Rosanna Davison has spent most of her life batting off preconceptions about her family and her upbringing. As Chris de Burgh’s daughter and as a former Miss World, people presume, she says, that she’s “prim and proper and very unrelatable”.
We’ve known Rosanna for a long time. We first photographed herself and her mum Diane back in the early noughties; we travelled to Madeira with her and an ex-boyfriend a couple of years later; we were the first to bring you the exclusive photos of Rosanna with her daughter Sophia (4) born by surrogacy in 2019.
With absolute authority, we can confirm that Rosanna Davison is not prim and proper. She posed for Playboy in 2012 for heaven’s sake!
As for being unrelatable: the moment everyone learned about her struggles with fertility and her devastating 15 miscarriages, any sort of relatability issues, evaporated. Sad that it took that admission for that to happen.
What Rosanna is, however, is composed. And that does come from her upbringing, from feeling a need to keep it together. Today she keeps herself together with routine (she recently gave up alcohol), also by staying active (Pilates is her thing) and she feels “pulled together”, she admits, when dolled up.
Professional, polite and driven (she has three published books and a MSc degree in personalised nutrition), we’re sure Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) whooped for joy when they got news she was willing to appear in the new series, following years of requests.
A dream to work with and a dream to look at too, it is hard, we must admit, to take your eyes off her.
The title beauty queen (which was bestowed upon her when she won Miss World in 2003) is something she must have a love/hate relationship with. While it gave her a platform to build a career on, it also colluded with those preconceptions she’s spent her life trying to move away from. But the truth is: she is a beauty – though such beauty can be intimidating. And her warmth and her softness does make her a queen.
In Luttrellstown Castle – a venue fitting for a queen – we talk about reclaiming herself this new year through DWTS, following four intense years of parenting three toddlers under the age of four, with husband Wesley Quirke…
You’re brave, Rosanna because taking on DWTS takes balls and, time, which you don’t have with three small kids at home. What level of madness made you say yes this time?! Because we’re sure you’ve been asked before.
I have been asked before! I was approached last year, but my kids were just too small. This year when they asked it honestly took me months to decide. I talked to a few of the past contestants. Suzanne Jackson, for example, was really helpful with advice and was really honest about the whole process. I went through every scenario in my head, obviously the main thing is the children, I’m really busy with three toddlers, the boys are three-years-old, Sophia is four. But, they started pre-school in September and they’ve really settled in well and love going in. They are in until 3pm every day so I thought I’ve a run of time from 8.30am – 3.00pm and what else do I want to be doing in the coldest, darkest month of the year [laughs]?!
Four months it took you to decide. But didn’t one particular event flip the switch?
Yes [laughs]! Last September, my husband Wes, went on a business trip to Cambodia and Thailand. Then a couple of weeks later he went on another business trip to Vegas! While away, our childminder also went on holidays! One of the nights, Wes called – high on life – after going to see U2 in The Sphere and it was at that precise moment that I thought, ‘I’m going to say yes to DWTS’! That is what tripped the switch as I sat at home with three small kids, doing all the school runs, all the laundry, all the bedtimes, all the meals, and I thought, if he can have his fun I am going to do something for me too.
I know! I remember the morning when he rang and I didn’t know what timezone he was in and neither did he and he was like, ‘Hey, what time is it where you are?’ He was all gushing about the performance, saying U2 were amazing and I was just…[thinks] jealous! You get so petty as parents, don’t you?! When he came home I told him I was going to say yes to DWTS and he totally understood because we get that we both need to feel like we’re doing something for ourselves.
Not only can you lose yourself in motherhood, but you can lose yourself in parenthood too. You forget that you are individuals, that you are not one unit.
Exactly. I just felt it was the perfect project at the perfect time and it ticked all the boxes for me. And it is helping me slowly remember
that I’m an individual with autonomy and agency and, seeing yourself as an individual again – not just as a mum – is important. Because as much as I love being mum – I love it so much and it is my favourite thing in the world and I love our little team that is our family – but you do need something outside of that, that brings you out. And DWTS is reminding me of the days in my early 20s dancing in nightclubs! The freedom that brings, I haven’t experienced in ages.
The Vegas trip just helped shift your perspective.
It did. Wes and I have always co-parented yet I’ve always been the default parent because he runs his own business and is in town everyday. I’m the one who’s been a bit more flexible and really, for the last four years, it’s been intense and I have put my career on hold to a huge extent. I’ve done what I could do, mainly on social media, but a lot of the stuff I used to do abroad with my management group in Europe was put on hold and, I couldn’t really travel. I just thought now this is a chance while I have a support system at home. And yes it will take more time away from the children – certainly at weekends – but it’s only for a short time, a month or two or however long I last [laughs], it could be a few weeks only! But it’s something I can focus on that is a little outside the baby bubble I’ve been in and it’s something that ticks all boxes for me.
What boxes does it tick, Rosanna?
I feel the need to be part of something, to be part of a community, to be part of a creative project. Also, learning a new skill is
exhilarating and working on something that keeps me active. I love being active, it brings me so much joy to feel that I’m moving my body. Even throughout the last few years my switch off always was doing my home workouts.
Talk to us about the advice that last year’s finalist, Suzanne Jackson, gave you.
Suzanne spoke a lot about the mental preparation side, about keeping your nervous system as relaxed as possible, which is easier said than done! But I am really focusing on that. I have been really disciplined about getting my eight hours of sleep because the kids wake up super early. I stopped drinking alcohol in the summer and I have found that that has helped calm my nerves; alcohol definitely contributes to my anxiety. I’ve started meditating also because I have found since having children that I’m more wired to feeling anxious. My default mode with toddlers is to panic because they are always nearly in danger! Either they have hurt themselves, are about to, or are hurting each other [laughs]! So, working on my nervous system was great advice from Suzanne. Other previous contestants have all said just to trust the process and enjoy it as much as you can. I’ve done a lot of live tv and catwalks so I’m not nervous about the tv side of it or the live audience, it’s the steps and the more technical side of dancing that is an issue for me.
Emotional strength was good advice from Suzanne but, physical strength is required too. You are fit and you are strong – you have been through a lot. If we were to ask your pals to describe you, would they say you’re resilient?
I would hope that would be one of the words they’d use. I have faced challenges, I guess, in my life. I’ve been challenged by life to be resilient so I would say I am quite mentally strong. But to be both mentally or physically strong depends really on how you’re looking after yourself. And for me that means getting the kids down to bed at a good time and having a good routine. And we do have a good routine, in that I have an hour or so to chill before I go to bed. But Wes doesn’t get much of a look in because we’re just so wrecked. We have such busy days, he at work and then in traffic and me running around. So, when we do sit we kind of just need to sit quietly in silence for an hour [laughs]!
Nobody goes into a show like this without having even a tiny daydream of holding that glitterball.
I think it’s maybe about believing it’s possible, not necessarily believing that it will happen. I find with anything I’ve done of significance in my life, that if I concentrate too much on the end result, I lose touch with the process and I think the process is where you have fun and learn the skill. When I think back to our surrogacy journey, I just focussed on the tiny victories and the little wins everyday, whether it was a scan or a message from the surrogate saying she was feeling great. With my masters degree I just focussed on each essay I had to do. Trying your best is all you can do.
What do your mum and dad think about you doing the show?
They’re funny – I only told them the day I was on The Late Late Show…
Why didn’t you tell them before?
I dunno…we’re a family that have been in this industry for so many years that it wouldn’t be a shock or surprise to them that I would do something like this. It’s not my first time doing a show. When I did tell them, they didn’t go, oh wow! My mum’s reaction was, ‘Oh, you lucky thing I’d love to learn to dance. I might sign up for ballroom lessons in the new year!’ My brothers were like, ‘Cool, we won’t be able to slag you for your bad dancing anymore!’ With my dad’s career and my brother also doing shows, there’s no real shock factor in my family anymore.
But it’s the biggest show in the country!
I know, I know! But they’d be more shocked if I took a 9-5 job!
Pro dancer Karen Byrne asks all her dance partners NOT to read the comments online because of the mean stuff people can write. Have you put any rules in place to shield yourself from online abuse or commentary that may now come your way?
I’ve been told most people want you to do well, that no one wants to see you fail. But yes, I’m human and I’m probably more sensitive now than I used to be when I was younger. It’s not that I believe things that are said and written, it’s more that I’m shocked that there are still keyboard warriors that will write mean things. Still though I tend to see it as a reflection on them and I feel quite sorry for their mental state. Control the controllables is my motto.
One thing you can control is how you present yourself to the world. Your social media content is one such way.
I have found that for my whole life people have said, ‘Oh, Chris de Burgh’s daughter, oh she was Miss World, she must be very prim and proper and unrelatable’. I have felt that I’ve always had to bat off preconceptions based on ideas about my upbringing or childhood or family situation. So I do put plenty of behind the scenes social content up there that I hope people can relate to.
It always amazes us how perfect you always look, especially on your socials. Do you need to feel you look okay, to feel pulled together? Are clothes and makeup part of the artillery to ward yourself against the day?
Yes. And I was saying that this morning to my dance partner. No matter what, putting on your face makes you feel like you’re in work mode. When I go home I wash my face off, put the pyjamas on and tie up my hair – that is me in home mode. But I think there is a psychology to feeling mentally prepared for whatever the day throws at you when you have your makeup on and your hair done. And it definitely goes back to my year as Miss World where I was expected to step off the plane and be ready to go to an event or a ball and, I’ve kind of kept that mentality going. I feel perfectly fine without makeup – I’m not a horror sight without it! – it’s just my way of preparing myself mentally. Even when I was at home doing my masters online I’d still get up and get dressed, brush my hair, put on the mascara.
Is your confidence built a little in to your appearance, in to who you are?
100 per cent and I think it’s all wrapped up in minimising my anxiety. I find a lot of the decisions I make in the day are to minimise my anxiety about certain things.
Winning Miss World is such a big deal. But does Miss World always – even years later – have to keep up appearances?
I’m not striving to look like a beauty queen; a lot of the time I am very dressed down. I’m quite happy to go out of the house looking pretty dishevelled but, feeling pulled together does make me feel better.
As Coco Chanel said, “If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack”! You’ve started 2024 off with a bang – what are your plans beyond DWTS? Or can you even see beyond DWTS?
I really can’t at the moment! I know that the children get their Easter holidays on the 22nd of March so if I do make it through the entire show [laughs] that finishes up the 18th of March, I’m sort of thinking it would be lovely to go away on a family holiday. That’s really as far as I’ve got in terms of my thoughts! For the next few months I’ve cleared the boards. It’s just dancing and kids – I’m ready!
Interview by Bianca Luykx