireland well enough to want to live here. The English countryside is his home, because he is from Surrey, and he always talks about how much he loves it. So I could imagine him one day having a little cottage in the countryside."

And would you live in the little cottage in the countryside with him?

"Yeah, if we're still together. I'd love the idea of living outside of London."

Guus Hiddink, avert your eyes now: Nicola doesn't support the local football team. "No - I don't support Chelsea Football Club! I follow Man United. My dad is from Manchester!" she laughs, referring to her dad, Des, whom she describes as "Conservative, but quite a funny man". She says that he specialises in "blunt sarcasm". Her "lovely" mother, Rosalyn, is from Cavan. "My parents love Alex."

Even your blunt father?

"Yeah. Alex is the only guy [I have gone out with] that my dad has ever warmed to. Alex is an absolute gent. He hasn't, in the past, come across very well in the show. But he is so charming."

Nicola, who has a younger brother, Daniel, grew up in Sandyford. Despite the relative fame on TV, Nicola admits: "I am very introverted. I'm an awkward, nervous person".

Where does that come from?

"I don't think it really comes from him [her father], because he doesn't really give a shit. My mum can be quite shy sometimes. She is great with people, but she has a lot of shy qualities about her. I've always been, like, a very shy child growing up. Quite nervous. A bit awkward in certain situations.

"It's definitely got better, especially doing what I do. I'm putting myself in situations where I have to go for it. I guess it is good for me to do those sort of things."

When she was at secondary school in Dublin's Alexandra College, Nicola admits that she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life - "and I still don't know".

"In school, I was a bit of a brat," she says. "Not really much of a student, if I'm perfectly honest. My dad kind of put me in the direction that he thought was right, because I didn't really know. So I went and did computing and multi-media for a couple of years, and I started modelling for a while.

"It would have been when I left school at 18. Derek Daniels of Assets Model Agency approached me in Club 92 at a competition thing and asked me to come in. I didn't go in for six months because I was terrified."

What were you frightened of?

"I don't know. It was kind of awkward. Going in and standing there, people judging you, I guess - making their minds up on whether they wanted you or not. So I eventually did that, and then he signed me up, and I stayed with him for quite a few years. Four or five years. Then I went to the Andrea Roche Model Agency, where I am now." she says. "I don't really model too much any more."

She doesn't have time to. She was one of the stars of reality doc Exiles: Vancouver - based in the Canadian city - which aired on RTE last summer.

"I did that for three-and-a-half months," she says. Nicola knew Steve McCormack, one of the producers of Exiles: Vancouver, as she had done some presenting gigs for him - "like Balcony TV online. Then I did the interview for Exiles, and they asked me to come out and do the show."

So you are not as introverted as you think you are?

"I've come out of myself a lot in the past year. Like, when I first went over to film the show in Canada, I couldn't string a sentence together. At my first interview - 'Hi, my name is Nicky Hughes' - I couldn't get that sentence out. It was impossible. But now, I'm fine. I still definitely get nervous and awkward. Presenting, I find quite difficult. Sometimes it flows; sometimes I over-think it way too much, and it doesn't come out, basically."

Be that as it may, doing Exiles: Vancouver "threw me out of my comfort zone. I have lived in my house in Sandyford my whole life. Exiles was my first time moving out and living with five others."

She met Alex at the end of summer in 2014 in Ireland, before she left for Canada. "Then we just started going out. So I met him in August; I was with him for about a month-and-a-half, then I went to Canada for about three-and-a-half months, and we stayed together. He visited me. I actually came home once to visit him. Then I came back to Ireland in December to visit family and stuff. I had a few meetings with Made In Chelsea in December/January. Then I joined the show at the end of January. And I have done it ever since. I had a break for summer when they did the summer special. Now I'm back filming again."

Do you get paid to do Made In Chelsea?

"Oh yeah. I don't just sit there on my ass. You get a lot of things from it as well. You get different endorsements and you do brand promotion. There are a lot of things that come with the show."

How far can you go on Made In Chelsea? Is that what you want to do with your life?

"No. God, no!" she positively shrieks - like Binky, perhaps, discovering her then-boyfriend's infidelities.

"What? Be on Made In Chelsea for the rest of my life! No! I'll never be a massive role in the show because I'm not 'made in Chelsea'. So the reason I joined the show was more to support him [Alex]," she says, "because it was based on his life. It is based on what is going on for him.

"He is the main character in the show, along with a few others. So I was part of his life at the time, so they brought me in, to introduce me as his girlfriend. We filmed a bit together and now we're back filming. I come in and out. I'm not a massive character.

"Made In Chelsea won't, I don't think, be long-term for me, because I'm from Ireland. It's based on the lives of these Chelsea kids. I can come in and out."

Perhaps realising that she is not testing the limits of artistic expression with a career working on Made In Chelsea, Nicola says (and who can blame her?): "I want to do other things.

"I might be working with Steve McCormack again on the new RTE showbiz show, Bounce. I am meeting him to discuss what we can do together. It is something quite different, because I have been doing Made In Chelsea for the past year."

Whatever about reassuringly silly posh names like Binky and Georgia 'Toff' Toffolo, the girls on Made In Chelsea have de rigueur double-barrelled names , such as Victoria Baker-Harber and Lauren Frazer-Hutton, and they all come from good stock.

On the show, the aforementioned 'Toff' once put on a 'student' meal for her chums that included lobster, caviar and Champagne. They appear like a uniformly ridiculous cast of self-obsessed wagons.

I ask Nicola from Sandyford what the other girls in Made In Chelsea think of her.

"They originally were quite cold to me when I first joined. No one would really speak to me, but now they're all lovely. I get on with everyone. So it's good."

She is a fairly forthright young woman. I ask her how she comes across on Made In Chelsea and she laughs and says, "I just moan a lot on the show, if I'm honest. That's all that really gets shown - me fighting with Alex over stupid things, or giving out about something. Things get exaggerated a lot on reality TV. You have to take it with a pinch of salt and not read too much into it."

Despite Alex telling her on the show in June that, "I feel like some space in whatever form would be good", Nicola and Alex seem closer than ever, emotionally and physically.

In August, they were photographed jogging and kissing in a park in London; him with no shirt on and her in skimpy shorts and a tiny top. They appear utterly unable to contain their ardour for each other, especially when they're within selfie range.

Over Christmas, Nicola brought Alex to Co Mayo to get "away from the Chelsea madness. I brought him along the lake and down the Shraigh Beach, where we nearly got blown away. We had dinner in the Broadhaven Bay Hotel," she said, adding that they are going to Marrakesh "in a few days" for a short romantic break before filming of Made In Chelsea starts back for the year. "We're staying in a beautiful castle. I can't wait," Nicola says, going all gooey over Alex.

"He is really nice," she says. "You can't judge a person on a reality show. We all do it. We all judge people on the little bits that we see. You can't, because you never see the full story. You see an hour-long episode on a Monday night. Alex is a great guy."

Could you see yourself getting married to Alex?

"I'm 25. I can't see myself getting married to anyone."

Photographed by Kip Carroll

Styling By Liadan Hynes

Assisted by Claire O'Farrell

Hair by Kelly Keating, Sugar Cubed, Unit 1a, Westbury Mall, Clarendon St, D2, tel: (01) 672-5750, or see sugarcubed.ie

Make-up by Cara Macken, Brown Sugar Blackrock, 36 Main St, Blackrock, Co Dublin, tel: (01) 210-8630, or see brownsugar.ie

Photographed at Odessa Club Dublin, 13 Dame Court, D2, tel: (01) 670-3080, or see odessa.ie. Available for private parties. Restaurant opens Wednesday to Sunday for dinner, and on Saturday and Sunday for brunch

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