Wednesday 22 November 2017

'Cathriona was a tough and committed footballer before she left LA for movie dreams'

Cathriona White's tragic death is no Hollywood drama but a real heartache for her family

Cathriona White pictured chatting to her pals
Cathriona White pictured chatting to her pals
HAPPY DAYS: On Malibu beach with Jim Carrey
Cathriona kitted out in her local club jersey of Cappawhite
Cathriona White with her best pal Jenny Burpee
Cathriona looking very LA
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The story of Cathriona White has played out across the world like a Hollywood tragedy; the beautiful Irish country girl trying to make it in Los Angeles who caught the eye of one of the biggest movie stars in town; a doomed love affair, all underscored by a reported dalliance with a religious cult.

The reality of the 30-year-old's death by suspected suicide last Monday night is a bleak, dark and devastating affair for her family and the tiny Tipperary community from which she came.

Cryptic messages announced her withdrawal from social media. Concerned friends drove around to her lovely rented home and found Cathriona dead, a bottle of pills nearby and a note mentioning her on-and-off-again millionaire-actor boyfriend Jim Carrey, who has battled his own demons.

Her family back home in Tipperary received the news of her death as dawn broke over the village of Cappawhite on Tuesday morning. The shock of her sudden passing and the manner of it seeped out through the village through her siblings, her uncles, aunts and cousins, all living locally.

Her father Pat, died three years ago, of brain cancer. Her mother Brigid, from whom he was separated, has been living in the UK.

By Wednesday Brid, the girls' stepmother, and Cathriona's sister Lisa were on their way to Los Angeles to bring their beloved Cathriona home.

There will be an autopsy, forms to fill in and belongings to collect before she is returned to her home village.

Read More: Carrey's prescription drugs found at tragic makeup artist's bedside - Police

There, she will be laid to rest beside her late father, Pat, in a funeral arranged by her uncles, who run the family undertaking business founded by her grandfather, James.

Cathriona grew up in Cappawhite, one of Brigid and Pat White's three children, amongst a large extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles who lived within spitting distance of each other's homes and were all avid GAA supporters.

Cathriona kitted out in her local club jersey of Cappawhite
Cathriona kitted out in her local club jersey of Cappawhite

After her parents divorced, her mother moved to England.

Cathriona, her sister, Lisa, and brother, James, stayed in Cappawhite with their father, who married Brid.

Read More: A secret life out of the limelight

Lisa became a nurse. Their brother James joined the British army after being turned down in Ireland and was awarded the Military Cross by the Queen in 2011 for his heroism while serving in Afghanistan.

Cathriona trained as a beautician at Limerick College of Further Education.

Cathriona was a dogged footballer all her life. She played for Cappawhite as a child, then Newcastle and then Clonmel Og.

"She was a hardy footballer. She was very slight but extremely tough," said Eamon Ryan, who coached her at all three clubs. "She was absolutely committed. She played it like she gave it all she had.

"She was an active and athletic lady, she was up for the game and up for training and up for the match," said the local Independent TD Mattie McGrath, whose daughter played on the same team.

Her determination continued off the field. She worked in Clonmel and travelled under her own steam to Kilkenny on her days off to get experience.

"She was very determined. It shows how driven she was," said Eamon Ryan.

Read More: An LA tragedy closer to home than we might think

Cathriona's ambitions far exceeded what provincial Ireland could offer. At the age of 23, she moved to Los Angeles, hoping to work in the movies as a make-up artist. It was a big leap that showed determination in one who seemed so fragile and unassuming.

Using nothing more than a handful of contacts, she freelanced as a make-up artist, signed up for acting classes, and "roomed" with other girls on a similar track to hers. She made her acting debut in the Online Games TV series in 2010, playing a female customer. She landed her first full-time gig on the show in 2011, not as an actress but as a make-up artist, later graduating to special-effects make up.

There were reports that she was "undocumented". When her father died on September 26, 2012, Cathriona was unable to travel home for his funeral, according to the local parish priest, Fr Tadgh Furlong. But she did make it home for her sister's wedding in Ireland a year later.

Cathriona met Jim Carrey (53) reportedly on a film set the year her father died.

The millionaire comedian also battled with depression and in interviews he had talked of living in a "low level of despair". He was twice married, had an adult daughter around the same age as Cathriona and a string of famous ex-girlfriends, such as January Jones and Renee Zellweger.

When Cathriona first started appearing as the actor's mystery date, the gossip sites went crazy to know who she was. One gossip blogger breathlessly revealed the identity of this "brunette beauty": "With her killer body and beautiful face, 26-year-old Cathriona had many assuming she was a model but that is not the case. She actually does make-up in Hollywood."

If gossip sites expected her to milk her association with the actor, Cathriona did the opposite. She continued to plough her own furrow, independently of Carrey.

Her official credits include a short film called Firefly and in 2013 on another short called Solitude. But she did lots of other work that she wasn't credited for.

One agency, PlatformPR, posted a tribute online: "She did so much for our clients, often for no pay, without hesitation and saved us so many times for shoots. She will be missed and was greatly loved."

Scrolling through her social media postings, Cathriona comes across as being into music and food, slightly mystical and up for fun - maybe not a million miles from Carrey.

She posted messages and photos of her family back home, her seven nieces and nephews, sending her love; she photographed the food at restaurants and composed photographs accompanied by words of poetry or wisdom.

One of her friends, Angela, posted a video online after Cathriona's death to show her "fun side", doing moves and dancing. With her huge brown eyes and tiny heart-shaped face, she looks like a young Winona Ryder.

"It took me all day to finally say something about the beautiful soul that Cat is," her friend wrote. "This video shows her fun personality and what a joy she was to have in company. She is someone who was always there for her friends; kind, giving, thoughtful, talented and one of the best human beings you will ever come across."

Cathriona and Carrey reportedly split in March 2013, but by May this year, they were back together, strolling in New York hand in hand.

Judd Weiss, an estate agent who said he was her friend, told People magazine last week: "The last time I saw her in May, she had just gotten back from New York with Jim Carrey and she was happy about it."

They were still together when her sister, Lisa, came to LA on holiday with her husband, Liam, during the summer. Cathriona didn't talk about Carrey on social media.

"She was very friendly and very sweet, very considerate and thoughtful of others, but at the same time very private and fairly shy. She didn't like to be centre of attention and avoided that," her friend Weiss told the magazine.

"In fact, very few people knew she was dating Jim Carrey. Every once in a while, someone would ask me, 'Is it true that Cat is dating Jim Carrey?' and I wouldn't even give a straight answer because it seemed like she just didn't want anyone to talk about it."

Few people knew about her reported involvement with the cult outfit, the Scientologists, either. An online blogger and Scientology watcher reported last week that Cathriona had been involved for years and was attending classes at the Scientology Celebrity Centre in LA. She had completed a "purification rundown" course and had started the "survival rundown" with a small-time actor and poker player called Travis Case.

Back home, neighbours and friends in Cappawhite had never heard her mention scientology, nor were there concerns for her mental health. Three months ago, Cathriona moved into Sherman Oaks, a detached, whitewashed house with swimming pool and lovely views. Properties like this rent for $5,000 (€4,500) a month and sell for over €1m.

Her tweets and photos over the last two months alternate between sharing moments of fun and feeling glum. From snaps of a "loopy" and "nuts" brunch with her two girlfriends to tonsilitis a few days later and then images of getting vitamins through a drip.

On Wednesday, September 23, it seemed that Cathriona's mood had turned.

She posted a photo of herself in a yoga pose and referred to "getting fit". At 3.42pm, she posted lines by another romantic, WB Yeats: "Faeries, come take me out of this dull world, For I would ride with you upon the wind..."

She posted her final tweet at 4.59pm on Thursday, September 24, the day she reportedly broke up with Carrey: "Signing off Twitter, I hope I have been a light to my nearest and dearest." Whatever thoughts Cathriona had after that, she chose not to share them on the twitttersphere.

A gardener, Frank Nakama, said he spoke to her the next day and she was polite and quiet, as she usually was.

She was not seen again until she was discovered by her friends on Monday evening, along with a note that mentioned the break-up with Carrey. In a statement, Carrey said he had been hit by a lightening bolt and mourned "my sweet Cathriona", "a truly kind and delicate Irish flower, too sensitive for this soil and to whom loving and being loved was all that sparkled".

On Thursday, he met her sister, Lisa, and was later photographed collecting boxes from Cathriona's LA home.

Carrey's celebrity status has drawn huge international attention on a terrible bereavement for the White family. For the media, the tragedy of the beautiful brown-eyed Irish girl and the big-shot actor has been hard to resist.

In a statement, the White family has asked for privacy. They have also answered Cathriona's final question.

She was a light to her nearest and dearest, a "shining light in our lives who was loved deeply by her entire family".

Anybody affected by suicide can contact Pieta House at

Sunday Independent

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