Thursday 22 February 2018

Top 10 Irish photocall models of the Celtic Tiger: Where are they now?

Jenny-Lee Masterson
Nadia Forde in 2008
Louise Kavanagh in 2008
Model Ruth O'Neill poses with a giant cigarette in Dublin to highlight how much carbon monoxide is ingested from smoking.
Emma Quinlan from Castleknock pictured with her pet snake Bubbles
Roberta Rowat
Emma Jane Quinlan
Jenny Lee Masterson in 2007
Suzanne McCabe launching an ice rink
Aisling Pugh for Ianrod Eireann

Holly Shortall

Nothing more perfectly represents the noughties than the Irish model photocall.

Almost always scantily clad, donning their best court shoe and all while holding some manner of oversized promotional material, their job was never an easy one. Come rain, hail, or shine, Ireland’s finest gals could be seen on any given day strutting their stuff up Grafton Street with a photographer snapping away.

With some proclaiming the Celtic Tiger to be making its comeback, we revisited some of the most popular promo girls of the era and dug deep to find out what the Irish beauties are up to now.

1. Roberta Rowat

Model Roberta Rowat promoting potatoes.

The South African was once considered one of Dublin's top models, promoting everything from the lottery to charity events. Slightly sportier than the average model with girl-next-door good looks, she was most likely to be found posing outside St Stephens Green park wearing a football jersey and shorts. Now living the high life in New York with a husband and new baby, Ada Mac, we imagine her days as Irish promo model are long forgotten.


2. Aisling Pugh

Aisling Pugh for Ianrod Eireann

Nothing screams ‘Iarnrod Eireann Rail Rewards’ like a glam blonde in an LBD perched on top of a turnstile at Connolly Station next to an unidentified man wearing a giant cardboard train ticket.

Once signed to Assets, the former model featured heavily in media during the noughties, but gave up modelling in 2010, choosing to go back to college. She is now working as primary school teacher.


Nadia Forde at the Lynx Fever Brazilian Beach Party 2009

Type ‘Irish Model Photocall’ into Google image search and prepare to be bombarded with photos of Miss Forde. Possibly the most in-demand promo girl of the '00s, advertising anything and everything from crisps to betting agents, Nadia built up a solid modelling profile in Ireland before launching herself in the UK on last year’s ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Get Out Of Here’.

Currently ‘Chasing The Dream’ on TV3, the model/singer is more in demand than ever and still models regularly. She recently paid homage to her 2009 Tayto photoshoot by helping launch the company’s new chocolate bar in 2013.


4. Georgia Salpa

Georgia Salpa in 2009

Once heralded as Ireland's answer to Kim Kardashian, the Greek-born beauty spent the majority of her early modelling career posing in a bikini on Grafton Street.  With her dark, exotic looks, she stood out amongst the bevy of blonde Irish models and as a result was booked almost daily.

Her most controversial press call to date was in 2009, when she posed in her smalls with the fully dressed Chef Nevin Maguire and his team for Food & Wine magazine, prompting a national radio debate on Liveline.

Breaking thousands of hearts across the country, she announced her engagement to millionaire Joe Penna in 2013, with the two due to tie the knot later this month.


5. Suzanne McCabe

Suzanne McCabe launching an ice rink

Without a doubt one of Ireland's most hardworking photo call girls of the time, Suzanne proved just how challenging it is to be a model in Ireland when in 2009, her lung collapsed after back-to-back bikini photo shoots in the rain. She vowed not to give up her job, and went on to become the only Irish face of PETA’s anti-fur campaign later that year.

She now works for a global consultancy firm and still occasionally models.


6. Jenny Lee Masterson
Jenny Lee Masterson in a photocall with Brian O'Driscoll in 2007

Like many Irish models, Jenny’s career began when she competed in Miss Ireland, and she was soon one of our most in-demand models, featuring in photo shoots, press calls and  catwalk shows across the country. In 2008, she began her acting career playing Tinkerbell in the Cheerio’s Christmas Panto, and in 2013 said the highlight of her career was gallivanting around the Irish countryside without any clothes on for a photography exhibition.

She is now signed to Fraser Modelling and Acting agency and recently starred in a devised theatre piece, Borrowed Time, in the Pearce Centre Theatre in Dublin.


7. Emma Quinlan
Emma Jane Quinlan

The model/professional snake charmer was a staple on the Irish modelling scene, with herself and beloved pet snake Squirt working together as duo.  Emma was devastated when Squirt passed away in 2013, but not before an appearance on The Saturday Night Show when they performed a trick called ‘The Kiss of Death’, where Emma stuffed Squirt's head into her mouth, leaving the audience in shock. Still working as a model, Emma recently spoke about her ‘sadness’ at the demise of the famous red-top Page 3 Girls.


8. Sara Kavanagh

Sara Kavanagh launched Abrakebabra's 'Kids Meal Deal' in 2008

No Irish model list would be complete with a mention for Sara.  In 2008, she was chosen to represent Ireland as a Red Bull Formula Una at the Monaco Grand Prix after which she appeared in the British TopGear Magazine. She was also awarded “Best Irish Model” by The Irish Daily Mirror – no mean feat.

Not just a model, Sara has a degree in Make-Up Artistry and opened her salon, MudPie Beauty Boutique in Dundrum in 2010.


9. Louise Kavanagh

Louise Kavanagh dons her average workwear.

Model/DJ/Hostess/Actress/ Mum – is there anything Louise can’t do? The former Playboy girl's career began in 2008, when like so many before, she qualified for Miss Universe Ireland. Signed to Assets, she became a tabloid favourite and was rarely seen in anything more than a bikini. The new mum proved her credentials when she continued to work at a bordello-style venue, Ruby's, as club hostess throughout the pregnancy.

She is now one of UK and Ireland’s most in demand DJ’s, opening for the likes of Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia.



10. Ruth O’Neill
Model Ruth O'Neill launches Garbage to Gorgeous, a recycling awareness initiative, in 2008

A late arrival to the Noughties modelling scene, the New York born, Dublin raised blonde first came to our attention in 2009 when she competed on TV3’s reality show Total Xposure, a search for the next Xpose presenter.

The 26-year-old beauty was devastated when she narrowly lost out on the prize and decided to move to LA to try her hand at hitting the big time. She soon landed a prestigious job as a news assistant on ABC TV. Currently working as a reporter for E!News, interviewing the likes of Alexa Chung and Kelly Rowland, it appears Ruth has had the last laugh.


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