Nia Marshalsay is a well-known and well-respected model from Aberystwyth but is now turning her hand to presenting a TV show about horses. Huw recently caught up with her and was champing at the bit to find out more.
So Nia, tell me a bit about yourself growing up. I was born in Pontypool and moved to Llanddeiniol with my family when I was three. I went to Myfenydd primary school and then onto Penweddig. Neither Mum nor Dad spoke Welsh but felt it was very important that my sister and I attended Welsh schools. I didn’t realise I would be so grateful for this later on in my life. We are a very ‘outdoorsy’ family and I can’t remember my life before horses!
After school did you go to University or get straight into modelling? I attended Aberystwyth University for a year but decided it wasn’t for me - I just wanted to go out and get a job! After university I worked on a professional horse yard for a year before I was offered a job in Ceredigion County Council where I am still working today. I never imagined making a career from modelling - it was just something that happened!
Tell me about this TV show you’re going to be presenting... I am co-presenting a TV series called Ceffylau Cymru with David Oliver. It is an eight-part series looking at the role horses play in people’s lives in Wales. We have followed contributors all around the UK and have even ventured as far as Australia and Ireland. During the series we have filmed individuals who compete in dressage, show-jumping, showing and we have also followed the life changing RDA (riding for the disabled) as well as there being an episode on Shetlands, shires, bloodlines and breeding of horses. I have enjoyed every second of the filming and really didn’t want it to come to an end. Some of the contributors have been kind enough to let me sit on their horses and that alone was a fabulous experience. Ceffylau Cymru is on S4C every Tuesday night at 8:25pm
And is TV presenting where you see your career heading over the next few years? The whole experience has been incredible and I would be delighted if I was offered another presenting job. It’s so great to be doing something where you meet such lovely people with such interesting stories. The crew work tirelessly making my job really quite easy and the fact that they were all so laid-back made me feel at ease, making my first presenting experience an enjoyable one. I owe a massive thanks to family friend Meiron Davies for his guidance and the opportunity.
Going back a few years, you did some really exciting stuff during your heyday as a model didn’t you? Heyday? How old do you think I am?!! My modelling experience has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I am so lucky to have modelled for some amazing companies. The modelling industry is very tough and I am no size zero but although I did struggle with this for a while, once you find your niche, it becomes a lot easier. I found I was better suited to commercial modelling and have been lucky enough to have had regular work with some of the U.K.’s biggest companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Mamas and Papas, Enzoani bridal, Triumph Lingerie and Clogau Gold to name but a few. When I think back on the opportunities that I have had, driving all over the country for work, I feel very fortunate as modelling has opened so many doors for me. Last year, through one of my agencies, I was contacted to play the role of Rita Haworth in an Oliver Goldstick (Producer of Ugly Betty & Pretty little liars) production called The Collection. I loved it! It has given me so many amazing experiences. However, modelling isn’t all glamour and you really need to be thick-skinned and prepared for rejection.
You’re very modest not to mention Miss Wales. That must have been a great experience? Yes I did complete in Miss Wales when I was a lot younger. I’d had no experience at that stage and found it all quite daunting. Unfortunately I never actually was Miss Wales though - I was robbed!!!! (Obviously I’m only joking!) When I completed in 2009, Miss World founder Julia Morley and the then reigning Miss World from Russia were in attendance. They presented me with a special award, judged by them for standing-out as what the Miss world organisation were looking for in a contestant. Looking back at my time in Miss Wales it was great fun but honestly isn’t something that has had an impact on my modelling career since. The pageant industry and modelling industry are strangely quite different in my opinion.
So why have you decided to remain based in Aber rather than settle down in Cardiff or London? Basically I just love Aberystwyth!! I love the sense of community here and having spent lots of time in cities for work/castings etc. I’m always so grateful to come back home. Nothing beats Aberystwyth on a sunny day.
Do you think having such a connection with the place you grew up has helped or hindered your career? Obviously with the TV presenting, having the language skills connected with Aberystwyth and being taught that language in the local schools has been a massive help to me. I wouldn’t have had the job without it. Occasionally I feel a little frustrated with my location with the modelling due to castings being either in London or Manchester but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
To whom do you owe your success? I am very fortunate to have a supportive husband. Ian encourages me to take every opportunity that comes my way. I am away quite a lot (perhaps my husband is grateful of the peace and quiet?!) but we do everything together as a team which works really well for us. I have always been really driven and I’m prepared to work really hard to reach my end goals. I am also happy to try new things and will give anything a go! I would honestly say that most of it is down to hard work, luck, and being in the right place at the right time.
And finally, where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? That’s a really hard question! If you had asked me five years ago even, I wouldn’t have made a wild guess that I would be where I am, doing what I’m doing today! I’m so grateful for any and every opportunity, so, as long as I’m healthy and happy that will do me - anything else is a bonus!