It’s All Rosie: STELLAR Gets To Know The Woman Behind The Likes

Rosie Connolly chats to Vicki Notaro about her wedding, being a mam, and call-out culture.

Rosie Connolly has had quite a year. First off, that’s not even her name anymore – she’s now Rosie Connolly-Quinn since her May 19th wedding to her boyfriend of four years, Paul, who is also the father of her three year old son, Harry. And of course, she’s been trucking away as one of Ireland’s most successful and well-known online personalities, amassing followers thanks to her beauty, fashion and family posts, and enthralling them with once-in-a-lifetime trips to Las Vegas and New York Fashion Week in the last six months.

It was at NYFW that I first spent some proper time with Rosie, and I have to say, she surprised me. I’m not sure why, I’ve been following the blogger on social media for a couple of years, but I guess I was taken aback because not only is she ridiculously beautiful in the flesh (like a tiny Disney princess), she’s also very astute, well-spoken, clever and warm. It’s not that I thought she wouldn’t be, but in this world of taking everything at face value (quite literally), it’s easy to judge someone only on the pictures they post.

I’ve met other online stars in the past that look very different from the images they share online, and as Rosie had caught quite a bit of flack in the past for photo editing to hide her acne, maybe
I thought she wouldn’t be quite as she seems in real life. Nope, she is; I warmed to her right away because she’s a lovely mix of savvy and sweet.

Rosie was the first in influencer Andrea Roche signed to the latest facet of her talent agency, and many have followed in her successful footsteps. With almost 190,000 Instagram followers, she’s one of the most popular lifestyle bloggers in the country.

She’s just back from a whirlwind honeymoon in the Maldives with her brand new husband Paul, whom she married last month in a gorgeous ceremony at Carton House, and we shot her only three days before she walked down the aisle. When I caught up with her right afterwards, you could hear the absolute delight in her voice about how well everything had gone.

The wedding was absolutely incredible. I’m still in the bubble of wedding madness! I don’t think I’ve ever smiled as much in my life, we danced our socks off. The ceremony was probably my favourite part, really romantic and spiritual, I was a bag of nerves walking up the aisle, crying before I even walked up, but the minute I saw Paul I was just so happy.

It’s fair to say that both Rosie and Paul have been through hardships before finding happiness together. Rosie lost her father suddenly when she was 18, and his son Jacob died just a few months before the couple met. He has another son, Jacob’s twin Reuben, and they fell pregnant together with Harry when they’d only been a couple for nine months. Now Rosie is a step-mother to Reuben, a mother to Harry and a new wife to Paul, who she calls her rock.

“I’m happier now at 28 than I ever was, I love being settled. I feel the word wife feels so old, but I feel like Paul and I are very tight and very secure and happy with where we are. I’m not going to change, we’re not getting married to cement anything. It’s just a nice thing, nice for him to be my husband. We’ve been through so much. He’s been through his own struggles, he lost a child and when I met him he wasn’t dealing with that, and he met me when my mother was bald going through cancer, but it just always felt so right with us.”

She says being a stepmother is not something she was exactly prepared for. “I remember thinking that it was so complicated, why am I falling for this guy, but I think we’re made for each other. I’d been through grief, and I knew he was ignoring it.”

But when it hit him, I held his hand, went to counselling with him, stepped back when I needed to. I was there for him, I didn’t understand what it was like to lose a child, but I was always there to support him and help him get through it. I wanted him to know you can be a man’s man and still have a cry. But I don’t think he knew what he had been through.

“My step-son is amazing, an incredible kid and he and Harry are so close. It’s been turbulent, but things are great now. I’ve a step-dad since I was nine, and I get that dynamic and it’s a lot more common these days. It was hard to adjust, but we’ve found our feet and its settled nicely, and it was a good time for us to get married. Paul is an amazing dad, mad about the two boys and I love seeing him as a dad.”

It was Rosie’s pregnancy that first brought her into the public eye. She’d been working as a personal shopper and stylist in Oasis and then Arnotts, posting to Instagram about her outfits. “Instagram had started to get really popular when I was working in Arnotts, and I was working in fashion so wanted to look nice. When I got pregnant, I didn’t want to wear typical maternity clothes, so I’d buy pregnancy jeans and rip the knees of them, and style things up a bit differently. Over time, I just noticed my following starting to grow. Eventually it got to the point where I was getting 100 new followers a day, and I think it was other women who were pregnant or had kids. It’s so unfamiliar as a first time mum, I think you want to link up with other people going through the same thing.”

Rosie and Paul’s pregnancy wasn’t planned. “Out of all of my family I was the least maternal and always thought, if I’m going to have kids it’ll be when I’m a lot older. I was living at home, Mum was going through chemotherapy at the time, and I thought how am I going to tell her? I remember thinking, what are we going to do? But Paul was very calm, he said we’ll deal with it. He was so level-headed, but it took me about three months to accept it was actually going to happen.

When you’re pregnant everyone congratulates you, but I didn’t feel like it was something to be like ‘Yay!’ about. I think there’s such pressure on women to be so excited and be perfect, but I was so ill, I threw up for 26 weeks.

“And it was such a surprise. I had a stash of pregnancy tests from when I was on Roaccutane [a drug for acne] where you have to take a test every month because you can’t take it if you’re pregnant. I’d been feeling really tired and I was a week late, so I just thought I’d do a test to put my mind at ease. When it was positive I just thought… oh my god. It was 7am, I was heading to work when I did it. I couldn’t believe it. And actually, I can’t wait for the moment that we hopefully do have a baby that’s planned and I’m so excited about it from the beginning! But that was like hell on earth, I was petrified and I felt like I’d let my mum down.

I was 23, but I was also the baby of the family so I felt younger. I was selfish, just living life and spending all my money on myself, on clothes. but that’s why it was such a shock to the system. I remember thinking life is going to change, and I’m going to deal with it. I had Harry in December, and mam always said I went into hospital a girl and came out a woman. Even my sister says she hated me until I had him, I was so self-centred. But from the moment I held Harry, everything changed.”

Then on maternity leave, Rosie was bored and lonely in the couple’s new apartment, and she had this new following so she started posting more.

My new baby slept all day, all my friends and family were in work. So I started focusing a bit more on posting every day, I was lonely at home so it was nice to interact. Even if I saw nobody for the whole day except Harry, I felt like I did! It gets you up and dressed, and engaged with people. It was a hobby.

After a while, it took off to the point that brands were paying her for sponsored posts, and it was more than she’d earn in a week in full time employment. She thought about giving influencer work a go when very few other people were doing it, and with Paul’s support she extended her maternity leave, unpaid, for two months, and she’s never looked back. “Instagram being a place to make money wasn’t a thing before then, and of course there was no regulation. It all happened organically, fell in my lap and just worked. What keeps people interested? I think it’s growing with me, the real life connection. Seeing me grow, Harry grow. I’m conscious of sharing so much family life, but that’s what people love, they feel like they know you. You get the odd troll that makes you think you should pull back, but I try and strike the balance with what I share. I think it’s the real side of things, we’re not a conventional family.”

Rosie also drew people in with her beauty posts. “I was always into hair and make-up, probably did a bad job of it, but I was super pale growing up and I had quite dark circles under my eyes. I was kind of bullied in school, called Casper, the ghost, you name it. People would slag me for being too thin and too pale. So I started getting in to make-up to cover what people were slagging me about, not necessarily as an artistic thing, but I loved it.

“I wanted to take a year out after school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but my mam wasn’t having any of it, she said no way, you’ll just sit around for the year. So I got a place in DIT, but I really wanted to do something creative so I applied for a make-up course in Senior College Dun Laoghaire.

“Then my dad passed away in the September, I’d only been in college a week. He drowned, he was missing for two days and was found out at sea. It totally threw me, I was only 18 and I remember thinking, I just can’t go back to college. That’s when my anxiety started, I couldn’t even go to the bus stop. I was petrified that anyone I loved was going to be hit by a car, or taken from me in some way. If mum didn’t come home from work on time, I thought she’d been murdered, really erratic thoughts.

“The college were absolutely amazing and said we’re going to hold your hand through this, do it for your dad. He was found in Dun Laoghaire, and my train went by it every day, so it was really tough. But I went back, had an amazing class who were so supportive, and I threw myself into it.”

The internet is rife with ‘calling out’ culture, and Rosie has fought her own battles on that front. She fully admits editing her pictures in the past to make her skin look more clear, as she was so insecure about her acne. She’s also admitted she was wrong for not wearing a seat belt after taking part in a paid Road Safety campaign. She’s been called out for a brand she launched that she’s stepped away from now, but she demurs from talking about it due to legal issues.

If I’m in the wrong, I hold my hands up and say it. I was totally insecure about my skin, but when I posted a picture of me without make-up, it was empowering – people saw the worst of me, and it was out there. The controversy made me feel more confident in the end; there’s a power in showing your flaws. Not one person said ‘You’re disgusting’. You need to learn from things, even if it’s the shittest time in your life. I’m being as honest now as I can online. There’s an obsession with perfection, and people who don’t have a big following edit their photos.

“Sometimes I don’t want to talk about controversy or mean comments because it adds fuel to the fire, so I’m learning to hold my tongue. But I read stuff about me, my family, Paul, that is so blatantly untrue… When you know it’s not true, you want to reply, and I’ve done that, but it doesn’t work. There are people out there that will hate me, if I saved 1000 puppies, they’d still hate me. So I move on with the people that do like me, create content for them. It was hard to learn, but I have learned it. It was hard to think people who didn’t know me hated me and thought I was a horrible person, and the more you read it, the more you start to believe it. But I realised I can’t let other people’s judgement and negativity affect me.”

So what’s next? After her amazing fashion posts on honeymoon, lots of followers are desperate for Rosie to start her own swimwear brand. “Do you know what, this year I just wanted to focus on the wedding and my family. I still work with the brands that I work with regularly, but I don’t know what’s next to be honest, the industry is changing so fast.

“I’m going to sit back and let an idea come to me, not force it. Nothing is standing out to me right now, and I’m not going to just put my name to anything now. When the right thing comes along, it’ll click, but for now I’m going to focus on my health, happiness and my family.”

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