Belfast Telegraph

As Belfast Fashionweek begins, we find out what it’s really like to be a model

By Maureen Coleman

Linda Evangelista was once quoted as saying “I don't get out of bed for less than $10,000.” In the early 1990s the Canadian supermodel was at the top of her game and helped change the face of the fashion industry.

Modelling became the new rock 'n’ roll — a lucrative and exciting career, offering a jet-set lifestyle of non-stop partying and exotic photo-shoots. But is modelling really that glamorous a job or just endless rounds of castings, catwalks and cups of coffee?

As Belfast Fashionweek returns for its 13th season, we ask three local models to dispel the myths and reveal what it's really like to strut your stuff for a living.

'Mum and Aunt were models'

Naoise Tan (17) is a pupil at Methodist College. She says:

My mum was a model and my aunt was a former Miss Northern Ireland so I guess modelling is in my blood. I've been doing it now properly since I was 14. Cathy Martin got me to model in some children's fashion shows and then when I was in fourth year at school, a girl fell ill during Fashionweek and Cathy asked me to step in. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but very exciting as well.

“An agency in Dublin, First Option, saw my photographs from Fashionweek and invited me to come and meet them. I’m now signed up with them.

“My mum is very supportive, as long as I get my school work done. I’m studying for my AS Levels at the moment and it can be hard finding a balance between the modelling and my studies. This week is going to be mad. I'm taking part in every show but I also have to go to Dublin as well. So I'll be up early in the morning, off to Dublin, then back for the Fashionweek shows.

“In the run up to an event like this, I just try and ensure I get as much sleep as possible, drink lots of water and eat healthily. I love my food and believe in everything in moderation. But I'm young so I know it's easier for me to stay slim. I also dance about four times a week, I'm getting ready to do my Grade 8 in ballet and am a member of the National Fitness Team.

I don't think weight is that big an issue among models here, though I can see that it would be on an international scale when lots of girls are going for the same job and there's pressure to be very thin.

I think it's important to have a good, positive attitude towards modelling. If you're hard work, word gets around and people won't want to book you. I know that modelling is considered quite a bitchy profession, but I haven't found that to be the case. And if someone is unpleasant, that's down to their personality and not the fact that they're a model. It can be competitive, but I find that healthy competition is a good thing.

I don't mind castings at all, in fact I actually quite enjoy the rush I get. It's like attending a million interviews in one day.

I love modelling and you can get great pocket money from it too.

I've done Brown Thomas' BT2 campaign for the second season running and have modelled for Harvey Nichols as well. Fees range, depending on the job or the client, but you can get up to £1,000 for a day's work.

After school, I plan to take a gap year and try my hand at international modelling.

But I've always wanted to study medicine as well.

I want to make sure I have a good degree behind me.

‘It’s a dream come true’

Laurina Kennedy (23), from |Coleraine, is Face of Belfast Fashionweek. She says:

I first got into modelling five years ago after moving up to Belfast to study public relations at Jordanstown university. I signed up with Alison Campbell's agency and to begin with was doing mainly promotional stuff, representing brand names around the bars. It was good fun, gave me some extra pocket money and helped me become a more confident person.

It's really been in the last year or two that things have moved up a gear. I worked my way up from promotional to commercial to editorial. Because of the commercial stuff I was doing — PR shots for companies like Falcon and Easyjet — I was able to build up a good portfolio and make the right contacts. Then I started doing catwalk modelling. For last season's Fashionweek I did catwalk one night and Style Sunday as well.

When I found out that I was going to be the face of this season's Belfast Fashionweek I was thrilled. It's a dream come true really and in Northern Ireland, there's nowhere else to go after that. It's one of the best jobs here that a model could land. Cathy Martin (Fashionweek organiser) wanted someone who could carry off this season's range of pastel shades and because I'm blonde and petite she thought I would fit the bill.

I have done a few castings and they can be intimidating. When Maxmara opened a shop on the Lisburn Road, the PR team from Italy came over to cast us. Castings can also be awkward if you're going up against your friends. But the way I see it, the client knows what's best and while I might not suit one job there’ll be another one that's right for me. I don't take rejection to heart. You can't in this job.

It's presumed that modelling is quite a bitchy industry but that's not the case. Northern Ireland is too small and we all get on well. Yes, it's competitive but what job isn't? I actually live with another model called Jenny Curran and have lots of friends within the industry.

As I'm 5ft 7in and a size six, I'm one of the smaller models here. I know lots of models claim that they eat what they want and that might not be true, but in my case I really do! I don't own a gym membership and I love my food. I'm half-Italian and was up home at the weekend.

My granny made me a five course meal — I had pasta for starter, pasta for my main course and even pasta for dessert! I think I’m just lucky because I'm naturally thin. I actually love curves, but I've come to accept myself and wouldn't change a thing. That said, I think every woman has their own insecurities, regardless of whether you're a model or not.

Through modelling I landed a job in January as a personal assistant for a fashion agent. It means I will only get to model at weekends and nights now, but I feel I’ve reached the pinnacle by being chosen as the face of Fashionweek.

I'm realistic enough to know that I won't make it as a model in London as I’m just not tall enough. But I enjoy working here and I'm also signed to an agency called Compton in Dublin. It might not be as lucrative in Belfast as it is in London, but I think we do OK. Sometimes I've been paid £100 for an hour's work, other times £200 to £300.

It can be glamorous, but it's also long hours and hard work. Working as a model has opened doors for me and I'm so glad that I gave it a go.

‘You need to be both fit and healthy’

Jayne Higgins (19), from Magherafelt, is a university student. She says:

I used to go to all the fashion shows during Belfast Fashionweek, but this year I'm modelling at them for the first time. I still can't quite believe it. I've been modelling now for three years. My mum modelled and of course, as a young girl, I thought it was a very glamorous job. Mum told me to give it a trial run and see how I got on. I'm not actually with an agency right now but I get booked through Cathy Martin.

I'm really looking forward to Fashionweek, but have to admit that I'm a bit scared as well. I have done plenty of catwalk before though — I modelled for Victoria Square two weeks ago and for Independent Retailers' Week at the City Hall.

The best part of the job is the variety. You don't know what you'll be doing from one day to the next. Plus I'm a really girly girl, I just love my fashion, so it's great being bang up-to-date with all the latest trends and getting to try on all the clothes.

But it can be very tiring too. The hours are long and there can be early starts. Also, there's a lot of hanging around at shows — between hair, make-up and fittings. But once the shows start, the adrenaline kicks in and before you know it, they're over.

I'm five foot nine and a size eight. I am lucky because I have a high metabolism, but I do look after myself. I eat healthily — little and often. And I go to the gym maybe three, four times a week. But I go to keep fit, not to lose weight. I've never had an issue with food or weight. If I'm hungry and I want a bag of crisps, I'll have a bag of crisps. I think there is less pressure here to be very thin. Local models tend to have more realistic figures — good, healthy sizes. I can't think of anyone who’s really underweight. Anyway, people want to see models they can relate to.

I don't think being a model makes me any more insecure. Maybe I'm more aware of things because of the job, but everyone has their insecurities. I'm happy the way I am.

In the run up to shows I try and get as much sleep as possible. I can suffer from low iron and get really grumpy if I don't have enough sleep. So it's plenty of early nights before hand.

Also I swear by water; it's miracle stuff. I drink loads of it to help my skin. I also cut out any junk food and eat more fruit. But they're all basic things. You use up so much energy during shows, so you really need to be fit and healthy. I don't smoke and would have the odd glass of wine, but if there's a big catwalk event or a photo-shoot coming up, I wouldn't drink at all.

I love modelling and I'd love to stick with it through university. But my plan is to put my career first. I’m studying public relations, but would love to work in the media, maybe doing television presenting. I did a week's work experience with ITV's This Morning and absolutely loved it. I may move to London, depending on what stage I'm at with my career.



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