Aisling McDermott, ‘go-getter’ and founder of beaut.ie, dies aged 46

The creator of the award-winning website was an ‘ideas person who championed people’

Aisling McDermott: the blogger and writer had aggressive multiple sclerosis for 20 years. Photograph: Frank Miller

Aisling McDermott: the blogger and writer had aggressive multiple sclerosis for 20 years. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The founder of the beaut.ie website and former Irish Times beauty writer Aisling McDermott has died suddenly, aged 46. She had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 20s.

Ms McDermott was the bestselling author of The Beaut.ie Guide to Gorgeous and Gorgeous to Go and co-wrote About Face: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Beauty with Irish Times beauty writer Laura Kennedy. She created the award-winning beaut.ie blog in 2006 with her sister Kirstie; they sold the site in 2014 to Entertainment Media Networks. She also wrote for The Irish Times for a number of years.

Kirstie McDermott paid tribute to her sister on Twitter: “This is the story of a hair turban and a beauty-obsessed sister. On Tuesday, I bought @aismcdermott a hair turban I’d been promising her. I knew I’d see her the next day. She’s had aggressive MS for 20 years and she was getting worse, but she still looked so glam.

“She loved beauty. We both did. Lots of you know us both because we founded @beautie back in 2006. Lots of you follow us on Twitter still. The reason I tweet this now is to let you know that a great originator and founder of Ireland’s online beauty blogosphere has left us.”

Kirstie McDermott wrote at 9.20am today: “So I never got to give her that turban. But I raise all the lipsticks in the world to someone who fought so bravely for so long and left behind such a legacy. Sleep well, Aisling. We loved you hugely.”

The daughter of Brian and Róisín McDermott, she was born on April 23rd, 1971, and grew up in Celbridge, Co Kildare. Ms McDermott was the oldest of three girls; her other sister is Shauna. She went to St Wolstan’s School, Celbridge, studied anthropology and classics at Maynooth University and later did a diploma in library information studies at UCD. She worked for many years at DCU, where she was information studies librarian.

Ms McDermott lived in Celbridge with her childhood sweetheart and husband of 18 years, Derrick Brady. They enjoyed travelling; Bali was a favourite destination, and she loved west Cork. In recent years, walking was difficult and travel was less possible, but she talked about returning to Bali. She was also a passionate cat owner, and had three pedigree cats.

She and sister Kirstie had widely read British and American beauty blogs, but there was nothing like them in Ireland, and in 2006 they started the innovative beaut.ie blog, which became very successful. The blog was the first of its kind in Ireland, and unusual in having critical and sometimes negative reviews of beauty products.

Colleague and friend Laura Kennedy said: “She was an unusual person, resolute in the face of something difficult. She was loyal and conscientious as a friend and passionate about the people she cared about. She championed people and talent.”

Róisín Ingle, Irish Times deputy features editor and a friend, said: “Aisling to her bones was an ideas person. Original and quick-witted, she was the polar opposite of boring. Full of fun, straight-talking and smart, Aisling was the best company to be in. She was the kind of person who always kept an ‘emergency’ bottle of champagne in the fridge in case there was something, however small, to celebrate.

“She was a maverick and an online pioneer in terms of the community she and Kirstie created. She was so generous in her friendship and turned every casual meet-up into an occasion. She loved her cats and they gave her such joy. She had just got a new kitten over Christmas, called Minx. (The kitten got more toys from Santa than my kids!) To me, she and Derrick were the epitome of unconditional love, they knew how to celebrate life and each other and they had constant, ribald fun. She was a loyal and loving friend and one of the funniest, cleverest people I know.”

Aisling McDermott had been diagnosed with MS at age 26, years before she started the blog. Her illness got progressively worse and curtailed her activities, but her sister Kirstie says she had a massive strength of will. “She was a go-getter. If she wanted to do something she made it happen. She had great character, and she needed that.

“She made loads of friends, and was gregarious and very generous, and free with her time,” said Kirstie.

She took part in an Irish Times Women’s Podcast in 2015 with Laura Kennedy, guest presented by Marian Keyes. The two Irish Times beauty columnists talked about their new book, About Face, and about how makeup can provide solace during difficult times. During the interview Ms McDermott spoke publicly for the first time about the pain of living with an aggressive and progressive form of multiple sclerosis.

“I know that some people would think that makeup is shallow, but it’s not at all. It says, ‘This is me, I’m here and I care about myself,’ even when you’re depressed or ill or someone close to you is ill. If you can get up and put your lipstick on, you will feel a little bit better,” she said.

She talked about how she didn’t ask “why me?” anymore because the answer is always “why not me”, and said she wasn’t bitter because being bitter takes up precious energy and she didn’t want MS to define her but “wanted fun in my life”.

Her sister Kirstie said: “She was much beloved. She gave it her all.”

Others have also tweeted tributes to Ms McDermott. The disability campaigner Suzy Byrne wrote: “I am so so sorry Kirstie – Such a fighter and such a generous funny woman.”

The author Anna Carey wrote: “Can’t express how sorry I am to hear this. The world is less bright than it was.”