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Meet the Muses | Niamh O’Donoghue on life’s triumphs and tribulations

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

In conversation with Niamh O’Donoghue, ambassador for our new Warrior Ring

“You will one-day wear your war wounds with pride, and you will make peace with your lumps and bumps.”

Introducing journalist, fashion tech and Chupi Muse, Niamh O’Donoghue. Wearing the Warrior Ring, created as a symbol of resilience and courage, Niamh speaks to us on finding strength in life’s darkest moments, the journey of accepting our scars, and the power of talismans. 

How would you describe your personal jewellery style and how does this shape your identity?

My jewellery aesthetic is classic and expressive. My preference is always shiny yellow gold and I always try to incorporate a pop of colour to reflect my personality – whether that’s a tiny gemstone on my index finger or a swish of bright pink indented into delicate gold hoop earrings. Jewellery is an essential part of my daily wardrobe arsenal: rings and necklaces become powerful talismans which equip me with the confidence I need to feel like the best version of me. My everyday jewellery is just as important as the failsafe basics in my wardrobe. I’m never fully dressed without them!

Do you have a piece of jewellery that is very significant to you and what moment did it mark? 

There’s nothing like a signet ring for a hint of everyday elegant nonchalance. My North Star signet ring – a surprise gift from Chupi – is the piece I love the most. It’s tiny and delicate and seamlessly fits in with my other gold bands. It was given to me to mark a major career milestone (Chupi designed this ring to be a ‘guiding star’), and to remind myself to carve and follow my own path. It’s important to celebrate your achievements, and I love the thought of sharing this heirloom with my grandchildren in decades to come.

As a journalist, what are your favourite themes to write about and why? 

As a female journalist and writer who identifies as having a disability, I am committed to sharing the stories of marginalised or underrepresented voices. I’m most passionate about the health and wellness industry, which stems from my own experiences with illness and medical trauma. I find solace in hearing and sharing other peoples’ stories and experiences. Writing is a powerful tonic. And, of course, I love writing about the fashion industry and speaking with emerging talent, taste-makers and thought leaders about their designs and how they make a positive impact on the world.

Where did you find strength during difficult moments in your life?

Having endured three life-threatening illnesses and seven surgeries before the age of 22, my body has been through much more than most people experience in a lifetime. Writing became my default healing practice during moments of immense difficulty. It started with diary entries during my teen years when I was undergoing a series of aggressive and life-changing surgeries to correct a spinal condition called Scoliosis, which causes the spine to bend like the letter ‘s’. Writing became medicinal, especially as during this time I was rendered immobile and couldn’t play sports or be with friends. Being ill during my teenage years was isolating and lonely, but writing helped me to find a voice when I needed it most. I was 13 when I got my first piece of writing published in Kiss Magazine, and I will always be grateful to the editor who helped me to see that I could turn my passion into a job. Today, writing continues to play a fundamental role in my life in both a meditative and practical way. Being diagnosed with Scoliosis, chronic kidney disease and cancer was like a poignant reminder to be more kind to my body.

What springs to mind when you think of a warrior? 

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of a warrior is my mam, Marie. She’s the matriarch of the family, the glue that binds us all together. Always putting her family first, Marie is caring, kind, and the life and soul of the party – not to mention the most hard-working person I know. I come from a strong lineage of women, and, although my grandmothers have now all passed, I carry them with me everyday through personal heirlooms that have been passed down.

What are your favourite day-to-day rituals to find calm?

I’m very fortunate (and eternally grateful) that I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half living in a tranquil community on the fringes of the Atlantic ocean, on the west coast of Ireland. During times of stress, I can choose between a sense-awakening dip in the sea, or a grounding walk in the forest. Nature has profound and powerful healing qualities that can never be taken for granted. What’s more, we’re so fortunate here in Ireland to be surrounded by such lush, rich and unique landscapes that demand to be explored!

When you are in your eighties wearing your Warrior ring what is the story you will tell about what it means to you?

When I am a (stylish) octogenarian, I will sit on my veranda surrounded by my beautiful children and grandchildren – and the farmyard animals I have acquired over time – and I will triumph in the fact that I am still there to share my knowledge with them. For me, the Warrior ring symbolises growth and renewal, and I will take great pride in sharing my journey of self-love. I will tell them about the paths I took on my journey, and the one’s I did not (I will surely quote one of my favourite poems: The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost). I will tell them about the hardships of hitting rock bottom, and the triumphs of hitting peak happiness. I hope to tell them that even when they face difficult challenges or hardship, they will find the strength and courage to rise above. Above all, I hope to instil the importance of self-love, and listening to one’s body. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

When I first became sick, my fragile body went into fight-or-flight mode. It would be years later until I found new ways of healing. Here is some advice I would tell my younger self:

Get rid of toxic friends. It’s a general rule of thumb that when you’re experiencing any kind of unpleasant situation, you should only surround yourself with lovely, sound people. While this will be difficult at first, you will quickly learn who your true friends are – the ones who will give you unparalleled support, the ones who will sit in silence and offer you hours of company, and the ones who will make you laugh, even when you thought you couldn’t laugh any more. Any illness can be a devastatingly lonely experience but cancer, in particular, can be incredibly isolating and so support from family and friends is enormous. 

Find your strength. The gym will become a safe zone where you don’t have to talk about health or hospitals. You just have to focus on you, your breathing, and releasing happy endorphins. It will help you to alleviate any stress or unwanted feelings and will give your immune system a little kick. 

Eat the cake. Nourish your body with all the goodness it needs and deserves. If you are hungry, eat. If you are still hungry afterwards, eat again. Life IS too short. Eat the cake.

Scars are beautiful. Your body has gone through so much trauma in such a short amount of time, and it’s okay to feel self-conscious about new scars. At first, you will despise your reflection, but this will be short-lived, I promise. You will one-day wear your war wounds with pride, and you will make peace with your lumps and bumps.

Positive Attracts Positive. You will learn the importance of manifestation and of harnessing positive energy. You will learn to use this newfound energy with each new challenge that you face, and you will rise higher and higher.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of choosing a diamond for themselves?

Embrace your own style! When buying an heirloom, there’s a tendency to opt for something you wouldn’t usually opt for. Of course, no one knows if their taste will remain the same in ten years’ time. The key here is to ignore the trends and not fall into the trap of thinking your piece has to look a specific way. It should look and feel like you! Draw inspiration from your favourite jewellery designers and collections. Most importantly stick to your own taste.

Take your time and savour it. When we reach those precious life milestones, it can be easy to rush into buying something to mark the occasion. But it’s important to take your time, no matter how keen you are to show off your new sparkles to family and friends. As a guide, allow a few weeks to explore and try on different styles. 

Consider your lifestyle and budget. There are no rules on how much or how little you can spend on an heirloom. The market (and Chupi!) caters to every budget, so discuss what you feel comfortable with. And when it comes to your lifestyle, consider what you do for work and in your free time. Will you be going from the boardroom to a climbing wall? There may be limitations when it comes to certain settings or stones. 

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