A pageant queen, reality star, columnist, model, podcaster and now fully-fledged businesswoman, Holly Carpenter continues to add strings to her multi-talented bow.
The Dublin star is our latest cover star for our Goss.ie Spotlight On feature, and in this interview she opens up about being in her happiest relationship to date, dealing with her public profile and where she’s going next.
The brunette was crowned Miss Ireland in 2011, and went on to represent the country in the Miss World beauty pageant.
Two years later, Holly made her reality TV debut on Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model, placing 7th overall.
Since then, the 30-year-old has become one of Ireland’s leading influencers and has starred in a number of major TV shows – including Celebrity MasterChef Ireland in 2017, and RTÉ’s Dancing with the Stars in 2019.
The model also came close to appearing on Love Island back in 2020, but then found love in the real world with her boyfriend Jamie Hunt.
Recently, Holly became a shareholder in the Irish leg of a talent agency called Matchstick, which was co-founded by Vogue Williams.
In her exclusive interview with Goss.ie, Holly opens up about her time on Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model, her scary catfishing experience, dealing with online trolls and being madly in love.
Take a look:
Why did you sign up for Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model and what was your experience on the show like?
I had gone to Miss World in 2011. It was a couple of years later and I wanted to do something similar, but different. When I went over, I think I was quite naive. I was still in my early 20s and I didn’t really know the other side of what reality TV is really like. Like living with producers, being mic’d up and not having contact with the outside world at all.
On one hand, I absolutely loved the experience in terms of making friends and doing all these incredible photoshoots. But then on the other side of it, there was a lot of pressure on how you looked, and I didn’t really find [the show’s host] Elle Macpherson was the warmest person. I didn’t really like her that much to be honest, but I loved Danni Minogue who was one of the judges – she was so lovely.
There was definitely some stuff I found really stressful, but it helped me grow up really fast and it gave me such a sense of independence to just go off to such a challenging environment.
You later appeared on Celebrity MasterChef and Dancing with the Stars – are there any other reality shows you would love to do?
A show that I absolutely love and would be obsessed with doing if I could is I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here. I know it’s not the easiest show to get on because they have a lot of really big people, but that would be my dream reality show to do.
It looks like such a challenge and it’s a great show to watch, so I’m hoping they have an Irish person on it this year. I know there’s been rumours about Maura Higgins, who I think is absolutely hilarious. I think they definitely need to always have a few Irish people on it.
I think I’d be grand with the spiders and snakes, I’d be more so worried about being hungry all the time. After doing Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model, I understand why you see people kicking off, having huge fights, crying and being dramatic on reality shows. A lot of people on Twitter are harsh being like, ‘Oh my god, why are they behaving like that?’ But because I know how stressful it is when you’re there, with the lack of sleep and hunger, I’d probably also be very dramatic.
As I’ve gotten older, I just don’t say no to anything. I think you should just throw yourself in the deep end and then find out if you can do it when you’re there. Life’s so short.
You recently launched the Filter Free podcast. Are you hoping to come back with a second season?
I hope so. At the time, when I came out with the pilot season, a lot of people were around because people weren’t travelling as much. I’ve noticed it’s definitely harder to pin people down now because everyone is so busy. I really enjoyed being on the other side and interviewing people, so I’m hoping to do something like that again, but I can’t say for sure when season two will be out.
I’d love to get into presenting too. I think before Covid, I had really high hopes for getting back into TV. Things were lined up and I felt like, ‘Ok, I’m going to do this.’ But then, everything was put on hold. It was the same for everyone. But I think in 2023, TV and radio are going to be a big focus for me.
You recently invested in a company called Matchstick. Could you tell us a bit about that and your role in the business?
So Matchstick first launched their talent agency in the UK. They manage a lot of reality TV stars and influencers. Vogue Williams was a part of it in the UK, and she knows the guy who owns the company Max Parker. She explained to him that the talent in Ireland weren’t being managed properly, and she saw a gap in the market. Vogue was then talking to myself and James Kavanagh and asked if we’d like to come in as shareholders.
It’s been a been a great fresh start, and I feel like it’s renewed my focus when it comes to social media and putting myself out there. I was with my last agency for five years, so this is like a new venture. It feels really good. They’re so organised and have some much access to UK brands and talent. So when I do come back with Filter Free, there are people from the UK that maybe would’ve been harder to get on the podcast available to me through Matchstick.
I don’t know how you have the time to do everything! You seem to have so much going on at the same time…
I know! The industry is so funny because you can have two days where you actually have spare time, and then suddenly your diary gets flooded and you’ve to text your friends and move things around.
I think I’m used to the chaotic side of it, because opportunities can land on your lap randomly on a Wednesday about something that’s on that Friday, so it’s all just go go go! I have gotten better at telling myself, ‘You’re able to handle whatever is thrown at you, so just go for it.’
You’ve spoken out in the past about difficult times in your life and struggles you’ve had with your mental health. How have things been recently for you?
I’m happier than ever now. I’m glad that I was always honest about the harder times because I think that’s important. Anytime I’ve seen anyone in the public eye talk about their struggles, it made me feel assured that we all go through those times.
But I think meeting my boyfriend Jamie during lockdown made such a big difference for me. I had been living alone, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to meet someone. I suppose I’ve always been quite a romantic person and thought maybe that person was out there for me, but I didn’t know if I’d ever meet someone I could be 100% myself with and who is so supportive.
Obviously what I do for work is so different, and I haven’t always felt that support from partners. It’s really nice to have someone who, with anything I do, is so supportive. Jamie is always like, ‘Oh my god you’ll be amazing at that’, and asks me about how the job went afterwards. I think for the first time, I feel like I’m part of a really strong team.
Surrounding yourself with the right people is so important. I think since turning 30, I’m a lot more selective about who I give my time and energy to. I also think everything happens for a reason, and I definitely met Jamie at the right time.
Before when I met someone, life was so chaotic. You’d be going out for dinners, drinks, and then both your schedules would be so busy that it was harder to see each other. Whereas when me and Jamie started seeing each other, we were doing things like sunrise swims and hikes. There was literally nothing else to do because everything was closed! It meant that we got to know each other a lot quicker, and it was a really stripped back version of me because I wasn’t rushing off to events or heading on trips. It was a really nice chance to let someone in properly and just be myself.
View this post on Instagram
How did you and Jamie meet?
We have a lot of mutual friends, so we would’ve seen each other out and about. We also matched online years ago! My friend Rob was always saying to me, ‘You and Jamie would get along so well.’ But we never really bumped into each other properly.
And then when I saw him online, we matched and I respected that he was really quick to be like, ‘Right, are you around this weekend? Let’s just go for a drink.’ Because I don’t really like talking on the phone for too long, I don’t really see the point.
Then we went on our first date, and we just laughed the whole time. We got along so well, and because we knew similar people we had loads of stories and loads to talk about. We couldn’t believe how much we had in common.
What is the secret to a good relationship?
I think it’s about being really honest about your feelings. Before Jamie, I would’ve always tried to act so laid back and would never say exactly what was on my mind. But from the get-go with Jamie, I would tell him exactly how I felt about things. From the start, we were both just really really honest with each other and now even if I try pretend I’m ok and I’m not, he can see straight through it. I can’t lie to him!
We just have that respect for each other, and it’s a mutual thing. I think we both make an equal amount of sacrifices for each other, so it’s not like one person wears the trousers, we’re very much equal. That really works out well because there’s not one person who feels like they’re standing on eggshells or anything. I never feel like, ‘Oh god how am I going to talk to Jamie about that?’
I also don’t have to keep up appearances with him. We still get dressed up and go on dates and stuff, but if I am not wearing makeup or feel rundown, it doesn’t change how we treat each other. I don’t feel like I have to be perfect around him. It’s nice.
For me growing up, my parents were always laughing and doing things together, and I always wanted that real friendship in a relationship. We genuinely still get excited to see each other.
It came out of nowhere. I think when you’re single, it’s easy to slip into a negative mindset and be like, ‘Oh Jesus I’m never going to meet someone.’ But sometimes, it does just come out of nowhere. So if you are someone in their late 20s or 30s and you’re panicking a bit, you never really know what’s around the corner.
You also have another very special man in your life in the form of your dog Max, who you adopted at the start of lockdown…
Yeah, I think when I realised lockdown was going to be more than a few months, I decided to look for a dog. I’ve always grown up with dogs and had rescue dogs in our family, so I was like right I’ll just foster one for a few months and see what happens. But my whole family knew I was going to fall in love with him!
Having a dog is such a big responsibility. Especially now that life is so busy again, it’s expensive getting him minders and stuff like that. But he was really, really there for being during lockdown. Dogs are just so receptive to my emotions, like any time I was upset he would jump up and lick my face. He’s just so cute! It’s been great to have him.
He doesn’t really like everyone, but as soon as he met Jamie he was all over him, bouncing all over him. They have a bit of a bromance! If Jamie didn’t get along with my dog, it wouldn’t have worked!
I’ve been an ambassador with Dogs Trust since 2011, so I’m very much behind the Adopt Don’t Shop campaign. I think Ireland is still the puppy farming capital of Europe, which is really bad. Coming up to Christmas now,I’ll be doing more campaigns with Dogs Trust to push the message home that there are so many gorgeous dogs that have been abandoned and need a home, so you don’t need to go buy dogs. And if you are going to buy one, you really need to do your research and look into the breeder.
You have a massive social media platform, which comes with pros and cons. One of those cons for you has been people stealing your photos and using them to catfish people. Tell us a bit about that.
I remember the first time it happened in 2011 or 2012, I ended up going to the guards, but back then there was nothing they could do. They were really clueless about social media and dating apps. But now, they’re a lot more informed and there’s more rules in place.
I still do get the odd screenshot of someone using my photos, and it does freak me out. They could be talking to someone for a long period of time using my face, and it’s such a helpless feeling. I almost feel guilty when it happens even though I haven’t done anything. It just makes me feel uncomfortable.
If I ever get a message from someone, I obviously let them know it’s not me and I’ll put it on my Instagram Story to ask my followers to report the account. Usually that works. I have such a good support network in my followers, even though the odd time I’ll get a bit of trolling, so it’s quite nice to have that.
View this post on Instagram
How do you deal with online trolling?
I used to be more sensitive to it. Everyone has days where they’re more sensitive than others, so if I got a really nasty message it could still potentially upset me. Usually I just block the person because they’re only going to do it again, and I don’t need them following me. I’ll also tell someone like Jamie or my mum, and they’ll usually make a joke and turn it into something I can laugh about instead.
It worries me thinking about younger people who just aren’t talking to anyone about it, and they’ve messages building up and they’re dealing with it on their own. I think it’s like anything, you just have to tell people. I just don’t understand why people follow someone they don’t like. We all have people whose content might grate us a bit, or we might not be that into or find annoying, but why follow them then? It’s so weird.
What are your plans for the coming months?
I’m really excited that this is going to be our first proper Christmas in a few years, so I’m excited to work on Christmas campaigns. It’s a great time of year to work with skincare and makeup brands. That’s the side of Instagram that I really enjoy doing, because you get to be quite creative and I’m really passionate about that. So I’m really excited about that all.
I’m just in a really good place for setting goals for next year. It’s hard to believe we only have four months left this year, it’s gone by so quickly. On one hand I’m taking things one day at a time but on the other hand, I’m excited to get going.
Me and Jamie have booked a trip to Morocco for New Year’s. I also have my mum’s 60th in France at the end of this month. My family have been so separated with my parents living in France, and my dad’s obviously still quite sick, so it will be really nice for us all to be together and celebrate. Jamie’s coming to that as well. I’m really happy to be getting that family time in as well, while staying really focused on work.