ALL HAIL QUEEN NADINE!
Sweet serendipity: Nadine doesn't believe in planning for the future too much and says the best things in her life have simply happened when she was enjoying herself
Nadine Reid is having a breakout year. But she’s not your typical willowy young ingénue fromSoCoDu — born in Birmingham, some “35 to 40” years ago (she doesn’t want to get too specific) and now a reporter on Virgin Media’s Xposé, Nadine is one of the few black, plus-size women in Irish public life. “Sometimes I wonder if it was always mydestinyto work in the media,” she says, whenwe finallyspeak, afterthe increasinglyin-demand presenter was forced to reschedule four times.
Nadine had stars in her eyes from a young age and proudly looks back on her turn as gangster moll Tallulah in a school production of Bugsy Malone when she was 10. She went on to a degree in media studies, but her dream of being in front of the camera was soon overshadowed by pressure to “get a real job”, she says, leading to a successful career as a make-up artist. “I landed myself a decent role with MAC and did very well there — I had a company car and credit card, and my family were really proud of me. But after 10 years, I thought, ‘There’s probably something more for me to do,’” she recalls.
Shaken by the death of her grandmother, Nadine was looking for a change, and when a friend invited her to Dublin for a job in 2015, she was smitten. “People often ask me, ‘Why Ireland?’ And I say, ‘Why not?’ I’m from Birmingham, and it’s just a flat factory town,” she says, although she is quick to add that she loves getting home to visit family.
On Instagram — Nadine’s preferred social media platform — she frequently shares motivational quotes with her followers, and she has adopted some of that language, describing herself as “living my best life”, “enjoying the path” and “feeling blessed”. She even has her “own personal hashtag”, #IfNadsCanYouCan. But she’s also refreshingly unfiltered — apart from her dating life, nothing is off the table and she’s breezy and chatty, with a bright, easy laugh.
Nadine is an only child, with half-siblings on her father’s side, and was raised by her Jamaican mother and extended family. “I grew up in a single-parent family but I don’t feel comfortable using that phrase, because even though my mum was alone, she actually wasn’t. My uncle would pick me up from school, my aunts were there… At every play or school event, I would have more family there than people with two parents,” she says cheerfully. “I’m really lucky, my mum gave me absolutely everything. But I wasn’t spoilt — my mum would still go, ‘Do you really need another piece of cake?’ Don’t get me wrong!”
She credits her mum with paying her “black tax”, a term she picked up from comedian Trevor Noah, who describes his mother as using her opportunities to help her family members, rather than herself, to achieve the blank slate automatically afforded to white people. “My mum always taught me that I can achieve anything, regardless of where I’m from, my size or any of that stuff,” she says. “She paid my black tax by making sure that I wasn’t a person that would have to feel, because I’m black or from a Jamaican family or a working-class family, that I don’t have opportunities.
“My grandparents came to the UK with nothing. My grandma used to work in the hospital canteen, my granddad used to make bullets in the bullet factory, my older uncle worked in factories making tyres, all these very basic, menial jobs. I was never taught to think that because you’re black, you can’t achieve things.”
Since moving to Ireland, Nadine says she’s gone from being “the black girl” to “the English girl”. “What I love about Ireland is I find people are more likely to ask, ‘What part of England are you from?’ It’s interesting, because they don’t ask, ‘What’s your ethnicity? Are you from the Caribbean? Are you from Africa?’ I’ve had no negative experiences because of my race. Sometimes I feel more nervous about being born in Britain than being black!” she cackles.
When she arrived in Dublin three years ago, Nadine knew just two people, but she quickly learned to say yes to every invitation. “I’ve been really lucky to meet so many people working as a make-up artist — hairdressers, photographers, editors — by simply being in that scene,” she says.
She attended the Xposé Benefit Awards this year to support her friend, hair stylist Trudy Hayes, and it
She went from make-up artist to media star after a chance meeting with the Xposé team mere months ago. Now Nadine Reid is blazing a trail for a fresh type of femininity on our TV screens — and having a blast while she’s at it, she tells Meadhbh McGrath