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Spotted by a top model agent in a Hillsborough shop, the GCSE student who could soon be a catwalk star

Teenager Victoria Bustard could be gracing catwalks across Europe after being signed by Style Academy's Tracey Rodgers. The Hunterhouse student who spends her spare time fundraising for the local church talks to Stephanie Bell

Published 14/04/2016

Totally grounded: Victoria at home in Hillsborough
Totally grounded: Victoria at home in Hillsborough
Standing tall: Victoria is excited about her career
Family support: Victoria outside her home in Hillsborough with mum Clare, dad Peter and brother Patrick
Tabea Weyrauch

Spotted standing in a queue in her local Mace store in her school uniform, local teenager Victoria Bustard is now being tipped as Northern Ireland's next top model.

The gorgeous Co Down teenager was stunned when she was approached out of the blue by a leading local model agency boss who immediately saw her potential as a new catwalk star.

Tracey Rodgers, who has discovered many of Northern Ireland's top models during the past 26 years as the owner of leading agency Style Academy, described Victoria as "the most exciting discovery I have seen in quite a while".

In what is every young girl's dream, the 16-year-old has now signed up with Style Academy and has just enjoyed her first professional photo shoot and her first catwalk deportment class.

Tracey Rodgers is so convinced of Victoria's star quality that she has already set up a meeting with an international model scout based in Milan.

Victoria - who lives in Hillsborough with her parents Clare, a chartered accountant, and Peter, a sales rep, and younger brother Patrick (14) - is currently studying for her GCSEs at Hunterhouse College while trying to come to terms with the unexpected new turn her life has taken.

"I have thought in the past how lovely it would be to do modelling. But it is one of those things you would like to do but don't ever believe will actually happen," she says.

"It does feel really good and it's still a big shock. I haven't really taken it all in yet."

Tracey Rodgers compared Victoria's natural beauty to that of supermodel Christy Turlington, adding that she couldn't take her eyes off her when she spotted her in her local shop.

The model boss recalls: "I had just come out of a spin class looking a bit worse for wear and had popped into the shop when I noticed Victoria standing in the queue in her school uniform.

"I just thought she was absolutely stunning. She is 5ft 9in and is a natural beauty - that stood out a mile.

"I haven't seen anyone in a very long time who I felt compelled to approach like that. I ran down to my car to see if I had any business cards and thankfully there were some.

"When I went back Victoria was standing outside the shop waiting for her friend. I gave her my card and asked if she was interested to get her parents to call me.

"I am so thrilled that they did and we have met a couple of times. Victoria is now signed up with our agency.

"She just has that special look," adds Tracey. "She is so natural and has beautiful features - great cheekbones and natural long hair. She is also very pleasant, well-spoken and well-mannered.

"She is amazing. I have an international model scout coming over at the end of the month and I am very excited for him to see her."

In what is the stuff of every young girl's dreams, Victoria is thrilled with the glamorous new opportunities that are opening up for her. "When Tracey approached me I was quite surprised and, obviously over the moon, although it was a really big shock," says the teenager.

"I had just come out of school and was with my friends so I had no make-up on nor was my hair done.

"I am doing my GCSEs at the minute and hope to go back to do As and A-levels and go to university - but, it will be amazing to be able to do modelling part-time.

"I really enjoyed doing the photo shoot. I didn't know what to expect and I was a bit nervous but the photographer, make-up artist and hairdresser were really welcoming and friendly, and I didn't feel awkward at all.

"It was amazing seeing behind the scenes and having my hair and make-up professionally done. I loved it."

While she intends to continue with her studies, Victoria is also hoping that a new career as a model will give her opportunities that she wouldn't otherwise have dreamt of.

She is still unsure of how her life will change, but if all goes well with the Milan model scout, she could be on her way to international catwalk fame.

Victoria says: "I'm really excited to be meeting a scout from Italy and it also feels a bit surreal.

"I am happy to take any opportunities I am offered. If I have the chance to go places and travel, I would definitely take those up."

Victoria, who volunteers as a fundraiser with her local church Hillsborough Parish, was also a keen netball player until recently. Her family and new boyfriend Matt Milligan (16) are all thrilled for her and naturally very proud.

She says: "I've been going out with Matt for four months and he thinks what is happening is great. My parents are really supportive, too."

Her mum Clare says: "We are delighted for her that she has got the opportunity that most of us don't get. She is a great girl, very hard working at school and well-liked, and very good with the family. It is a great opportunity for her, although ultimately for us, her education takes priority."

Dad Peter is also very proud of his daughter, adding: "I think she had just got off the school bus the day Tracey spotted her and it was a nice surprise.

"It has come at a good time as she has just turned 16 and is working hard for her GCSEs so it will hopefully be a nice distraction from all her studies.

"Victoria is very excited and very flattered, and it has given her a nice wee boost as she starts to think about what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She really is a sweetheart. She is very popular with her friends and close to her family, and helps the church collect for charity. It is exciting for all of us - even my son Patrick who doesn't get excited too much is thrilled that his sister is going to be a model.

"She is always going to be a model in our house and it's not just her looks that make her special, she is just naturally a very nice girl."

Other modelling stars from Northern Ireland

■ Tabea Weyrauch (23), from Londonderry, has travelled the world to walk the catwalks for some of fashion's most famous designers.

Tabea was just 16 when she took the international fashion world by storm after winning RTE's The Model Scouts and landed a contract with IMG - one of the world's top model agencies who have helped shape the careers of supermodels Kate Moss, Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell, Mischa Barton and Liv Tyler.

■ 50 Shades star Jamie Dornan from Holywood, Co Down started his career as a model in 2003.

He modelled for a number of fashion houses and retailers including Hugo Boss and Armani, featuring in major ad campaigns for Dior Homme and Calvin Klein with Kate Moss and Eva Mendes. He moved into acting in 2006 when he landed the role of Count Axel Fersen in Marie Antoinette.

■ Belfast model Kiera Gormley caught the eye of Mario Testino, leading to shoots for Vogue UK and Italy, ID, Burberry, Aquascutum, Aveda and Jaeger.

Now living in London, she is on the books of Storm Model Management in London, Marilyn agency in New York and Paris, and Women Model Management Milan.

She has worked for Gaultier, Dior, Lanvin, Vivienne Westwood, Hermes, Paul Smith, Burberry, Maison Martin Margiela, Biba, Giorgio Armani, and many more.

She became the face of MAC Cosmetics in the 'Rose Romance' campaign shot by Miles Aldridge.

Belfast Telegraph

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