In London, on a chilly winter’s night, only the brightest of stars shine and can be seen by the naked eye. In the modelling industry, only the strongest stars remain and know fame. I am often asked about my career as a model. There seems to be a misconception that it is a glamorous profession, but the honest truth is that it is really hard work and only the toughest survive. I absolutely take my hat off to the likes of Miranda Kerr, Jessica Heart and Nicole Trunfio. They were prepared to put in the hard work and stand their ground for as long as required to make their way to “supermodel” status, of course with a little bit of luck to be the right look at the right time.
There were a couple of things that initially attracted me to modelling. One was the opportunity to recreate the image of the person who I wanted to be, and project that to the world convincing them that was who I really was. And boy, did I get the opportunity to become a chameleon and play the role of many faces during my career. By default, I am actually quite a shy and introverted character. In order to become a successful model I learnt very early on that I was a commodity and would always need to ensure that I was selling only my best self. Why would someone want to book me for a job if they didn’t believe I could a) deliver, and b) was someone who they would want to spend countless hours on set or backstage with? Very quickly, I became good at pretending I was an assertive and confident person who was right for every job, and eventually, with practice, it became who I was.
The second drawcard was the opportunity to travel. I remember in the early years as the Asia model scouts would come to town casting for models to go on contact to China, Korea, Japan etc., the fear that would consume me if I were ever to get a call back requesting me to attend a second casting. Whilst I was so sure at the time that I wanted to become an international model, it was clear that it would take some time to get used to what was actually required of me, and the thought of at the age of 16 heading over to Asia to work on contract without my family was frankly terrifying.
In the first 18 months of my career, I spent of a lot of time getting used to hearing “no”. Turns out it wasn’t a word I liked to hear and failure did not leave a sweet taste in my mouth. I had to succeed. After letting the talented Dmitri Papas of Papas & Pace, the edgy Australian salon recreate my image giving me a signature androgynous look, I was ready to take Sydney by storm.
At the age of just 17, I packed my bags and headed south in hope of becoming the next big thing. I was lucky enough to test with the incredible photographer Justin Cooper, who created one of my most iconic portfolio images that put my career on the map. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was kind to me that year. With a strong management team behind me, I booked 13 shows in my first season. How many do you think I got paid for? Mmmm, must have been one or two. The rest paid me in honour or clothes, but I will say that they gave me the exposure I needed to take the next step in my career. It was hard to establish yourself as a fee earning model and I supported my dreams of becoming a model by working other part-time jobs.
After a string of shows and shoots, I was soon picked up by an agent in Tokyo, Japan. I think I had wanted to go ever since I found out Miranda Kerr had an agent out there and made a killing. For me it was like monkey sees, monkey do. Unfortunately for me, Miranda and I were rocking completely different looks. Whilst she was very commercial and the girl next door, my look had never been more edgy and high fashion. That said, I did work solidly in Tokyo, but it was a really tough gig. I felt very isolated; alone away from my family and friends, and the other girls at my agency were Brazilian or Russian and didn’t speak English. There was only one sulky model from Canada for me to try and befriend. Thankfully models on contract come and go frequently. The moody Canadian was soon replaced by an optimistic South African and one of my model friends from back home. Suddenly being a model in Tokyo was a whole lot more fun.
My weeks were spent working hard, casting and booking jobs. I was even lucky enough to land a prestigious job with Dior on their national tour and travelled from one end of the country to the other showcasing their new season collection on the runway. I also bagged a television commercial (TVC) with Hitachi as the leading role. Working away from home in a foreign country for the first time was very daunting. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent huddled on the payphone in the corner of our model flat or even in the phone box on the street out front of our apartment, sobbing into the phone telling my Mum how much I missed them. The reason I found it so hard was mostly down to my age and inexperience. The competition was fierce; there were so many beautiful girls and by the nature of the beast, I was constantly being compared to them and by not getting a job it implied that I was not as good looking as them, even if that wasn’t how it was intended. But there was never a moment I was not grateful for the opportunity to be abroad living my dream.
Over the coming weeks I became more confident and by the time the weekends rolled around, I had developed an appetite to discover my new home and would explore the city or venture further afield to Kyoto to visit my boyfriend at the times brother and his Japanese wife. I eventually grew to love Tokyo, and have some very fond memories of visiting Kyoto during Hanami (National Cherry Blossom Festival), and dancing the nights away with the other models in Lexington Queen and Lani in Roppongi.
From there I went on to work in Singapore on several contracts and would fly to Malaysia to work on direct bookings as required. I always did very well there during Singapore Fashion Week. I loved Singapore; it had the buzz of an Asian city, with the order of a Western country. The people were always very friendly and welcoming and everything was so green and clean. I was very lucky to room with nice girls in the model house. In fact, I met one of my very best friends there. We all had a thirst for living “the life” in Singapore. We spent a lot of time exploring the city; taking the MRT to one of the many Hawker Centres, or out to Sentosa for a day at the beach or to the Zoo. It really was an awesome place to work.
In between my contracts to Asia, I would return mostly Sydney to work. I personally think Australian models are the best in the world. They are so dedicated and hardworking and incredibly attractive. But I always found it very hard to work there and not get caught up in “the scene”. It is near impossible not to compare yourself to other models when that is exactly what a client does. As a model there is a huge amount of emotion at play; all you want is to be accepted and booked and to fulfil your dream to become a successful model. I did have some fabulous years in Sydney though. I met some amazing people and spent a lot of time discovering the city.
Returning to Tokyo, I had put on a little bit of weight. I am not talking a lot, possibly half an inch in the hips (models are normally more concerned with their measurements rather than their weight). I had come to believe that my agency was my little Japanese family whilst I was away from home, so I was shocked to be told as soon as I had done the traditional weigh in and measurements on my arrival that I had put on weight and “was obese”. The owner of the agency actually pinched what were my baby bingo-wings as she told me this. I was told to immediately stop eating and drop the half an inch or so over the next few days and to come back to the agency only then. Well, you can imagine how this made me feel. I was horrified. I had always been the model who was “too small”, so to now be told I was obese and to stop eating was nothing short of a head f’ck. I called my Australian agent immediately, who laughed it off. I felt so betrayed. Not knowing what to do, I marched myself to the Australian Embassy and told them I needed help getting myself back to Australia. The agency had taken my airline ticket and passport (they do this when you first arrive to photocopy your documents for their records), and in my haste to leave the agency I left them behind. The Embassy was super helpful, and within 48 hours I was back in Australia. This experience was a huge knock to my confidence, and I also lost my agency nationally in Australia and Tokyo as a result, which had a knock on effect on my success in the Australian market.
Having just received my British passport, I decided it was time to venture beyond Australia and Asia and headed to London in hope of following in the footsteps of my fashion idol, Kate Moss. When I arrived I was so blown away by absolutely everything. I had never travelled to somewhere that had so many old ornate buildings on every corner. I loved the prim and proper accent and history that was ever-present, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was at home. That’s quite a hard one to explain as I am hugely patriotic and Australia will always be my home, but there was something inside of me that knew London would become my new home. I had such a crazy start to my life here in London. I was in castings or working jobs all day long, then in the evenings I would head into the West End with the other models from the model house, and we would be given the VIP treatment at whichever club was in fashion at the time. During my time as a model in London, I also worked in Miami and Germany and had some iconic clients including Armani and Burberry. It was so much fun being treated like a celebrity that the partying soon took over my life and I eventually let the modelling side of things slowly slip away. Looking back it wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I should have left London and ventured to Paris and New York, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!
By the age of 24, I had completely fallen out of love with modelling altogether. For me, the constant internal battle was too much. It made me a jealous person and not someone I wanted to be. I eventually moved away from modelling entirely and retrained in Public Relations and moved into a corporate career. I will always be grateful for my time as a model. It made me the person who I am today. In my own way, I feel like I achieved success and was lucky enough to do photoshoots, magazine covers, runway shows, catalogues, TVC’s, film extra work, advertising campaigns and was even on billboards! In fact, the only type of job I never booked was a music video, and some may say that’s no great loss. So, the best thing about being a model for me was obviously the travel aspect. I lived and worked in some amazing cities I may not have visited otherwise. And, as I was there working I think I got to experience these cities as a local would, which was very special. The industry also helped me to become very self-aware, and gave me the ability to always put my best foot forward. If I were to do it all again, I’d have made some different choices along the way, but I always would have pursued my ambition to travel the world and become a successful model.
Until next time, safe travels.
*This post is dedicated to my Mum and Dad who have always been my biggest fans and never stopped believing in me
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