Spotlight On… Nicki Donohoe
Nicki Donohoe is a model, make-up artist and stylist. More importantly, she’s a genuinely lovely lass, and a Sheffielder through and through.
Now, if you’re thinking: ‘I’ve seen that face somewhere before…’, it’s because you probably have – given that she’s currently starring on prime time Saturday night telly as one of Paddy McGuinness’s gaggle of glamorous girls in Take Me Out (TMO). Reason enough for civilised tête-à-tête at The Forum with her then. In the words of Paddy himself, “Let the nut see the cracker.” Quite.
We’ll start with the obvious. Take Me Out. It’s a top show – but surely it can’t be that hard to find a decent guy in Sheffield…
(Laughs) You know what? I actually turned them down FOUR times. I didn’t know too much about the show, to be honest, and a few friends didn’t think it was really for me. I wasn’t looking for a man, just enjoying being single, and I’ve sorta reached the point where I don’t believe Mr Right exists. I was in London and had a few hours to kill so I thought I’d go to the audition, but then I bottled it and left, then I had to go back because I’d left my passport there. We had a chat and I really tried to put them off me but it didn’t work. In the end, it was almost like it was meant to be. I was sat in the Concorde gym steam room and some girls started talking about the show. That’s when it became real. Looking back I can’t believe I nearly didn’t do it. It’s been incredible.
I’m guessing given the sheer popularity of the show, you’ve had quite a lot of attention from doing it…
There’s plenty of positives, like doing this interview now, but I’ve also been approached by the likes of The Sunday Sport and Nuts magazine since. Some girls are fine with that, and the show gives them a platform to do it, but I didn’t go into TMO for that. I turned them down flat. It’s not what I’m about. I’m a bit naive and didn’t realise how big it was, really. We had a bit of a lull once and Paddy came in to lift our spirits. He was like: “Come on girls. This show’s going out at the same time you see celebrities eating kangaroo penis and stuff (laughs). After the first show I got 300 Twitter followers in a single night. Oh, and I was in Morrison’s and this 75 year old woman recognised me – how rock n roll is that?
This isn’t your first brush with the small screen though, is it?
I’ve done bits and bobs – and it’s something I’m keen on pursuing. It’s actually how my modelling career began. After I broke up from a long term relationship, I needed a new start, so I sent some pics into DK modelling agency here in Sheffield and they put me forward for a DFS advert – and I got the job. It was so quick. I think because I’ve come into the game a little later on, it’s helped me. It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, but I’m loving it. It could all change next week so I’m making the most of every minute. Once producers realised I had a bit more about me, and that I could actually talk, I got more opportunities (laughs). I’ve done Ideal World, further ads for DFS and the likes of Jet2, and I’ve also had small roles in Emmerdale, This Is England, Corrie…the jobs seem to find me rather than me looking for them. I’ve been quite lucky. I’m not fearful of the camera, it feels natural, and I just love being around it all. It’s gonna be exciting to see where everything leads.
Back to Take Me Out. I’ve had a chat with Paddy before and he seemed like a lovely chap. Would you agree?
Paddy is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. He instantly puts you at ease and will always be around for a hug. He’s warm and affectionate and has time for everyone. Quite a few of the girls had a crush on him. To me, he was more of a big brother. At the end of it all he left me a little note saying: ‘To Nic, thanks for being a top girl, Paddy.’ I’ve still got it.
And the girls…
Honestly, they were all amazing. It was like one big family. I was competing against younger girls, so sometimes it was hard on that front, but we all stopped in the same hotel and had a whale of a time. 30 single girls together – can you imagine? We had an amazing bond and there wasn’t an ounce of bitchiness. A few of the contestants have hooked up away from the show. Not me. I’m still single.
There must be a lot of hard work that goes into a show like Take Me Out…
It’s long days and you film solidly for a week. We’d need to be at the studio for 9.30am, there’s 30 girls to get ready, you know? Rehearsals at 3.30pm, filming 7pm-midnight, and we’d usually get back to the hotel around 2am. I developed insomnia half way through because your brain is constantly ticking over, thinking of answers to the questions they might ask. It’s not staged at all. The crew once came to Sheffield to film for ITV2 The Gossip and we had a wicked time. I’m so proud of the city, I’d never shut up about it all the way through filming.
Lest we forget, aside from all the glitz and glamour of TV and modelling, you’re a make-up artist by trade. How’d you get started in the industry?
I’ve been a make-up artist for 15 years. I started at House of Fraser and then did eight years for YSL in Debenhams. After that, I went Freelance. It’s an old school background, life experience, and it’s served me well. Learning like that helps you engage with people. I can instantly sort people out by taking into account their age, skin tone and personality. These days I also offer styling, clothes and hair, so it’s the whole package. Head to foot.
You’ve quite a distinctive style. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m a massive 60s fan. I feel a real connection with the era. I love films like Quadrophenia and Blowup and my style will always be more Twiggy than Cheryl Cole. I’m something of a Mod at heart.
I got asked about my hair a lot by the TMO hair and make-up team - amazing stylists who’ve worked on This Morning and The X Factor and stuff like that. They loved my Vidal Sassoon inspired cut. I have Sheffield’s own Geniene from Wigs and Warpaint to thank for that - she's styled my hair for years. It was like a military operation backstage, but I always did my own hair and make-up and wore my own clothes, they said I didn’t need to be changed – so I must’ve been doing something right.
Finally, I’ve got to finish by asking - who would you like to see come down the ‘love lift’ in real life?
(Laughs) Oh gosh. I think they’d have to have a bit of swagger about them. An air of rock star arrogance, almost, but someone who only had eyes for me. I wanna be adored (laughs). I guess I’d be looking for a cross between Ian Brown, Paul Weller and Jim Morrison, maybe. I appreciate someone who makes an effort with their appearance, and there’s a lot to be said for a sharp suit, but then again it’s really about the personality and individuality. Gosh, I’m quite eclectic when it comes to men, aren’t I? Essentially, I don’t know what I want (laughs). Help!
Words: Carl Reid