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It’s 5.20am in Florida. And Na­dia Forde is ly­ing in bed, wide awake. Her mind is rac­ing. She texts me to say she’s having sec­ond thoughts about the in­ter­view that we have planned for the fol­low­ing week.

There are two things that I learn from our early morn­ing tete-a-tete:

One, she’s not trip­ping over her­self to get on the cover of ev­ery mag­a­zine or news­pa­per — an ac­cu­sa­tion which has been levied at her all sum­mer, given the fact that you can’t walk by a news­stand th­ese days with­out her smil­ing back.

And two, that she is a girl far re­moved from the big-haired, swim­suited, buxom brunette who stares back from our tabloids, teas­ing and tempt­ing all and sundry.

She is vul­ner­a­ble; she wears her heart on her sleeve — and she is a wor­rier.

Over­think­ing kills your hap­pi­ness, I say as she sits across from me on the rooftop of the Marker Ho­tel.

Night is fall­ing on Dublin’s sky­line and, as the last or­ange burst of the sun’s rays bounces off the glass front of the Bord Gais En­ergy The­atre, which is to our right, it lights up the sparkling bronze dust pep­pered across Na­dia’s tanned cheek­bones. Now reader, don’t roll your eyes here. I know, I know, I hate fawn­ing de­scrip­tions of mod­els as much as the next per­son. But there is some­thing about Na­dia. I say this be­cause I don’t think it comes across in her pho­tos. She is one of the few mod­els who is ac­tu­ally pret­tier in real life.

She pos­sesses a girl-next-door sparkle that doesn’t trans­late into print.

In fact, in the run up to our meet­ing, I hear the fol­low­ing swipe on more than one oc­ca­sion: “How the fuck is that Na­dia one ev­ery­where?”

It’s usu­ally said with be­wil­der­ment, mixed with a tinge of venom.

“Why do you think they say that?” she asks, wide-eyed and hurt when I re­lay the com­ments to her and ask for her thoughts on the low whis­pers.

A bit of jeal­ousy? Maybe, but I sus­pect they also feel that a model who com­mands this much at­ten­tion from the press bet­ter be damn sure she is a six-foot su­per­woman with legs up to her armpits, with the face of a pre-pubescent Vogue cover girl.

Na­dia isn’t that. But she has some­thing dif­fer­ent that has put her at the top of an al­ready over­crowded mod­el­ling scene.

Aside from the fact that she’s a hard worker, she’s an even bet­ter net­worker.

I saw it at the be­gin­ning of the sum­mer when I ac­com­pa­nied her to the races with FAI boss John De­laney.

A mu­tual friend told John she could sing and, af­ter she was pestered into play­ing the demo in a Cham­pagne tent as the day drew to a close, De­laney lis­tened to a record­ing of her voice on her mo­bile phone, as I watched, in­trigued, over a glass of bub­bles. The rest, as they say, is his­tory. A few weeks later, Na­dia was stand­ing in front of 50,000 fans at the Aviva sta­dium, singing our na­tional an­them.

It wasn’t that she went af­ter the job. But she was there. Mix­ing in the right crowd.

While other mod­els hang out with a pop­u­lar hair­dresser or a hand­some man­about-town, Na­dia is in the real power cir­cles. And that’s the key. She also has some­thing else. I see it when the waiter comes over to take our drink or­der.

I ask him for two fresh co­conuts — a chic, yup­pie-ish chilled drink with a straw stuck into the shell — but I am told they are only avail­able at a down­stairs bar.

“Ah, go on Brendan,” she smiles, clock­ing his name badge and stok­ing up a bit of ban­ter as she tilts her head to one side.

Need­less to say he is back within min­utes — nuts in hand.

It’s an Ir­ish charm. The girl-next-door vibe, where the av­er­age Joe would be for­given for al­most think­ing he could pos­si­bly date her.


Be­cause her his­tory proves oth­er­wise. A rugby star and the world’s num­berone golfer is the stan­dard you will have to fol­low.

The lat­ter, she has been ac­cused of din­ing out on — all in the name of pub­lic­ity. Again, I can set the record straight on this. To the point that she asks me pre-in­ter­view if we can avoid talk­ing about Rory. At all. No prob­lem, I say, throw­ing the first ques­tion her way: so, what are your views on the so­cioe­co­nomic im­pact of the con­flict in Pales­tine and Is­rael?

To her credit, she laughs. And for the next five min­utes get­ting any in­for­ma­tion on Rory is like pulling teeth from a sleep­ing al­li­ga­tor.

They dated last year and, around the time of our in­ter­view, spec­u­la­tion is heat­ing up that he has set­tled down with a North­ern Ir­ish model who — let’s just say — looks more than a lit­tle like Forde.

In­deed, the fol­low-up girl­friend of an­other of her exes — rugby in­ter­na­tional Luke Fitzger­ald — could be mis­taken for Na­dia’s twin too. (If you don’t be­lieve me, check out the pic­tures on­line. It’s bizarre.)

She has ob­vi­ously made an im­pact on her boyfriends along the way. Her time with Rory was fleet­ing. Al­though they had re­mained friends,

‘Rory is the per­fect gen­tle­man. He used to tell the driver to make sure I got in the front door safely’

tex­ting each other as they both trav­elled the world, the abrupt man­ner in which she found out about his new dal­liance hasn’t led her to stick the knife in — she had the news shouted at her by pho­tog­ra­phers as she made her way through the ar­rival gates at Dublin air­port. They wanted to know how it felt be a jilted lover, while her fright­ened lit­tle brother ran for cover.

“Rory is the per­fect gen­tle­man. One thing that stands out in my mind is how he used to tell the driver to see me home and to make sure I got in the front door safely. Lit­tle things like that. He is very dif­fer­ent to how he is por­trayed in the press.”

On the world he oc­cu­pies, she says: “I had no idea of how huge ‘the brand’ was un­til I got a glimpse in­side it. It must be dif­fi­cult to be lost among that. But, at the end of the day, he is just a nor­mal good guy un­der­neath all of that. Very downto-earth.”

They met in the bar of 37 Daw­son Street in Dublin through a large group of mu­tual friends. As she was mates with golfer Shane Lowry, Na­dia in­no­cently asked McIl­roy about him: “I said ‘Oh, do you play with Shane?’ And he kinda laughed and that was it.”

I ask her if she’s ever ac­tu­ally watched McIl­roy play golf. “Hon­estly? No,” she says, “I’m not re­ally a golf­ing fan.” (Later, per­haps tellingly, she lets slip how she was once pas­sion­ately glued to ev­ery game that Fitzger­ald played while they dated.)

But what about the day he lifted the Claret Jug and all eyes were on the young north­erner win his third Ma­jor by the age of 25? Where was she then?

Well, Na­dia, as it so hap­pens, was in Walt Dis­ney World.

“I was rid­ing the carousel, vis­it­ing Peter Pan, and the Pa­rade, and I did ‘it’s a small world’ in the Magic King­dom.”

She screeches, lift­ing her hands to her mouth as if she’s try­ing to stop her se­cret guilty plea­sure from com­ing to light: “I love Dis­ney. It was my dream to go. That’s why I love do­ing panto so much. You’re liv­ing in a fairy tale ev­ery day.” Her favourite fairy tale is Beauty and

the Beast. No side-jokes, please. And her child­hood mem­o­ries are of her dad read­ing to her but, she says, af­ter think­ing long and hard about it: “My mom never did.”

The story of Na­dia’s fam­ily has been well told. Her par­ents split up, go­ing their sep­a­rate ways and leav­ing Na­dia to be raised by her grand­mother from the age of seven.

But the dif­fi­cult mem­o­ries, and the im­pact this has had on her life, have not. So I de­cide to broach it. Her burn­ing mem­ory is this. She’s seven. She’s star­ing out an up­stairs bed­room win­dow of her fam­ily home. And there’s a ‘For Sale’ sign in the drive.

She doesn’t know ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing, but she can hear voices down­stairs or­gan­is­ing be­long­ings.

She is driv­ing away with her grand­mother, star­ing at the house she grew up in with her mom and dad. She doesn’t un­der­stand why. But she re­mem­bers a dis­tinct feel­ing, an un­spo­ken re­al­ity, that life would never be the same again.

She re­calls the last con­ver­sa­tion she

had with her mother only re­cently, go­ing back af­ter all th­ese years to try and get a han­dle on why her mother never showed any emo­tional at­tach­ment to­wards her daugh­ter.

It was dur­ing a visit to her mother in hos­pi­tal, as she bat­tled can­cer. “Un­for­tu­nately just be­cause there is an ill­ness doesn’t mean there will be [bond­ing],” laments Na­dia. “I thought, ‘This is it. We’re go­ing to have a motherand-daugh­ter con­nec­tion, ev­ery­thing will fi­nally be OK’, but it got to a place where I had to re­move my­self from the sit­u­a­tion very quickly. I re­mem­ber get­ting home that night and some­one said to me, ‘ Stop go­ing back for more’. And that was it.”

She be­comes lost in her thoughts for a mo­ment. And it seems as though she is think­ing about her mother and her lack of feel­ings to­ward her daugh­ter.

“I don’t un­der­stand how some­one can’t have that bond. I don’t un­der­stand. It blows my mind.”

Be­fore all that, her dad was her hero, but he would come and go from her life.

In her few fond child­hood mem­o­ries she re­calls how, ev­ery time he came home, he’d take her on a horse-and-car­riage ride around Stephen’s Green. He made her feel like a princess, be­fore he was gone again.

‘I don’t un­der­stand how some­one can’t have that moth­er­daugh­ter bond. It blows my mind’

“Any time I walk there now and see a horse and car­riage, I think of my dad,” she says. “I was the flam­boy­ant child that would spend my Sun­days having a jazz lunch with him, up in the mid­dle of the floor as soon as the mu­sic started, like a lit­tle ex­tro­vert, twirling for the crowd as he watched on. My dad was my ev­ery­thing.”

When he re­mar­ried, the re­la­tion­ship changed.

Does she think her up­bring­ing af­fected her future re­la­tion­ships? “I think I would be stupid to say it didn’t. All fam­ily el­e­ments shape you, no mat­ter what way you grow up — it’s like a blue­print for the rest of your life.”

She has been re­source­ful in sur­round­ing her­self with solid foun­da­tions as she has ma­tured. “Now a lot of my friends are men, they are like my fam­ily and that’s who I mark po­ten­tial boyfriends against. If a guy doesn’t treat me the way my male friends treat me, then they are gone”.

Ru­mour has it that she used that acid test on Rory. Is it true you told him to go and shove the Claret Jug where the sun doesn’t shine?

She laughs, feigning hor­ror. “I’d never use such coarse lan­guage,” she smiles.

Her habit of get­ting paired off with ‘ru­moured boyfriends’ by the me­dia irks her. She has been at the re­ceiv­ing end of the small-town Dublin men­tal­ity that makes peo­ple be­lieve — be­cause you are sin­gle, a woman, and seen out with a man — well then, there is noth­ing else to it other than you must be sleep­ing with him.

The ob­vi­ous ru­mour to ad­dress is that of a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship with John De­laney. Some­thing I can vouch for as be­ing un­true, as I saw the friend­ship of po­lar op­po­sites up close. And one thing it was not was sex­ual.

“The John De­laney thing def­i­nitely hurt. He had to de­fine what the re­la­tion­ship was. It made me un­com­fort­able. It’s a sad stage when a man has to do that. Why would there be any­thing sin­is­ter about it? And, to be hon­est, it is more dif­fi­cult to laugh off for me, as the girl.

“I’m pretty sure the per­son peo­ple see in news­pa­pers is not who I re­ally am,” she says fi­nally.

You’re more likely to find her in a one­sie having a sweets-and-DVD sleep­over than out on the town— prob­a­bly be­cause she is too busy work­ing to go par­ty­ing.

Again on the morn­ing of my dead­line, I get a text at 4.30am as Na­dia trav­els to the air­port on an­other job for her record com­pany.

She has launched a ca­reer as a singer, tour­ing Ire­land and the UK — she just played a gig in Brighton to 15,000 peo­ple — and has recorded an al­bum in the US this sum­mer. The first sin­gle, BPM, went to num­ber five in the UK Ur­ban Charts. There’s also ru­moured to be a sec­ond se­ries to fol­low up her re­al­ity-TV show and she will be singing at the Grand Prix in Sil­ver­stone at the end of this month.

With a mod­el­ling ca­reer un­der her belt and an al­bum in full swing, I have to ask — what will be your per­fect fairy-tale end­ing? The one you have wanted all along?

With­out hes­i­ta­tion, she says this: “I want to have a fam­ily one day. I think that having a child is what we are here to do —

it’s the most nat­u­ral thing; I would love that one day. I want a big fam­ily. I’m talk­ing a von Trapp, all-singing, mak­ing-clothes-out-of-their-cur­tains kind of gang.” She breaks into fits of laugh­ter at the thought.

“Five chil­dren I could do. I would love that,” she muses.

As we get up to leave, she looks across at the Alto Vetro build­ing on Grand Canal Dock, where she once lived in the pent­house. Her bed­room was sur­rounded by glass on all sides and she used to wake up each morn­ing to views of the coast­line and as far away as the Dublin moun­tains.

“You know,” she says, “when I was in it I never re­ally en­joyed that as much as I should. I had to stop and make my­self take it all in. En­joy the view while I was there.”

On top of her game, oc­cu­py­ing the lofty po­si­tion most girls can only fan­ta­sise about, and dat­ing our most el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lors — you can’t help but hope she has fi­nally clocked the lit­tle les­son.

Cover and page 13

Corset, Jane Wil­son, Su­san Hunter. Shoes, Fitz­patricks. Head­piece, Grainne Ma­her, De­sign Cen­tre

Page 11

Jump­suit, Joanne Hynes. Shoes, Fitz­patricks, Fitz­patricks Shoes. Ear­ring (worn as head­piece), Vicki Sarge; neck­lace, Blaithin En­nis, both Brown Thomas. Belt, Cadolle, Su­san Hunter. Shoes, Fitz­patricks, Fitz­patricks Shoes. Briefs, model’s own

Page 12

Cape, Aimee Carty, Mar­ion Cuddy. Body­suit, Cadolle, Su­san Hunter. Shoes, Fitz­patricks, Fitz­patricks Shoes

This page

Feather shoul­der-piece, Joanne Hynes. Bra, Chan­tal Thomass, Su­san Hunter. Briefs, Joanne Hynes. Feather head­piece, Aoife Har­ri­son, De­sign Cen­tre Cuff, Stella & Dot Su­san Hunter, 13 West­bury Mall, Grafton St, D2, tel: (01) 679-1271, or see su­san­hunter.ie Fitz­patricks Shoes, 76 Grafton St, D2, tel: (01) 677-2333, or see fitz­patricksshoes.com De­sign Cen­tre, Pow­er­scourt Town­house Cen­tre, 59 Sth Wil­liam St, D2, tel: (01) 679-5718, or see de­sign­cen­tre.ie Joanne Hynes, joan­nehynes.com Mar­ion Cuddy, Pow­er­scourt Town­house Cen­tre, 59 Sth Wil­liam St, D2, tel: (087) 251-7793 Stella & Dot, stel­ladot.eu Pho­tog­ra­phy by Kip Car­roll Styling by Nikki Cum­mins As­sisted by So­phie White Hair by Ni­cole Billings, Brown Sugar, 50 Sth Wil­liam St, D2, tel: (01) 616-9967, or see brown­sugar.ie Make-up by Paula Cal­lan, Cal­lanBerry, see cal­lanberry.com Pho­tographed at Clon­tarf Cas­tle, Cas­tle Ave, Clon­tarf, D3, tel: (01) 833-2321,

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