HEY, THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE
NADIA FORDE ON THE MEN IN HER LIFE AND HER LAST CONVERSATION WITH HER MOTHER
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
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
Cape, Aimee Carty, Marion Cuddy. Bodysuit, Cadolle, Susan Hunter. Shoes, Fitzpatricks, Fitzpatricks Shoes
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,