But 25-year-old Nicole O’Brien, from Innishannon, is down to earth enough to admit that there’s a filter on everything we see on social media, and that very little is real.
“I do try to keep it so real on Instagram. But for every photo that I upload, I’ve taken 100. I’m not joking. People need to realise that and I don’t think a lot of people do,” she said honestly.
The UCC commerce graduate shot to fame last April when she appeared in the hit Netflix series, and since then a whole world of opportunities have opened up for her.
Whencaught up with her she was in Dubai recording a video for her soon to be released new single, and she has a lounge-wear line that’s also due out in few weeks’ time.
Funny to think that Nicole feared she’d missed her ‘shot,’ afterproducers scouted her out through her Instagram page when she was in second year college, and she turned them down to finish her degree.
The idea behind the show was for contestants to remain celibate to claim the €100,000 prize. They were only told this when they got to the luxury villa in Mexico.
Nicole admits to suffering major anxiety ahead of the show’s release, at the start of our first lockdown.
“When the show came out I could not get out of bed for a few days back in March. I was extremely anxious, mainly of people’s reaction, even if I didn’t understand properly what the feeling was at the time. We saw it at the same time as everyone else in the world so that gave me major anxiety. Also I got 65,000 new followers in a single day which is a lot to deal with and to process.
"But I sat myself down and said, why do you have to act different, just be yourself, and that’s what I do. If I’m having a s***** day, I’ll just go on and say I’m not feeling great and be myself and now I don’t suffer with anxiety in terms of Instagram.”
After she came off the show, she was inundated with messages from young girls saying they hated how they looked, which motivated her to set up her mental health platform called Loved by Nicole.
Over a period of several months, she interviewed psychologists from all over the world who were specialists in things like anxiety, confidence and perfectionism and, with a business partner, the platform offers a range of courses in these areas.
She admits to being a perfectionist herself: “Yes, I’m so bad, it gives me anxiety, I literally have to have everything perfect, but I am improving.”
And to safeguard her mental health she’s conscious of taking time off from social media: “Once every 10 days to two weeks, I won’t post, leave my phone and have mindfulness and chill and I love it.”
Surprisingly, she admits she wasn’t always the confident person we see portrayed in her Instagram feed with images of her posing in lingerie and swimwear.
"I think there’s a stigma when uploading bikini pics, sometimes I get it, but the stigma needs to be changed, less about sexualising it and more about people feeling confident.”
Her objective though with her content is to get ‘the perfect balance’ between classy and sexy.
She hasn’t had any surgery or enhancements, just ‘a tiny bit of filler in my upper lip out of self-confidence last year.’
“I’m scared of needles and blood so don’t plan on getting anything done,” she insisted.
But she is conscious of being ‘papped’ when out and about in London, and while it’s a source of anxiety, it’s something she’s getting used to it.
“I’ve signed myself up for this so I can’t give out about it,” she said.
Fashion brand Zalando estimated her earnings last year as €422,992, which she said were a bit ‘exaggerated’. “I am earning a good living, but because I pick and choose brands, it’s not like a monthly wage. One month I only did two ads, and then other months I might get nicer brands.
“I only ever promote things that I’ve used and I like. I get enquires every day, but I don’t work with many brands. If I was following someone and if I saw them doing a lot of ads, I just wouldn’t trust them.”
She attributes a lot of her work ethic and business acumen to her parents, Helen and Michael O’Brien, who run an audio visual business called SoundTrax. She spent Christmas in Innishannon with them and her sisters, Lauren (21) and Andrea (19).
Nicole is currently single but after theshe grew closer to fellow contestant Bryce Hirschberg and the pair dated for a time. She visited him in LA, and he was meant to come to London when Covid hit.
“That never happened, so we had this conversation, and, being realistic, I said I didn’t know that I’d be in LA anytime soon, same with him being in London. We were mature about it, and left on good terms. He’s such a lovely guy, so kind and funny.
“Usually he wouldn’t be my type in terms of how he looks. With the show, I went in more of a shallow person, but it changed me, now I just look at someone’s personality. Obviously, you need to be attracted to the person but I’ve changed in that regard.”
Nicole also dated Love Island USA’s Cormac Murphy, originally from Clare, over the summer. They holidayed on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
“We were going out for a little while. I have a lot of time for him but we’re both quite different people. But also it didn’t work as he’s living in Ireland. I don’t know why I pick boys that are living in different countries!”
Right now, it’s all about her music, with her debut single out at the start of February.
"But I’ll do more TV too, that’s in talks. I want to do everything!”
When she’s back in London, she’s going to move apartments to share withcontestant and close pal Chloe Veitich, but moving to LA next year could also be on the cards.
“I was disheartened that I wasn’t shown as much as other people in the show, but I’m surprised that I’ve come out as one of the biggest of the girls. I think that it comes back to being genuine and being kind to people. Kindness goes a long way in life. You get back what you give out.
"I would never ever say I’m famous, I hate that word, I’m a Cork girl born and bred, very chilled, and that’s just me.”