'I don't know if I'm a feminist'
Reflecting on an eventful year, the model Rosanna Davison discusses posing for ‘Playboy’, the mini-marathon mini-controversy and whether the term feminism is still valid
Rosanna Davison arrives bang on time. There’s no drama or fuss, just a calm professionalism. We have met once before, as guests on an afternoon-television show, and as I walked behind her on to the set that day I got some sense of what it must be like to walk in her shoes, with male and female heads turning both to look and to judge what kind of person she is.
Waiters in the hotel bar where we meet, who have been happy to leave me to my own devices for the past 20 minutes, suddenly buzz around our table, having quiet nodding words in each other’s ears, once Davison arrives. She seems unaware of it, but isn’t it exhausting to be the centre of such attention? Does it mean she is always aware of how she acts and looks in public?
“Well, I won’t be picking my nose walking down the street,” she says, laughing. “I run around in my gym gear a lot, so I am not overly concerned. One of the nice things about Irish people is that they don’t bother you really. I am nowhere near the level of celebrity status as someone from, say, Hollywood coming in. If I’m out at two in the morning I get Lady in Red in my ear, but that’s about it.”
We are here to talk about Davison’s experience of 2012, an eventful year in which she has posed for the cover of German Playboy, been embroiled in a charity-event controversy, felt compelled to publicly defend her pop-singer father and become an agony aunt.
I ask first about her appearance on The Late Late Show in September, when she was a guest alongside Caitlin Moran, the London Times columnist and author. Did she feel she was there as a token counterfeminist?
“I am a big admirer of Caitlin’s work and read her column every week,” Davison says. “I would relate to a lot of what she writes about. There is no way I was ever going to disagree with what she was saying. I would see myself as a great supporter of women and someone who would absolutely stand up for women. I don’t know if I would use the term feminist. I don’t know if it is applicable any more.”
How does posing topless for Playboy fit in with her worldview? “One of my big worries doing Playboy was my responsibility towards women and towards feminism or towards the movement. I decided to do it based on my academic understanding of women’s writing and literature” – Davison studied sociology and art history at University College Dublin – “and the fact that I haven’t made a career out of glamour modelling or taking my clothes off.”
She won’t discuss how much she was paid for the shoot. She says she waited until she had the right management team in place who could secure a deal that was entirely on her terms.
She says she had been asked to pose three years ago, when she was 25. She turned the publisher down then because the deal wasn’t right for her.
To prepare for the shoot, Davison, who works out six days a week, added a two-hour weights and cardiovascular regime to her fitness programme. She ruled out alcohol and ate a lot of fruit and green vegetables. The idea was to make herself look “Amazonian” in the photographs, she says.