Maeve Madden chats with me excitedly from her car as she zips around London, which she calls her home ‘Half of the time’. The 29-year-old blonde describes herself as a personal trainer and model and if you have any interest in fitness, then you probably already follow the Newry native.
She not only boasts 122,000 followers on the photo-sharing site Instagram, but she is a regular cover girl for fitness magazines and activewear brands.
To date, she’s worked on campaigns for high-end brands, including Adidas, Tresemme, Lacoste, Vichy and Ann Summers as well as modelling in glossy magazines like Cosmopolitan. She’s also worked as an actress, recently staring in the Netflix hit The Crown.
Maeve has an American twang to her Northern Irish accent and talks quickly with a self-assured confidence beyond her years. I notice this, and then I check myself for noticing it, because it makes me realise how wonderful it is to engage with a woman who does feel the need to temper having a strong opinion with being attractive.
Maeve attributes her accent to having lived in the United States from the age of 17, and was here where discovered a passion for Irish dancing.
In her early twenties, she toured the world as a professional dancer in Michael Flatley’s show Celtic Tiger, before her career came to an abrupt halt when she was involved in a car crash. It was to be a life-changing moment.
Realising that her career as a dancer had come to an end – she decided to move to London where she re-invented herself as a fitness guru and the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, you can’t mention Maeve’s role as a fitness ‘influencer’ without mentioning the rise of Instagram.The photo sharing app is spurring the biggest shift the fitness world has seen in decades – and Maeve is a the forefront of this new health and wellness revolution.
Today, she beams with the kind of good health you’d expect of someone who blogs about berry bowl breakfasts and an active lifestyle. She is also ( enviably) one of those people who make deadlifting their body weight and doing pull-ups look completely effortless. However, she trains very intensely to stay at the very top of her game.
Maeve explains that “Getting fit” has become synonymous not just with healthier living but it’s also a lifestyle statement. “It’s almost like if you don’t (go to the gym) people are astonished, ” she laughs.“You don’t work out?! Not that you don’t go to the gym, but like you don’t do anything. How do you NOT do anything?!”
It would be fair to say that the new crop of fitness models represents an aspirational lifestyle — although they might sooner encourage consumers to sign up for a gym membership than to invest in the latest designer dress. And, as anyone who has endured countless Instagram photos of avocado on gluten-free bread (“#avotoast!!!”) knows, a toned body is the new status symbol.
For bloggers who make a living out of their image – Mave explains that competition is fierce. “I have a friend, who was a very successful blogger but, you know, she is very lazy, and she doesn’t work out. Her following has fallen away because she is not on trend with the whole healthy and fit look. Her following has really slowed down.”
But that is not to say that all the attention Maeve gets online is positive, she tells me that she has to deal with the darker side of internet fame which includes -bullying, criticism and body shaming.
“I had to have a minor surgery, and I took four weeks off where I didn’t work out” she explains “If it were one person, I would have been ‘OK whatever’, but quite a number of people criticised my weight.”
“I was wearing these lemon leggings and a white t-shirt, against a white background so I did look a little bit curvier. I’m a size 6, but maybe I looked more like a size 10 and there is nothing wrong with that!”
As a former dancer, Maeve admits that she hasn’t always had a healthy body image.“I had come from being so, so skinny. I was 46kg (7 Stone 3 Lb – less than the average weight for a 13-year-old teenage girl)” she explains.
“I used to weigh myself every single day; I used to torture myself. I wouldn’t have said that I was anorexic, but would I have said that I had an eating disorder. Maybe”
Maeve assures me her change in attitude to eating was down to educating herself about food and nutrition. “It wasn’t that I starved myself, but I certainly did watch what I ate, and I was very obsessed with doing lots of cardio.”
“I didn’t understand what being fit and healthy was, I thought I was fit and healthy by just living off salads and not having any protein.It’s not about eating less it’s about eating right, and I think that’s something I try to put across to especially young girls.”
The lifestyle blogger is keen to ensure younger women and girls are aware of the false lives that people portray on social media.
“Instagram gives us probably 5% of someone’s life or like even 2%. Nobody looks like that every single day. Yesterday I looked great! I was toned, and everything was nice and tight. Last night I had family over, we had champagne, we had burgers. I woke up this morning, and I have no abs you know, I just feel frumpy!”
While Maeve doesn’t adhere to a particular diet, she tells that she does follow a low carb eating plan and tries to eat simply; Maeve thinks everyone should cut down on carbs. “My research on body and nutrition has shown that women need a lot more fats than men, and women will use more fats as energy than they would carbs.”
Speaking of the understanding between female trainers and their clients, Maeve believes that many women just feel more comfortable working with another female. “I understand the female body, I get it, I know that when you are on your period, you’re gonna want to eat rubbish,” she continues “Men don’t get that!”
Maeve also believes that the new focus on fitness signals a move away from “thinness” in favour of a more achievable, “real” body, led not by magazines but by social media.
Via her social media platforms, she has become a spokesmodel for healthy living, but her rise in the industry came despite some personal challenges including a battle with adult acne, polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as food intolerances.
“I used to have really bad acne,” she explains “Because I have polycystic ovaries, I ended up getting severe adult acne. I had taken loads of different types of medications over the years but nothing worked. Finally, I went to a dermatologist here in London, and she worked literal wonders on my skin within 6 months completely cleared up.”
Maeve’s number one beauty tip for great skin is simple and available to all – just get a good nights sleep.”That’s probably my number one beauty tip, is always get 8-10 hours sleep. Nothing will do more wonders for your face – that and plenty of water – it’s free!”
When it comes to romance, Maeve has had her fair share of heartbreak, and she admits that she was crushed after a long-term relationship with a man from the US came to an end.
Thankfully, she’s found happiness again with a new beau who wishes to remain unnamed – as he also shares the media spotlight.
Maeve tells me that she wants to empower women to become their best selves. “I believe that sharing my lifestyle is a platform to be an inspiring, positive role model for people of all ages around the world.”
That’s certainly a message worth sharing…
You can follow Maeve Madden on www.maevemadden.com where she blogs about health, lifestyle, beauty, fashion and fitness
Images: Maeve Madden Instagram