WHEN producers of ITV Saturday night dating gameshow Take Me Out phoned Ecclesfield lass Nicki Donohoe asking her to go on the show, she had one reply.
“I was too busy for a man,” she says. “I said thanks but no thanks. They had 12,000 girls apply so they didn’t need me.”
Five weeks later she was on set introducing host Paddy McGuinness to a bottle of Henderson’s Relish and insisting any suitor must like the sauce.
“I remember thinking to myself: ‘What am I talking about? What am I even doing here?’” the 36-year-old half-winces today.
We’ll come to that shortly...
For now it’s safe to say it’s not the first surreal situation this mother-of-one has found herself in since, four years ago, she sent a speculative photo to Sheffield’s DK Model Management.
Within the week she had filmed an advert for sofa-sellers DFS – “and it’s been a whirlwind ever since,” she notes.
She’s become the face of high-end fashion brand Andrea Billard; had photoshoots in locations like New York, the Canary Islands and, um, Gillingham; and appeared on TV staples including Coronation Street, This Is England and the Jet2 advert.
Oh, and if you recognise those pins, that’s because the former Firth Park College pupil is also the ‘legs of Emmerdale’.
It’s her you see running suggestively up the stairs in the soap’s opening credits. “The scene lasts literally two seconds but they had me do it 150 times,” she laughs. “I was shattered.”
On Sunday this week she shot in London, on Monday she was an extra in Corrie – see her drinking Guinness in the Rovers Return – and on Tuesday she flew to Lanzarote.
And her photos get about just as much; from hanging on huge Meadowhall billboards to a Mexican language book?
“My friend was on holiday,” explains Nicki, who had previously been working as a Debenhams make-up artist. “She text me saying I was in a book with a speech bubble. We’re not sure what I was saying.
“That’s because I’ve done ‘library shoots’ where you do stock images – in an office, for example – and then they get sold on, so who knows where else I’ve ended up?”
She thinks for a second. “Nowhere dodgy, I hope.”
Well, apart from Take Me Out, one might say...
She initially said no to the show – where 30 women compete for the attentions of single lads – because she feared it would clash with her modelling.
But producers chased her.
“I think they were looking for someone more alternative,” she says. “There’s a lot of Only Way Is Essex kind of girls apply. They phoned a couple of times and I said no but I was in London during the auditions and I thought it might be a laugh. My mum said I should do it so I couldn’t argue.”
The verdict? One of the best experiences of her life – and she doesn’t just mean the infamous after-party which appeared on the front page of The Sun, described as an orgy of sex and booze.
“I went but it wasn’t anything like that,” she says. “Never trust journalists.”
As for the show itself, we’re not allowed to say if she won a date because the series is currently airing – but her ideal man would be an “Ian Brown type” and at least her age. “I’m no cougar,” she says.
And now? “I’m just seeing where modelling and TV work takes me,” says Nicki. “I’m loving it.”