Hot Press

SOCIAL MEDIA STAR OF THE YEAR

On the back of her appearance­s in hit reality TV show Made In Chelsea, Nicola Hughes has become a social media sensation. In a hugely revealing interview, she discusses her relationsh­ip with co-star Alex Mytton, her Dublin upbringing, the pressures facing

- Interview: Jason O'Toole | Photograph­y: Kathrin Baumbach

Irish Instagram sensation Nicola Hughes discusses her relationsh­ip with Made In

Chelsea co-star Alex Mytton, the pressures facing teenagers today, coping with anxiety and her ambitions to get into TV presenting.

Video killed the radio star In my mind and in my car, We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far

Pictures came and broke your heart

Put the blame on VCR Instagram is the new kid on the block. And Nicola Hughes is one of its serious players. The former Made in Chelsea reality TV star has a phenomenal 215k followers – and rising.

She has it all going for her: she’s young, blonde (well, sometimes), sexy, has a good sense of humour, is streetwise, smart, ambitious and ballsy. It sounds like I’m writing a POF or Tinder profile here! But there’s something radically different about her on the day she sits down with

Hot Press. If she had wanted to do this interview at a hotel instead of her London apartment, I might have been wandering around looking for this particular tall blonde without much success. “I dyed my hair pink the day before yesterday,” she giggles, running her fingers through her long mane.

“It’s just a wash-in,” she explains. “I look a bit mad! I just fancied a change.”

As she sits down at her kitchen table, Nicola yawns and apologises. “I’m a bit tired this morning!” she says. “The flat beside me had a house party so we didn’t really get much sleep last night. But it’s all good.”

2017 was a good year for the 27-yearold. Nicola – or the “Irish beauty” as she’s referred to in the redtops – lived in Blackrock before her family moved to Sandyford. She did “a bit of modelling” and presenting work and appeared in

RTÉ ’s reality TV show Exiles, filmed in Canada, back in 2014.

Her breakthrou­gh came in 2015 when she appeared on the E4 reality TV show

Made In Chelsea, alongside her then beau Alex Mytton. The two of them met when he was DJ-ing at a disco in Naas. She followed him over to London and bagged a part in the show. “I’ve been here for the last two years,” she says of London. “It’s been great. Made In Chelsea was a bit of a whirlwind. I’m so grateful for having that opportunit­y. It’s given me such exposure.”

She has the world at her feet, if she strikes while the iron is hot. And if she doesn’t play her cards right?

Well, just stick on YouTube and have a close listen again to the lyrics of The Buggles’ song.

Jason O’Toole: How would you describe your younger self?

Nicola Hughes: I was a bit of a nightmare as a child. I’ve been a nightmare my whole life. A delinquent! I hung around with a bit of a bad crowd when I was young (laughs).

It sounds like you had a wild streak. What type of devilment did you get up too?

Oh God! My Dad’s going to kill me! My first incident was at Bondi Beach Club in Stillorgan. I got too drunk so I had to be taken home. I was 15/16. Dad will be mortified I’ve said that. I hung around with a crowd who sent me in the wrong direction for a while (laughs)! Just random house parties in abandoned houses and different things like that.

What steered you onto the straight and narrow?

Dad tried to put me on the right path by sending me to Alex (Alexandra College) in Milltown. I don’t know how well that worked for him (laughs). He was thinking

I’d make a lovely group of friends now from being at Alex.

Were the other girls jealous of the fact that you were very pretty?

I don’t know. There’s always that bitchiness in school. I don’t know whether it’s to do with what you look like or not. But girls are bitchy. I say this about Alexandra College to this day: it’s a very bitchy school. I have some amazing friends from it, but it was a tough school. You have to go into Alex with a backbone and some balls.

Did you get bullied in school?

I did in primary school. I got bullied by older girls. I honestly can’t remember the details, but I remember the girls who did it. I remember coming home crying. I know you said I’m pretty and thank you very much, but I wasn’t exactly the most typical pretty girl as a kid. When I got into secondary school I wasn’t really bullied, but there was bitchiness, horrible bitchiness. Like, that’s so normal: where people would talk shit about you behind your back.

Where you studious?

I wasn’t exactly the biggest bookworm. I was always a bit of a free spirit. I struggled to focus (laughs). And Dad always complains about how much money he wasted sending me there (laughs). And then I went out to IADT. I did computing and multi media – another thing that was completely not for me in any way, shape or form. I struggled to sit at a computer. I’m scatty. I just can’t stay and do one thing. So, that really didn’t work for me. I was in a class with all boys – I was the one little blonde there, with the orange fake tan and just all over the place (laughs).

How important was chasing boys for you?

I was locked up until I was about 18! After that one incident when I was 15 or 16, I was never allowed to stay in a friend’s house ever again. When we used to go to Wesley (Disco), I was dropped and collected at 12 o’clock. If I in anyway looked drunk I was dead! He was a very strict Dad. But I love him for it. And I’ll be the exact same with my kids. Like, I’ll be a freak the minute I have children. They’re not going anywhere

(laughs).

So you’d like to get married and have children?

Definitely. I’m all about getting married and having children. And fingers crossed I can have both. But weirdly I would’ve always said now, this was the time I wanted to meet someone. I know I’m young, but I always thought in my head, ‘I want to make sure I have a boyfriend when I’m 27. I want to get married by 29 and have children by 30. I don’t want to be like in my thirties and having children’. Whereas, I couldn’t think of anything worse now. I’m so content. I’m just proud of myself, if I’m honest. I’m so happy I’m single. Although, when I get to 30 I think I will have a little bit of a panic attack if I haven’t met anyone.

How old were you when you had your first serious boyfriend?

My first serious one was 15/16. Dad hates him to this day. Yeah, Dad actually hates him (laughs). I think he still knows this. I still keep in touch with him. He actually lived in London for a while. That was for about a year. I’ve been in relationsh­ips my whole life. Until this year: which I’m so proud of. Typical, I think, when I’m 27! Girls (normally) freak out when they get to their late twenties and are like, ‘Oh, shit! I need a boyfriend’. But I’m like, ‘I don’t need a boyfriend. I’m very happy alone’. So, yeah, I had a boyfriend when I was 15/16 for about a year. Another boyfriend for four years after that. Then two-and-ahalf years. Then two years. Then single. I’m single over six months. It’s a weight off your shoulders ending a relationsh­ip.

“Men are a negative input in my life. I’m very productive when I don’t have a man in my life."

You become a new person. You do. A new relationsh­ip is good as well (laughs).

You must miss sex?

(Shocked tone) What? I don’t! No! My Dad’s going to have a heart attack! You just get used to it – honestly. Men are a negative input in my life. I’m very productive when I don’t have a man in my life. So, I’m very focused on my career and just being able to be by myself.

Have you drifted from one relationsh­ip to another?

I’ve never been secure enough to be alone.

Like ever. Even at the start of this year when I finished with my ex (Alex Mytton), I’d be on the phone to my Dad every day being like, ‘It’s so lonely. I can’t deal with this’. Blah blah blah. He’s like, ‘Just stop using men as a crutch!’ Because that’s what I would do my whole life: I’d use men as a crutch.

Why?

I don’t know – make myself happy. And now for the first time I actually don’t need it. So, I’m just holding onto it tight. I don’t want to let go of it. Even when I go on dates and stuff I’m like, ‘You’re not good enough’. And usually I’d be like, ‘I don’t care if they’re not good enough: I just want to be in a relationsh­ip’. Which is ridiculous. So, yeah, happy without sex!

Would you be easy to be in a relationsh­ip with?

Ask my exes! I blame them, okay (laughs)! I blame them for making me nuts! I don’t hold back in a relationsh­ip. I’m quite opinionate­d. Once I kind of know they’re in, I’m like, ‘Hey! I can be myself now (laughs)!’ You let the guard down. I am easygoing. Guys who meet me say, ‘You’re actually a lot more chilled, down-toearth than we would’ve thought when you look at your Instagram, or we see what you’ve done’. I am normal and down-to-earth. But I do have my Irish fiery side: so, if someone pisses me off I’m not afraid to say it. I’m very romantic as well. I’m always expecting so much of men.

Did anybody ever propose to you?

I think I have discussed marriage with every single boyfriend I’ve had since I was the age of 15 (laughs). None of them actually proposed, but we discussed it: where we’re going to live, where we’re going to get married, how many kids we’re going to have, all that jazz. I think that happens. It’s stupid though as well, you get so caught up in being in love and you think it’s forever and it’s not.

You broke up with Alex last year.

That was my first public relationsh­ip. So, that was quite intense because I wasn’t used to that world. It was all very overwhelmi­ng. I remember before I went on the show we went back and forth, me and him, talking about it: ‘Can we just fake it? Can we fake the fights? Can we just make it all like so we still have our own little relationsh­ip, our own little bubble?’ That didn’t happen.

Why not?

He’d been doing it for a really long time. You report to the producers every few days or whatever about what’s going on in your lives – and he would just start telling them everything.

I was like, ‘I hate you! Stop! It’s meant to be private’. But eventually you become so public and you just have to go with it. I don’t think I would put a real relationsh­ip on TV again. Or – I don’t think I’d take it very seriously if I was in a relationsh­ip on TV again.

Alex had confessed on national TV to cheating on previous girlfriend­s. Was that not a big concern?

Weirdly, I honestly didn’t watch the show so I didn’t know his past. I remember ringing one of my friends after I met him and they were like, ‘Run a mile! Have you seen the show? Have you Googled him? Google him now!’ I was like, ‘No. I really like him. I don’t want to ruin it’. And they were like, ‘You’re an idiot basically’. But Alex is a nice guy. If you met him you’d be like, ‘He’s such a gent’. He takes the time to speak to you. In a relationsh­ip, he’s hell! But, as a person, he is a lovely guy. So, that’s why basically I fell for him. I chose to ignore everything. A few months in, I remember watching himself and his ex: the break-up; I was like, ‘How did you do that? How did you cheat so much? How did you lie straight to her face?’ And blah blah blah. He said, ‘That was the past. I would never do that again. I’m a new man’. Blah blah blah.

They say a leopard never changes his spots.

He cheated on me and it all just kind of went spiralling downwards. Oh, God! I was devastated. Absolutely.

Your break-up was never aired on the show.

They were filming in Cannes at the time. The producers asked me to fly out and film the break-up. No TV exposure could’ve gotten me out there. I was so upset. I couldn’t do it. I was like, ‘Why would I give them that?’ I was angry at the show as well, because I wasn’t allowed to be on the summer series at the time. So, I had to stay in London. It was a bit of a weird one. That’s just how the show works. So, anyway, I was like, ‘Why would I give them that? Why would I pour my heart out on TV just for their ratings?’ That’s why you never really saw that. I was pretty devastated. But I got over it.

I heard he sent you a text message to breakup.

He did, yeah. He sent me a message when I was in Florence. I was at a wedding. He wasn’t really talking to me for a few days. And I was like, ‘Just tell me what’s going on here?’ It was literally, I think, one sentence. He didn’t reply. I didn’t speak to him for weeks. And then – I was still back in London, maybe three or four weeks, and I had kissed a friend of his and all of a sudden he freaked out!

What did he do?

He was on the first plane home, like panicking, wanting to get back with me. And I said, ‘No’. He had convinced himself that I was the one. And blah blah blah. I said, ‘You think this now because you’re in a panic. I know this is going to change. You’re going to revert back to like how it always is’. Blah blah blah.

Did he only try to get back with you that one time?

There were a few different occasions. We have the same group of friends. I’d see him on nights out and stuff. Yeah, he would try. ‘But no,’ I said, strong. I had been in London for nearly a month then so I’d gotten my confidence back. I got my independen­ce back. I was in a good place. I didn’t want to ruin that.

The British tabloids said you next dated restaurate­ur Jean Bernard Fernandez-Versini, who was married to Cheryl Cole.

We weren’t dating. We met.

Do you think there’s too much pressure on young women to look really good?

100 percent. You said yourself that I’m pretty. And people will look at me as a skinny, witty girl. Every single day, I’m like hating myself in some way – which is mental. It’s so ridiculous. So much pressure – regardless if you’re in this industry or not. Like, just being a young girl on Instagram and comparing yourself to all these skinnier, prettier girls. It’s horrible. I feel so sorry for the younger generation. And even like my kids to come. Because when I was younger it wasn’t as intense. Girls get so overwhelme­d and it takes over your whole life. It takes over my whole life. Body image, image in general – you’re just obsessed with it. I don’t know really any of my friends that aren’t like so consumed by their image, which is ridiculous. I’ve tried every diet under the sun this year, honestly. I’ve tried to be a vegan. I’ve tried to cut out sugars, salt, everything, literally everything.

Did you ever have any phobias or problems with eating?

I was the shyest kid in the entire world when I was younger. My Dad always said I wouldn’t leave his side. I wouldn’t go to a shop by myself. I’m massively claustroph­obic. I suffer from anxiety still. I literally wouldn’t speak. Even my best friend, her Mum says, ‘It’s so strange now seeing you come into the house like: Hi!

How are you? Blah blah blah. Giving hugs. You literally came in, wouldn’t say anything, wouldn’t even say hello’. And it’s strange now doing the job I do and having done TV work. That, I’m so proud of – being able just do it. Even doing this interview right now I’m proud of. I was such a mute as a child. I was so annoyed with myself 24/7 just because I couldn’t speak. I just wasn’t confident in any way.

Did you ever suffer from bulimia or anything?

No, not really no. I’m very aware of what I eat. There’s not a day goes by that I’m not thinking about what I’m eating, basically.

So you obviously watch what you eat?

Oh Jesus! No. I’ll binge – massively. And that’s the thing: I’ll binge so badly and be like, ‘I hate my life (laughs)!’ It sounds ridiculous. And then obviously strict, strict diets. I mean, yo-yo diets basically, which isn’t ideal. I’m eventually hoping to get to a steady routine – that’s why I’ve joined a gym this year, because I’m really trying to do everything the healthy way and not just, like, binge eat and not eat.

Do you think women are made to feel insecure if they’re carrying a bit of weight?

I think social media would make you feel insecure if you’re carrying a bit of weight. I don’t think people specifical­ly make you feel bad if you’re overweight. But I do think social media is

"Body image, image in general – you’re just obsessed

with it."

constant: people comment on their bodies, which I do myself. You do, you look at these people and you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to look like them’. No matter how skinny you are, how good-looking you are: it’s constant competitio­n.

You mentioned that you still suffer from anxiety.

I still do suffer from it. I’ll get panic attacks. I’m a really bad traveller – planes, tubes, sometimes in taxis. I like to walk everywhere. I don’t like being in any confined space. I go to events regularly and they can make me panicky, like, because I’m surrounded by loads of people.

Did you ever think about therapy or meds to help deal with it?

Yeah. I’ve done both. I’ve had counsellin­g about it. In extreme cases – when I broke up with my ex – I took tablets to calm me down. Or if I’m travelling I take some stuff to calm me down. But I don’t want to rely on these kind of things. I’d much rather deal with it myself. And only in extreme cases maybe take things. But, yeah, it’s a weird one: when I talk about it, it makes it worse for me. Everyone says you should talk about anxiety because you need to talk about it. For me, it almost brings on an anxiety attack. But people say you should do that to realise you’re not going to die, you’re going to be okay. And just kind of talk yourself through it. But now when I get them, honestly, I say it to my parents I’m so lucky to have them. Because they’re the first people I call. I’m like, ‘Dad, it’s happening. I need to be calmed down’.

I hope this isn’t hard for you, but can you describe a panic attack?

I just got back from a holiday and I was on a really busy train last week. It was really hot. I was like, ‘I can feel it coming on. I can’t get off the train. Shit! What am I going to do?’ So I called him. I had my sunglasses on: I was crying under them. I was like, ‘Everyone’s looking at me. I can’t breathe. I’m so hot’. Blah blah blah. He was just like, ‘Nothing bad is going to happen here’. And I know that. I know it’s so silly. But I just can’t control it. It’s weird. They’re horrible. They’re the worst thing in the entire world.

You have 216k followers and counting on Instagram, which must bring its own type of pressure…

I’m forever monitoring my following going up and down. Or if my photos don’t get a certain amount of likes I’ll be like, ‘Why didn’t it?’ I’ll beat myself up about it. It’s weird. I’m so lucky to have the following I have, but for some reason you're still constantly like, ‘Well, that’s not good enough. Why is that happening? Why are people un-following me? Why don’t they like me now? What have I done? What do I do to make people like me?’ It’s a constant rollercoas­ter. Just horrible. But it’s great as well. I’m very happy to be in the position I’m in.

Most people would think you must be confident to put yourself out there. Some of the photos are quite risqué.

There’s obviously times when I feel great. And I’m eating well. And I feel like I look great. But, yes, I am confident when I’m, to me, in my 100 percent. There are times where I feel completely crap as well, which is ridiculous. But I feel like that’s just due to social media and all this stuff I’m involved in.

Would you ever think about doing Playboy?

No. I don’t really have the boobs for it, if I’m honest (laughs).

What type of advice would you give to a teenage girl who felt she was being bullied, whether on social media or in general?

It just doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. In the bigger scheme of things it’s so irrelevant. Who gives a shit what someone else says on social media? Just be happy. I know it’s clichéd to say it but, like – be happy in yourself; if you’re a good person and you’re good to other people, you just should be so proud of that. Being a nice person – honestly, I do believe that’s what you should be proud of, not how skinny or pretty you are.

Did you always want to be famous?

I wouldn’t call myself famous. I wouldn’t call myself a celebrity either. I don’t know what I’d call myself. I know I’m in the public eye somewhat. From when I was younger, when I was actually really young, I wanted

to be a Victoria’s Secret model. But that will never ever happen (laughs). So, I guess that’s technicall­y being famous.

What stopped you from trying to be a Victoria’s Secrets model?

I’m nearly 5’ 8”, but still not tall enough for the runway. Anyway, I don’t look like a model. I thought I was back in the day. I’m not at all. So that’s just not even an option. I used to say I want my own talk show – there’s no way in hell. I just don’t think I could hold a talk show. But I do like interviewi­ng people and I do like meeting people and I do like talking to people, and blah blah blah. But with that, I’m not thinking, ‘I want to be famous’. It just seems like such a great job, being out there, doing stuff. And it’s not like you’re doing the exact same thing every day: you’re meeting new people, you’re travelling. I love the idea of that, as opposed to, ‘I want to be famous’. It’s kind of irrelevant whether you’re in the Daily Mail or not, do you know (laughs)?

But you must get a kick out of all the attention?

I just find it bizarre when people want to get a photo with me. I’m like, ‘Why?’ It find it nuts. If you get papped somewhere random, it’s bizarre. It’s so lovely when people actually care, but I also think it’s nuts. I’m like, ‘Why do you care about me?’ It’s so silly. It’s mad. Even last night, I was at an event and a girl asked me for a photo and she was like, ‘Oh! You’ve such an amazing following. You’re so this, that and the other’. It’s so nice to hear. It’s such a compliment. But it just seems surreal.

Have you come across any stalkers?

Not really weirdo stalkers. When I was on the show, especially, you’d get a lot of messages. Abusive messages, people being mean – ‘How could you do that to that person?’ But also

I used to got a lot of messages from people asking about relationsh­ip advice and different things like that. I also got – let’s not call them suicidal messages, but people being very depressed: ‘Please can you talk to me?’ And it’s so difficult to read those things and not respond, because you actually can’t. Like, God forbid I was speaking to one of these people and then something happened. Do you know what I mean? It’s so hard to read them and you really do want to give your advice or give your opinions on things, or past experience­s, but you just have to be so careful about what you say to people.

What are your future plans?

At the moment, I’ve a massive following from being on Made In Chelsea. So, my aim now is to be actually taken seriously and be respected as either a presenter or blogger, or both. I feel right now, I don’t know if I’m taking seriously – so, that’s my aim. I’ve just launched a website of my own, which I literally have put about six months into.

Why did it take so long?

I’m so critical of myself. So, to actually put it up there was really difficult. Because I’m like, ‘Everyone’s going to hate it. I'm going to get abuse and all this crap’. I was like, ‘You just need to do it’. I just need more confidence in who I am. My agent always tells me, ‘Talk to the camera more’. Literally just talk about your day, what you’re doing. I find it so cringe-y. I die inside, listening to my own voice – I’m like, ‘Oh My God!’ But people love it. You get a great response. But I still cringe.

Would you like to get into acting?

I was actually talking to someone recently about doing some acting classes, just to see if I’m any good. Nadine Forde is doing quite well. I think she’s doing a play over here at the moment. A play and a film. Honestly, fair play to her. She’s putting herself out there, which is brilliant. I would honestly love to try acting. I think it would be very good for confidence and, being shy, to get you out of your shell. So, that’s on the bucket list this year.

Do you have any heroes?

I wouldn’t necessaril­y call them heroes, but there’s people that I’d admire that are doing well for themselves, like presenters over here. Because I want to get into that industry. They’re not necessaril­y people that are my heroes and they achieved, like, ridiculous things in life: but like Ferne McCann and Holly Willoughby and even Laura Whitmore. Laura achieved so much. Like, from doing a random audition. I guess people like that. Or even when I see girls I used to model with when I was younger, like even Pippa O’Connor. She’s so successful now and she’s really built up her own business. I know her husband Brian as well. They seem to have – obviously seems. Everyone looks at things on social media and it seems all great. But they do seem to be doing quite well for themselves. They have a lovely little family. It’s really nice to see people achieving and doing well. I want to get there. I need to get some confidence behind me and start doing what I want to do.

What type of music do you like?

I’m very easy. I like everything. But the older I’m getting now I love all my Dad’s music (laughs).

It’s mad! My dad’s favourite song is a Lionel Richie song, 'Three Times A Lady'. I just love all

the oldies. Obviously, I like the current music. But you can’t beat the oldies.

Did you ever smoke marijuana?

It’s illegal (laughs)! Let’s just say that I know loads of people that do drugs and I know loads of people that smoke marijuana. I’m not against it in any way. Like, each to their own. But I do think there’s a lot of people that really over use it and it’s actually a real issue. I said to my Dad there recently, ‘I’m surrounded by it every single time I go out’. You are. It’s just so common.

So, you’re not going to answer?

No (laughs)! Dad will freak out!

What’s your views on the Eighth Amendment?

I honestly can’t believe that you can’t have an abortion in Ireland, where a pregnancy is through rape or incest or fatal foetal abnormalit­ies. I respect everyone’s views, but isn’t there over 7,000 people or something a year who come over to the UK from Ireland to get abortions? I personally think you should be able to get an abortion in Ireland, but each to their own.

So it’s a woman body and she should have the right to choose…

Yeah. I think you should have a choice. I really do. It’s your decision. If they’re getting it done over here and wherever else, does it make much of a difference if they can get it done in Ireland?

You’d describe yourself as pro-choice? Yeah. Would you describe yourself as religious?

Not anymore. When I was younger, yeah. If you’re a full Catholic, it’s a very strict term. Like, we went to Mass every Sunday. And, yes, Dad locked us up (laughs). But I didn’t necessaril­y follow all the Commandmen­ts. But, to me, being Catholic isn’t necessaril­y following all of the – let’s call them regulation­s. But I do care about the religions because it means a lot to my family. And there’s so much history behind it with my family. That’s why I care about it. Do you know what I mean? It’s not because I necessaril­y believe in everything that’s behind religion. But it means a lot to me just purely because of the past, does that make sense?

Do you believe in heaven and hell?

Not necessaril­y heaven and hell, but I don’t like to believe that when someone is gone that they’re gone. I still talk to people that have passed away. I still believe that there is something out there. But not necessaril­y like a man on a cloud, or a devil with a stick.

What about reincarnat­ion?

Not necessaril­y reincarnat­ion. My aunty is really spiritual. She says she’s seen ghosts and figures and all sorts, and she believes in all of that. And my dad thinks my aunty’s mental. He thinks believing in ghosts and seeing things is all nuts. And my dad, when his mum passed away, this cat came into the garden. I think it was the day she died. And my family are mad about cats; I love cats. And a cat – this random, really beautiful white cat – just came into the garden for four days. It was weird. He was like, ‘The cat came into the garden when Mum died’ – and he believed it was something relating to his Mum’s death. So, I do believe in little things like that.

It sounds like you miss Dublin and your family and friends a lot.

You can’t beat Dublin. It can get so lonely in London. I’m living in a flat the size of probably my living room at home (laughs). It’s just so built up and busy. I love it here: I don’t think I’d be moving home anytime soon, but you miss home massively. You can’t beat going home to a shepherd’s pie off my mum (laughs). That’s what I love: homely food. I was there over the weekend. I literally just sat in the house for about five days (laughs). I love it. It’s therapeuti­c. It’s so nice just being surrounded by people you love and you’re comfortabl­e with.

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