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_ 'My mum kicked me out of our home when I was 17. I would have done the same!' A frank interview with VOGUE WILLIAMS as she launches a new Mail podcast where families tackle subjects they've never been brave enough to confront

_ 'My mum kicked me out of our home when I was 17. I would have done the same!' A frank interview with VOGUE WILLIAMS as she launches a new Mail podcast where families tackle subjects they've never been brave enough to confront

Surely nobody on the planet is more suited to presenting a podcast than Vogue Williams? A queen of the genre, she can talk not just for her native Ireland, but for her adopted England, and Wales and Scotland too.

I ask if it was true that she was once suspended from school for talking too much? 'I was suspended twice,' she says. 'I think I drove the nuns crazy. They could only stand it so much, me talking away, distracting everyone in class.

'You could only have so many detentions on a Friday afternoon, where they made you do cleaning chores, before you were suspended. By the second time, I quite liked it because I realised I got a week off. I was thrilled. My mum wasn't so thrilled.'

It turns out that her mum suspended her too — or at least asked the wayward Vogue to leave the family home for a bit.

'My mum kicked me out of the house when I was 17, which was well deserved,' she recalls. 'I would have kicked me out too.'

Listen to Vogue's brand new moving podcast, The Apple & The Tree: 

 

We shall return to this, but the more she chats, the clearer it becomes that if the nuns at her Catholic school had just locked the young Vogue in a cupboard with a friend, a microphone and some recording equipment, they could have invented the podcast format themselves.

Happily, she found her own way into broadcasting, eventually, via a degree in building construction and quantity surveying ('my stepfather wasn't really with the career-in-media thing and insisted'), some modelling, then reality TV.

It's in the podcast arena that she has risen to the very top of the game, though. In the British podcast awards last year Vogue, now 38, scooped the Champion Award with My Therapist Ghosted me, the podcast she hosts with her friend Joanne McNally. It has three million listeners a month. Popular too is Spencer & Vogue, the podcast she also hosts with her husband, the TV star Spencer Matthews or 'Spenny' as she calls him.

The pair, who met on the 2017 Channel 4 show The Jump, have just been in Dubai taking that podcast to the stage, although she admits that the often fruity material had to be toned down to meet stringent decency laws. 'You can't do anything in Dubai. We have this one part where Spenny takes his top off. He said, 'Can't I anyway?' I said, 'Absolutely not. If you go to prison, I'm going home.' '

Now, Vogue has joined the Daily Mail's brilliant and fast-growing podcast arm with a series called The Apple & The Tree which explores relationships between adult children and their parents.

As she says, the relationship we have with our parents is the first one we will ever have, and often the most complex. In each episode she asks the adult child to ask their parents the questions they have always wanted the answer to.

She has been deeply moved by some of the personal stories from her subjects. 'This is a bit different from my other podcasts. We recorded them in people's homes. We had people asking questions of their parents — often really difficult questions, but important ones too.'

The subjects are not celebrities but ordinary people who sometimes have had challenging journeys through life.

There's Sam who talks to his dad, Laq, about his reaction to his being gay and the struggles and prejudice he has faced in the Indian community because of his sexuality.

Romanian-born Ana was pregnant and just 20 when she fled to the UK. She talks to her British-born daughter, Laura, about the trauma of leaving her homeland for a new life, and the ongoing racism she, and other Romanians, suffer.

It's certainly more serious in tone than many would expect from Vogue, who is happy to take a back seat and let the subjects tell their stories, but she says the experience of recording the podcasts has been deeply affecting. 'Some are heartbreaking, because of the family situations. There is a man with motor neurone disease, another family whose father committed suicide. But it's so uplifting too, to hear about how other people have come through very difficult things.

'It certainly makes you think that, whatever problems you think you have, other people come through much worse.'

The 'it's good to talk' approach is very Vogue. She's a firm believer in therapy and delving into the deep recesses of our past. 'You know why I love it so much? It's so beneficial to do. It's a really raw thing to be able to ask about something you've always wanted to talk to your family about, but never have. Every single family, including mine, has those things they don't discuss.'

Do we sense a confessional coming on? Only to a point. 'I think it would be so beneficial for our family, but I don't think we'd ever do it,' she says, candidly. 'You don't want to bring things up from the past. You want to be all happy all the time. There are some things in my family we will never have conversations about. I know we just won't. Although there are things I would like to talk about I know it won't be reciprocated, probably.'

This hints at deep, unmentionable darkness, but I'm not sure that's necessarily the case. It's more that she's saying every family has 'issues'.

She brings up one from her own childhood herself, although in quite breezy fashion. She spent her early years in Portmarnock, a suburb of Dublin, but her parents split when she was five.

'I don't remember it being particularly difficult, but I'm sure it was when we were going through it. Dad lived nearby, and we'd see him every other weekend and every Wednesday.' Her parents were chalk and cheese. Her mother Sandra was a glamorous air stewardess (she's now an Instagram icon herself, and she and Vogue swap clothes as well as fashion tips). Her father Freddie was a second-hand car salesman.

'I don't actually know why they split. They never seemed very suited to me but you never know. They know.'

Vogue was one of three children. She and Spencer now have three themselves — Theodore, five, Gigi, three and Otto, who has just turned two — and she now has a deep admiration for how her mother ('who is my best friend. I talk to her every day') coped when the marriage ended.

'She was a single mother for quite a while and, oh my god, that must be the most difficult thing in the world. She was doing transatlantic flights, then she'd come home and go and work in a restaurant to support us.'

Her father — as is so often the case — got the better deal with the more fun part of parenting. 'He was great craic. He would come to the school and pass us ice cream and Snickers bars over the fence. Everyone was jealous. But he was always around. I was very close to him, and he was a good dad, as much as he could be.'

He died from a stroke in 2010 after years of ill health, perhaps not helped by his live-for-today lifestyle ('he was a man who would put butter on his chips'). His passing was another defining moment, and his absence in her life today one of her biggest regrets.

'I still miss him every day. I dream about him, weird dreams where I will be helping him choose a new kitchen! I never had any money when he was alive. He never got to meet my children, but I know he would have adored them. He'd have been on every holiday Spenny and I ever had, probably leading Spenny astray.'

Another man's influence in her life, however, provided the stability she needed. Step-parents often get a bad rap but her stepfather, Neil Wilson, a successful businessman, came into hers when she was seven. She was happy enough at the time ('because I got some new Play-Doh'), but she can see the bigger picture now.

'Well, he changed my mum's life, to begin with. She could finally relax. The wild thing is that he had no children of his own. I still say to him today, 'Were you crazy?' But how much must he have loved my mum to take us on. He didn't even regard us as baggage, he loved her that much.

'He still makes her breakfast in bed today. If they have an argument my mum says, 'Well, I won't be wanting any breakfast tomorrow then' — as if that is a threat!'

He provided stability — both financial and emotional — and discipline.

'Neil used to be a teacher. He's Scottish, so strict. Education was the important thing for him. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have gone to university. He was right to stress all that — although there was massive pushback from me at the time.'

Poor Neil when Vogue hit her teens.

'Neil used to call my sister and I The Monsters, and we were. We were a nightmare. I mean it wasn't bad bad but with hindsight I could have taken school more seriously.

'I'd say I was going to revise then just lie down on my bed with a science book over my face in case Mum came in.

'Then there was underage drinking — Bulmers cider at 14, although I never got caught there — and sneaking out of the house to go to clubs or festivals.

'I'd say I was going to stay at my dad's, and my mum would say, 'No going off to that nightclub, now' — but, of course, I did.' Was she exploiting the fact her mum and dad had split? 'Absolutely, and what child wouldn't?'

It was after one bust-up too many that her mum asked Vogue to move out.

'I think that came when I went to a festival I wasn't supposed to go to. Mum was like 'right, that's enough, you can go and live with your dad.' I went to stay with him for a bit, and he let me get away with murder.

'I'd forge notes and just walk out of school and then make him sign the letter to say he'd agreed it. I was a nightmare.'

Her mum — 'Sorry Mum, you were entirely right,' she says today — eventually let her come home.

'It wasn't that long, three months maybe, but when I came home again was I well behaved? Yes I was.'

She can't quite believe that she's actually quite meticulous about adhering to rules today. 'I really am. If we are in an airport and Spenny wants to go through the fast track even though we don't have a ticket for it, I will say, 'No! There are rules.' '

There are some things that are very Irish about Vogue — her warmth, her effortless chatter — but there's also a fascination with all things self-helpy that feels much more LA than Dublin.

She's always open in her podcasts about a history of anxiety and is conscious about using diet and exercise to keep symptoms at bay. In the past she has had intensive therapy, and still dips in. She tells me she has booked a therapy session for next week and makes it sound like getting her nails done.

'I love it. It's not for everyone, and I have done it more intensively in the past but I haven't seen my therapist for six months. There is nothing wrong, but I just find it useful to have a session. You just get an unbiased option. You can ask, 'Why am I feeling like this?' ' Then the groundedness kicks in again. 'Or maybe I'm just paying someone to tell me, 'You are right.' 

What's Vogue going to do next? There are a gazillion business ventures ongoing (she has collaborations with all manner of fashion houses, and her own self-tan range), but what she hasn't yet done is a podcast dedicated to parenting (although she touches on it on her other shows). It's a way off, but I suggest that the coming teenage years could provide ample material. She shudders at the thought, revealing that it's her daughter Gigi she is worried about.

'Girls are very easy when they are young, but when they are older and hormones kick in, they kind of turn into nightmares. But then, I'm going to know what to expect because I was such a brat. My kids couldn't be worse than I was, could they?'

Vogue Williams hosts The Apple and The Tree, a brand new podcast where a parent and their adult child get to ask each other about the parts of their shared history they’ve always wanted to know more about. 

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or anywhere you get your podcasts.


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