Sunday 13 October 2019

Life after Brian: Vogue Williams on finally moving on and why relationships are tricky

Vogue Williams wears: Playsuit, Topshop, all jewellery throughout, Vogue's own. Photo: Aaron Hurley.
Vogue Williams wears: Playsuit, Topshop, all jewellery throughout, Vogue's own. Photo: Aaron Hurley.
Vogue wears: crop top, Helmut Lang; skirt, Isabelle Marant Etoille; both Brown Thomas
Vogue Williams at the opening night of the musical "The Commitments" at The Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Vogue Williams arriving for the Lady Garden Campaign launch at TopShop Oxford Circus
Brian McFadden and Vogue Williams in 2013
Vogue Williams hits the beach in a black bikini in Ayia Napa. Picture: Splash News
Vogue Williams at the IFTA gala television awards ceremony held at the DoubleTree Hilton, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren
Workaholic: Model Vogue Williams Photo: Kip Carroll
Vogue Williams
Vogue wears: Crop top, Helmut Lang; dungarees, See by Chloe, both Brown Thomas. Photo: Aaron Hurley

Sarah Caden

Vogue Williams is being good today.

At the weekend she "went completely nuts", so now she's having matcha tea and a bottle of water in the city-centre cafe where we meet. It was Vogue's birthday the previous weekend, she turned 31, and - as is fitting in her current, two-city life - she celebrated in both London and Dublin.

"I went crazy. I had a wild night on Friday with my friends in London and I had the hangover of death for, like, two days afterwards, I couldn't have eaten enough food if I tried. So I'm trying to be healthy again now," she laughs, cradling her cup of steaming, super-healthy tea.

"There was pizza. There was this horrible fried breakfast that my friend went out and got and it was, like, all done in the same deep-fat fryer, with chips on top of it. I was, like, 'Ugh, that's not a fry', but I ate it anyway. I just ate loads of crap that I wouldn't normally eat, and I felt a bit sick at the end of the weekend."

Vogue wears: crop top, Helmut Lang; skirt, Isabelle Marant Etoille; both Brown Thomas
Vogue wears: crop top, Helmut Lang; skirt, Isabelle Marant Etoille; both Brown Thomas

Vogue isn't one to beat herself up about it, though. That's a strict policy with her. "No," she says. "I went out with my auntie and my sister in Howth last night because it was my birthday dinner over here, and I don't think you can be too hard on yourself."

Still, as we sit surrounded by shopping bags, three days before Vogue is both nominated for [the Gala Rising Star 2016] Ifta and due to present an award at the show, she's healthily prepping to look her best on the red carpet.

"Today I'm going home to Howth and training, with a trainer," she says, and then she'll be "good" for the rest of the week. There is a dress to fit into for the Iftas, after all.

"I kept my head down this year and just worked really hard," Vogue says, "and I feel like it's paying off. Even with the nomination I was so delighted to be acknowledged by something so amazing as Ifta. I wasn't even invited to the ceremony five years ago, and now I'm on my second year presenting and I'm up for an award; it's a really nice feeling.

"It's nice when the hard work pays off, because sometimes it's difficult; you're away filming here, or in the UK and in hotel rooms on your own, and you're not with your friends or family. It can get a bit lonely, so you have to feel that it's worth it."

In the end, at the Iftas, Vogue lost out to Al Porter in her category, but she was one of the more modern-age attention-grabbers. Her dress split during the ceremony and she snapchatted pictures of herself, standing in the toilets in her underwear, watching as her gown was stitched up. Welcome to no-holds-barred 21st-Century celebrity, and Vogue Williams's life.

Vogue wears: Crop top, Helmut Lang; dungarees, See by Chloe, both Brown Thomas. Photo: Aaron Hurley
Vogue wears: Crop top, Helmut Lang; dungarees, See by Chloe, both Brown Thomas. Photo: Aaron Hurley

The last time I met Vogue was in May, when she was about to embark on an intense summer, filming her second series of Vogue Williams: On the Edge for RTE and about to take things up a notch in the UK with the start of her semi-regular appearances on Loose Women.

In fact, within a week of us meeting a few months ago, she was making headlines with her Loose Women debut, having discussed bi-curiosity and kissing her female friends as a teenager.

Vogue was already a relatively well-known name in the UK five months ago, but that was due, in great part, to her association with her ex-husband, Brian McFadden.

What has happened in the five months since we met, though, is that Vogue's celeb status in the UK has taken off, on her own merit, and on her own. She's been an outspoken and popular semi-regular on Loose Women and she has even had the obligatory "spotted with" sensation. For the past few months, there has been UK newspaper speculation that she is dating actor Laurence Fox, who is not long out of his marriage to actress Billie Piper.

Vogue is sanguine about all of that. "That speculation doesn't bother me," she says of the talk about Fox, whom she met last year, while they filmed Bear Grylls, Mission Survive. "There's always going to be interest in the first people I see since I've had a very public break-up [with Brian, in the summer of 2015], but that doesn't bother me. And, you know, if I'm spotted out with someone well known, like Laurence, that's going to get attention, too.

"Laurence is a really, really good friend of mine," she says. "He's hilarious and I speak to him every week, but we're just friends. I'm happily single."

Vogue Williams
Vogue Williams

The week after I meet Vogue, she posts on Instagram a picture of herself dining out with Fox, with the message: "All the fun and all the food with my jungle bestie…" There were quotes from "a source" that the pair "consider themselves an item". Vogue's management said there was "no need for further comment" in addition to what she had told me the week before.

In the last few months, it seems like Vogue's career has moved up a gear. She's everywhere, and not just in the Irish papers. She's one to watch, as the Ifta nomination perhaps confirmed.

"Yeah," Vogue says, "My professional life is great, but my private life is medium."

Last April, Vogue told her Dublin friends that she would be out of commission for a few months. She had her TV series to film, she was going to be in London a lot, she was writing an as-yet-untitled lifestyle book, and she just couldn't imagine keeping up a social life at the same time. That was hard for Vogue; she's very committed to her stalwart Howth gang, and dedicated to her sister, Amber, with whom she shares an apartment, and to her aunt, who lives upstairs from the sisters. But it was going to be worth it, says Vogue, and it was, she believes.

"Even my anxiety is better," she says, referring to the paralysing attacks of fear and self-doubt that held her back for years. "It has lessened. I got a little bit of help because I take beta blockers now. They mask the physical symptoms of anxiety; the heart racing, the horrible feeling in your stomach; the fear, basically."

With Vogue, there are no definite triggers for an anxiety attack or general feelings of anxiety, but being happy certainly helps.

Brian McFadden and Vogue Williams in 2013
Brian McFadden and Vogue Williams in 2013

"My anxiety can just come from nowhere; but it's been really good the last few months," she says. "I think exercise helps and finding the balance, and I'm feeling much happier within myself. In my life, it can get a bit lonely when you're not going out with someone and you're working all the time, but I've come to realise that I have such a great family and great friends, and that's a brilliant realisation. I feel happy most days, and it's amazing to be in that place."

For 11 years, from the age of 19, Vogue was in long-term relationships, she reminds me. Her first long-term boyfriend segued into her relationship with Brian McFadden, whom she met in Krystle nightclub in 2011. They met not long after her father Freddie's death and in her previous interview with me, she talked about a desire to run away from her grief, which coincided with falling in love with Brian. She moved to Australia to be with the former Westlifer, who was then a judge on Australia's Got Talent, and they got married in Tuscany in September 2012.

"It's still amazing to me that I was in long-term relationships for 11 years," says Vogue. "I was the last person that was going to happen to. I was the least likely to be in a relationship, and I was all about my nights with the girls, but then I met my first boyfriend and that was it."

She had a lot of fun in her 20s, Vogue says, with both her exes, and she was building a career as a model, DJ, star of Fade Street and TV presenter all the way along. Being married to a pop star kind of took the focus off Vogue for Vogue's sake, though, she concedes. And it has taken hard work to get the focus onto Vogue, singular, again.

In some ways, she might have welcomed Brian's words recently, about them no longer speaking, but maybe she was hurt, too.

"No," laughs Vogue, "because it's the truth. But I'm definitely not going to talk about him in this interview because we are taking it away from that and we're taking it on to me."

Still, I add, it's a long way to come in a few months. The last time we met, she and he were the best of pals and she'd just brought him to Matilda The Musical for his birthday in London. "Well, relationships are funny things," Vogue says, laughing again. "That's why I'm single and loving life.

"I'm not against relationships, but I'm not chasing one," she adds. "I've hardly had time to see my friends; but I have been on a few dates."

As she would have hoped, this past year has been good for Vogue. She and Brian called it quits in the summer of 2015, a few months before she turned 30, and, professionally, she has been on the up since. It could well be the case that she threw herself into work to help her through the transition, but it doesn't seem that way.

Vogue Williams at the IFTA gala television awards ceremony held at the DoubleTree Hilton, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren
Vogue Williams at the IFTA gala television awards ceremony held at the DoubleTree Hilton, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren

Instead, she comes across as a girl who has discovered the value of her own company, the pleasure in thinking only of herself and her career and her dreams.

"I loved this summer," she says, "filming my second series. The crew are, like, really, really good friends of mine and we had such a good time, and I felt so grateful to be making my second series. I couldn't even quite believe I have a second series. All the work in the UK is great, but, like, RTE is my national broadcaster and I am so Irish, and it just really means the most to me."

Vogue tells me that the night before our meeting, she watched an episode of the new series with her aunt. "It was the one about trans[sexuality]," she says, "and my auntie had different questions every minute, and it was so amazing to watch her just learning all this new stuff that I'd thought was so brilliant when we were making it."

While travelling around filming in the summer, Vogue was also writing her book, which will come out later this year, she hopes. She has a name in her head for it, but she's not sharing, though she explains that it's a book of recipes, of fitness tips, fashion tips and beauty advice.

"People ask me so much about what I'm wearing and how I do stuff and about food and training, so it's all in there," she says. Vogue loves the interactive nature of a modern life in the spotlight. She loves social media, doesn't let the trolls bother her, and tries to reply to every generous posting or question asked of her.

"That's part of the job these days, isn't it?" she says. "But then people ask you such weird questions, because they think they know you so intimately. I met a woman at a thing recently and she was asking me about my past relationship and why did it end and how did it end, and I was thinking, 'What?!' But it was just that these days, with social media and Snapchat and all, people think they know you. And that's all part of the job."

What Vogue would prefer, perhaps, is that the person on the street asked her about herself, or about her work, than a past romance. There is this sense to Vogue that she's moved on so much in the past six months that she's impatient for everyone else to catch up. She's not the girl she was a year ago, and definitely not the girl she was five years ago.

"I've always been happy, no matter what stage I was at," says Vogue. "At the time, whenever I was in whatever I was in, I was happy. I was happy in both my long-term relationships, but they're over and it's OK and I have no regrets. You can't have regrets. Because then you'd be looking back and you'd be just devo."

"But I'll be very careful from now on," says Vogue, tellingly.

Things are going so well, she seems to say, that she's not going to take any chances on putting them off course. She's on her own solo course, and it's going well, professionally, so she will be very careful with the personal choices she makes from now on.

No regrets, no beating yourself up and blessed little anxiety in the 2016 world of Vogue Williams, but no taking it for granted, either. There is a time for going nuts and then a time to be good, and she seems to have found a happy balance between the two.

Workaholic: Model Vogue Williams Photo: Kip Carroll
Workaholic: Model Vogue Williams Photo: Kip Carroll

'Vogue Williams: On the Edge' will run for four weeks from November 8, on RTE2, at 9.30pm

Photography by Aaron Hurley

Styling by Liadan Hynes

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