I first met Donegal born, Grainne Gallanagh backstage at a charity fashion event earlier this year. At this stage she’d secured the title of Miss Universe Ireland and was preparing for her trip to Thailand where she would be competing in the 67th Miss Universe pageant. Not a single air nor grace surrounded the model and qualified nurse, as she joked with and offered advice in a big sisterly fashion to her fellow models at the event, snapping into business mode when necessary to fulfil the social media responsibilities associated with her title. We got chatting about the upcoming pageant about which she lit up with excitement, mostly in relation to meeting the other girls and the enchanting experience overall. Of course, there were a few nerves present but what was most apparent was her down-to-earth, natural charisma, the thing that has all of us rooting for her as we fast forward a few weeks to the current day which marks two weeks out from the Miss Universe pageant on 17th December.
Here, The Style Edit chats with Grainne, our current Miss Universe Ireland, about what inspired her to enter the pageant, the good she hopes to use her platform for and the preparation she’s been undergoing in the pursuit of the Miss Universe title.
What inspired you to enter Miss Universe Ireland?
I love pageants. I love how they give the girls a great platform for things they’re passionate about and develop their confidence along the way. For me MUI is a combination of my interests and I love being involved.
How did you feel the moment you heard them announce your name?
I was in shock! It took me a long time to process that I’d heard my name right. It was very surreal. I could just about make out my family screaming from the corner. It was the best moment of my life. I will remember it forever!
“I would like to use my platform to raise awareness, educate people about women’s health issues and one day open my own female health clinic to utilise the skills that I have learned.”
Is there a particular cause as Miss Universe Ireland that you’d like to use your platform for?
I am very passionate about women’s health. As a nurse I’ve seen first hand the struggles that women face on a daily basis and women’s health isn’t often prioritised, as we have very sadly witnessed here in Ireland. I would like to use my platform to raise awareness, educate people about women’s health issues and one day open my own female health clinic to utilise the skills that I have learned.
While also a qualified nurse, is it important to you to devote as much time to your role as a nurse as you do to your MUI and modelling work?
I have kept up my job as a nurse as it is part of who I am and I am not going to give it up. I have devoted a lot of my time to MUI as I realise it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I also get to utilise it to do speeches on women’s health and be involved in healthcare, just in a different setting.
How do you balance work the two roles?
I’m only human so of course I feel the pressure. But I am very lucky that my job is so flexible and I can spend a lot of my time focused on Miss Universe as there is a lot of work involved.
Did you always want to be a nurse?
No, funnily enough it was only something I decided when I was in secondary school. I loved biology, I loved working with people and I was hardworking. It seemed like a fit and I’m glad that I did it as it gave me various opportunities in my life and I got to meet some extraordinary people.
Within nursing, what sparked your interest in women’s health in particular?
As a woman and growing up with four sisters, being around females is very natural to me. Women often have poorer health than men due to various factors and it was the natural progression of my career that sparked my passion to work with women and advocate for female health issues.
How do you feel we can improve the barriers faced by women faced in their physical and mental health?
I feel that women’s health should be made more of a priority. If women feel that their physical and mental health is an important issue then they will feel more comfortable in coming forward with such problems. I also feel like the media and spreading awareness and education is a great way of doing this. I think there should be more clinics around the country dedicated solely to female health as women face more barriers due to their sexual and reproductive health, pregnancy, their ‘caring roles’, experiences of sexual and domestic abuse.
“(My parents) inspire me to show kindness to everyone that I meet.”
Who or what inspires you?
My parents are a big inspiration of mine. They are the most compassionate and caring people I have ever met. They do so much for their children and never ask or expect anything in return. They inspire me to show kindness to everyone that I meet.
What does the preparation look like for Miss Universe?
There is a lot of preparation involved for MU. I have to prepare myself physically and mentally. I have been working with an online trainer and I have been in the gym more than ever before. I am doing a lot of reading up on world topics so that I can have an informed opinion about such things. I am doing interview and public speaking skills. I am practicing my walk for the catwalk. I am trying to prepare myself mentally and keep my confidence and energy high. It is a lot of work but it will be worth it!
Working two jobs, one of which as a public figure and having an active presence on social media, how do you maintain a work/life balance?
I like to keep my private life with my friends, family and boyfriend just for me. My social media is now promotion of Miss Universe Ireland and showcasing my journey to Miss Universe. I try and take some time every day to spend some time either with or chatting with my boyfriend or family.
How do you like to unwind?
I like going to the gym, it keeps me focused. Some evenings if I need to relax I lie in bed watching Netflix with a glass of wine. If I’m feeling stressed the best thing for me is to go a walk around the beach. It’s the best thing to calm me down.
“A lot of the time people tend to judge pageants and the girls in them without really knowing them and it can be hurtful.”
Tell us something you wish more people knew about you.
I wish more people knew that I am a nurse. A lot of the time people tend to judge pageants and the girls in them without really knowing them and it can be hurtful. Sometimes they assume you don’t know anything, even though I am a trained professional in my field.
What’s one beauty product you couldn’t live without?
Moisturiser. I have dry skin and I moisturise all the time. I think if you take good care of your skin first then the rest will follow.
Best beauty tip you’ve learned?
The best beauty tip I have learned is diversity. Changing up your look and showing you are able to pull off different looks is a must in the fashion world.
What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
Stop worrying! Stop worrying about things you cannot control, it is a waste of time. Everything will fall into place.
What’s your favourite part of your job as a nurse?
Definitely meeting my patients. It is a very difficult but rewarding job. I get to be there for the patient’s journey, comfort them in their times of need and be there for them and their family – my profession has allowed me to meet some incredible people and I am very grateful for that.