Model Citizen

“Don’t lose yourself in fear,” are words to live by according to model, food blogger, author and former Miss Universe Ireland, Roz Purcell.

Having grown up with two older sisters, Mum, Dad and grandparents on a farm in Tipperary, Roz, as she likes to be called – Rozanna when she’s in trouble, is no stranger to getting hands on. “Growing up on a farm, you have countless ways to occupy yourself. I loved building huts and tree houses.” As well as kick-starting her love for being active and fitness in general, Roz’s carefree childhood also inspired her newly welcomed career venture into the world of food. The Fethard native recalls nostalgically of her first job as her grandmother’s apprentice. “My grandmother was a great cook, and from a very young age I was her sous chef, it’s always been a very fond memory for me.”

 Though cooking may have been her first love, it was modelling that catapulted the 25-year-old beauty into the public spotlight. After being spotted by an agent while casually shopping in Dundrum, the then student of University College Dublin, was soon booking jobs for powerhouses such as Newbridge, Therapie and Born.  

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By chance, a photographer suggested that the young model try her luck at the Miss Universe competition. After a last minute entry, Roz was placed first runner up in 2009 – a major accolade in any right. But the resilient fitness fanatic intended to finish what she had started. She returned harder and faster the following year, with experience on her side, and became the first Miss Ireland to be placed in the international competition since 1998. Despite being tipped as a hot favourite, the model failed to make it to the last five, finishing up in seventh place. She still maintains it was one of her greatest adventures and an invaluable experience in the world of modelling. “The Miss Universe competition itself was one of my favourite experiences. Very few people ever get to experience being in an international pageant. It’s everything you imagine, lots of hair, makeup, glam and a tiny bit of drama. I made so many friends throughout the pageant.”

That seventh place was only the beginning for Roz. Almost instantaneously the fashion world saw the blossoming potential this Irish beauty had to offer. She was promptly signed to an agency in New York and began her global adventure. She attributes much of her success to the beauty contest, as well as explaining how it helped her grow as a person. “It taught me a lot about independence. I learned so much in terms of promoting yourself, about media skills and well, walking in a bikini in front of millions of people definitely makes you fearless!”

roz-purcell-by-julia-dunin-photography-60Soon Roz Purcell became a household name – even more so in the last two years since she turned to food blogging. A natural progression she states; “I guess modelling brought the health aspect, but I was always into baking and eating. My grandmother passed on her love of feeding and creating beautiful meals. I spent a lot of my modelling years denying my inner baker. On reintroducing myself to traditional methods, travelling and seeing all these new healthy ingredients, I realised, I COULD have my cake and eat it too! Also, I spend a lot of time thinking about food!” Roz’s blog, Natural Born Feeder, is a nod to healthy, clean living, eating whole foods and substituting devilish treats with healthy alternatives, without sacrificing on taste. I’d personally recommend the Rolo Bites!

Upon the success of her blog, Roz opted to pen a cookbook, maintaining focus on her love of raw, vegan, vegetarian and whole foods. The book, also entitled Natural Born Feeder, offers a range of healthy snacks and meals. Following the overwhelmingly positive reaction to her blog and cookbook, the health enthusiast recently opened her first pop up shop in Dublin. I’m sure, like me, our readers are wondering when we may expect a pop up shop of our own down here in the west. Growing up in the country, Roz tells me; “I always felt like everything happened in Dublin and that sometimes we got left out. I want to ensure everyone gets a little experience of the Natural Born Feeder Café.”

As well as finding success in the competitive world of fashion and food, Roz has found unlimited gain in the realm of fitness, and has utilised this success to help within her philanthropic adventures. She is an avid supporter of charity work and made it to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011 for the Make A Wish Foundation. Along with three other Irish models, she hiked  ‘Africa’s Roof’- as it’s nicknamed, raising awareness, as well as funds for the charity. The model claims she’s “always been into fitness,” roz-purcell-by-julia-dunin-photography-35and as a young girl growing up, would “play on whatever sports team would have me!” She maintained a regular training schedule right through to her college years, but really began her love affair with running when she started modelling, which she attributes mostly to the ease of just packing runners!  “I love the variety of training – gym classes, triathlons, boxing and weight training.” The Tipperary model is all for pushing herself, setting and resetting goals – from “smashing a new personal best in a 5K run,” to even the simplest things like “nailing a couple of chin ups,” this lady never lets a challenge get the better of her. Roz is aiming to complete a full Ironman in the near future, having cheered on boyfriend Niall Breslin at last year’s triathlon in Dublin. For those, like me, who don’t know, that entails a gruelling 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycle and a 26.2-mile marathon. Not to mention it all has to be completed typically within approximately 17 hours. I got tired just writing that!

Despite having a staggering number of projects in the air simultaneously, making time for herself is important to Roz. Writing and photography play major roles in her life – both leisurely as well as professionally. She also credits being an author as her biggest achievement to date. “It’s a difficult process, but one that’s so rewarding when you see the finished project. It really is your legacy. A book is forever, which is pretty cool!”

I think it’s safe to say, this woman has achieved more than a vast majority of us could only dream of by the tender age of 25, even if she classifies herself as “generally awkward.” When I asked her if she had any regrets in life, she jokingly replied, “giving up basketball in school!” but states that she doesn’t really believe in regrets. “It’s silly to live in the past, or the future.” We couldn’t agree more…

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