Tabea: Why I’ve left the glamour of Paris, Milan and New York to return to my family in Northern Ireland
At the age of just 22 Tabea Weyrauch has travelled the world to walk the catwalks for some of fashions most famous designers, but she tells Stephanie Bell why she's now coming home to focus on her studies
Tabea Weyrauch was just 16 when she took the international fashion world by storm. For the past five years the Londonderry beauty has lived the life of a top model, jetting between New York, London, Paris and Milan to walk the runways at the world's most glamorous fashion events.
At just 22 she is already a seasoned star on the global catwalk scene, where she has become a regular at London, Paris and New York fashion weeks and walked for designers such as Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood, Oscar De La Renta, and Louis Vuitton.
Now back home, she is planning to curb the whirlwind pace of her glamorous career by signing for Dublin-based agency Distinct Model Management.
Looking back on the past five years, Tabea still can't quite believe the opportunities that have come her way and the success she has enjoyed since auditioning as a young teen for a reality TV show.
"It is pretty amazing. You don't even dream of something like that happening to you because it is too unrealistic. Sometimes I still think it was a dream. It is so bizarre and it was fantastic," she says.
Tabea, who was born in Germany and moved to Derry when she was six, was discovered in 2010 when she auditioned for RTE's The Model Scouts at Foyleside Shopping Centre in her home city.
She beat off thousands of young hopefuls to win the competition 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.
As well as wanting to spend more time with her family - mum Margit, dad Paul sister Zoe (14) and brother Niall (16) - she decided to take a break from international modelling so that she could study naturopathic medicine, a subject she says has fascinated her since her teens.
She plans to work full-time as a model while studying at the weekends over the next three years, when she will qualify as a naturopathic nutritionist.
It has meant swapping travel between Paris, London, New York and Milan to live in Derry, work in Dublin and play in Belfast.
"I've just been on the road constantly for the past five years and I got a bit addicted to travelling and being away, but now my interest is in studying," she says.
"I have had a fantastic few years and so many bizarre things have happened. It makes you become very mature and independent and for that I am very grateful. "
Given the bad press models receive when it comes to their diets, it is fascinating that Tabea is passionate about healthy eating.
With her own willowy figure she is fortunate not to have to worry about keeping her weight down, but acknowledges that it is a real pressure on girls in the industry.
"There is pressure to maintain certain measurements and I know plenty of people who find measuring tapes challenging when they go into agencies.
"Some girls don't have to worry about it, but for sure there are girls who have to try very hard to keep their weight down and maybe they are not eating enough and, yes, that can be very challenging.
"I've just always been interested in healthy eating and in my own time have been building my knowledge. Fundamentally I believe that diet and food is responsible for a lot of illnesses which are hugely preventable if we eat the right food. Naturopathic medicine is the study of how we can use whole organic foods to cure and prevent disease.
"I think once you leave school it takes a bit of time to find out what your interests are and I plan to continue modelling in Dublin, which is very busy during the week, and then study at the weekends.
"I just think it is nice to do something else and it is good to be able to do both."
Walking the catwalk with some of the world's most famous supermodels and mixing with fashion designers did become very much the norm for Tabea in the past five years.
She has done countless editorials for top glossy magazines eluding Elle Japan, Marie Claire and Grazia and is currently featured in Irish Tatler and Social and Personal magazines.
With her beautiful elfin-like looks she has often been compared to the Hollywood beauty Keira Knightley and she does bear an uncanny resemble to the star.
She laughs when I mention it.
"I'm very flattered. She's lovely. I don't always see it myself," she says.
It is refreshing that Tabea's glamorous lifestyle has not gone to her head and she has taken nothing for granted.
At just 16 she found herself immersed in what she describes as a "dream-like " world and she has learnt a lot from the experience, which is why she now feels the need to settle down and study.
Although she is not ready to give modelling up and has found the Irish fashion scene busy and exciting, she is being mature about the choices she makes.
"It does appear to be a very glamorous lifestyle and there are parts of it that are glamorous, but most of the time you are behind stage sitting on the floor just waiting.
"It is glamorous in the sense that you are constantly travelling from top city to top city and working with wonderful photographers and designers.
"It has the reputation of being very lucrative, but a lot of the time you find yourself in one of the most expensive cities in the world in a wildly expensive apartment and financially it can be pretty frustrating
"You have all these life lessons being thrown at you and it is a good mix to make you mature.
"I love the fashion and I've done so many beautiful shows and I'm really grateful that my life took that path and I've been able to travel to so many countries and experience so much."
That her life took such a dramatic turn is something which Tabea still marvels at today and although she has kept in touch with most of her school friends, many of them are now studying or working overseas.
If she hadn't taken part in the RTE auditions she reckons she too would be at university, "probably studying something I am not really interested in".
She is happy to be back home surrounded by her family and says her little sister Zoe and her brother Niall don't get too excited about the fact that their big sister has become such a global catwalk star.
"Zoe is super intelligent and really mature. She is going to do something great with her life and she already has a game plan and she is only 14. She and Niall have not been really fussed about my career, they are just used to now.
"My parents are pretty proud, I'd say. They're really supportive when I go away, and always jump at the chance to visit me."
She doesn't have a boyfriend at the moment and regards herself as independent.
She describes her own style as "sporadic" and enjoys shopping in the high street despite modelling the very latest designer collections. She also insists that the wonderful items she does get to showcase don't end up in her suitcase.
"My style is very sporadic. I love a bit of sequins to dress an outfit up, I own copious amounts of black leather boots, and I'm always partial to a fluffy, oversized jumper.
"I own a few vintage designer items that I cherish, but I wear a lot of high street. No we generally don't get to keep the clothes, although the world seems to think we do. Sometimes we get paid in 'trade' for doing a show and get to select an item, but it's pretty rare."
Right now she is enjoying taking a break from her jet-setting lifestyle, although she cherishes every minute of the past five years.
Concentrating on her studies and spending more time with family are her priorities.
"I just love being home and having the comfort of my own house and being surrounded by the people I love," she says.
"The fashion industry in Ireland is really great and so far it has been absolutely fabulous. I have a lot happening coming up to Christmas and I just want to enjoy it and see how it works out.
"I'm living at home, travelling to Dublin for work and to Belfast to socialise and I love it.
"My course is three years and after that I will keep my options open."
Tabea’s highlights from her amazing modelling adventures
Favourite show: I loved walking in Marc Jacobs’ collection for Louis Vuitton in the Louvre museum in Paris. The call time was 3am and I remember they glued us into our shoes, but the show itself was so beautiful I got goosebumps as I walked.
Favourite place to work: I’m spoiled for choice. I’ve spent a lot of time in the concrete jungle that is New York, but, in contrast, my favourite place to work is probably New Zealand. The scenery is so mountainous and beautiful — not unlike Ireland. The people are relaxed and friendly, and I got to shoot on some beautiful black sand beaches.
Favourite photographer: When I started modelling, one of my first shoots was with an amazing Greek photographer named Errikos Andreou. We ran around the streets of Paris in the middle of the night, shooting in the middle of the busy avenue outside the Opera House, and in the Tuileries gardens. It was so much fun.
Favourite designer: I really admire Nicolas Ghesquière, his silhouettes are beautifully bold and artistic. And Karl Lagerfeld is just legendary.
What is your favourite city and why? Hamburg, I have family there so it’s like a second home to me. The harbour area is very graphic and sort of industrially beautiful and there’s pretty cool neighbourhoods with fantastic cafés and eateries. There are lots of parks and a huge network of canals where you can hire boats and get back to nature. And the architecture in the centre is stunning.It’s so wonderfully diverse.
Where have you not been that you would like to visit?
Istanbul, the cityscape is so beautiful with all its mosques.
Favourite book? I love a bit of historical fiction, so I absolutely devour any Philippa Gregory novels. I started with The Other Boleyn Girl (above) and an obsession was born.
Favourite Movie? Salt of the Earth by Wim Wenders. It’s one of those films that leaves you feeling lost for words. In fact, anything by Wim Wenders. I was at his film festival in New York earlier this year and loved every movie I saw.
Have you any hobbies? I’m a massive foodie and a health nut. I love going to farmers markets, cooking and preaching about health. When I travel I’m always exploring the local food and café culture, it’s one of the best ways to get to know a place. I’ve also just started studying Naturopathic Nutrition, which I find fundamental to being healthy both inside and out.