Glamour model Melissa Curry: How I was targeted by online trolls and why I’d never pose nude
Glamour model Melissa Curry, from Derry, hit the big time when she made a top 100 women list in a lads' mag. Now she tells Lee Henry she wants to guide other women into the industry with her own agency
Glamour model turned agency director Melissa Curry has experienced first-hand the thrilling highs and costly lows of the modelling industry. She's booked the jobs, shot the campaigns, been scammed by charlatans posing as photographers and survived to tell the tale and profit from it.
Now 30, and with a decade's worth of jobs under her belt, the Londonderry woman has made it her mission to shepherd the emerging generation of aspiring Northern Irish glamour model through sometimes treacherous waters to "the careers that they all deserve" as head honcho at Legenderry Promotions.
Curry enjoyed her big break back in 2007, when her aunt, Nicki, suggested that she enter FHM magazine's High Street Honeys competition.
The fact that she made it through the heats to the final published 100 was all the more remarkable given that up until that point Curry had harboured no ambitions to strut her stuff in front of the cameras.
"Modelling wasn't something I dreamed of as a little girl, as so many girls do," Melissa admits. "For me, it kind of happened by accident.
"I'm from a small place called Lettershandoney in Tamnaherin, just outside of Derry, and my mum, Philomena, who is now 51, brought myself and my three sisters and brother up more or less by herself.
"My aunt, who is like a big sister to me, encouraged me to go for it when she saw the advert for the competition, so I did and was so surprised to make the cut.
"The test shoot in Newcastle-upon-Tyne was by far the scariest thing I have ever experienced, still to this day. But I got through it."
Then just 20 years old, Curry stepped into the world of glamour modelling with zero experience of posing and very little idea of what to expect on the job.
Finding herself alone in a strange city, she gritted her teeth and took the plunge. It paid off handsomely. "I didn't realise that there would be so many people there on set," Melissa recalls.
"Photographers, the crew, videographers, the lot. I felt a bit out of my depth, but I gave it a shot regardless.
"I nearly missed my flight home and had to walk through security in a pair of hot pants and a T-shirt, but it was all a bit of craic, and from there a lot of opportunities came my way."
Describing herself at the time as a "quiet, shy girl", Melissa quickly developed a thick skin.
She admits it initially wasn't easy posing in lingerie and acting as a promotions girl at events with all eyes on her, but with each passing job her confidence slowly grew.
"That was the most positive aspect of modelling - the fact that I came into myself, evolved into a confident young woman with ambition," she says.
"I got invited to do exciting jobs, hosting parties with the likes of Calum Best, and got paid, basically, to look good, which at the time seemed like the kind of job all girls want."
Signing to a local agency, the now defunct Pizzaz, Curry began to book jobs near and far in commercial photography as well as glamour.
Before long, she branched out as a freelance model, attending auditions alone, booking her own jobs, forging creative connections and paying the bills.
"I did a few shoots for newspapers first as there was a lot of hype around this local girl who had been published in a lads' magazine," Melissa says. "And then I started working with photographers from all over Ireland to build up my portfolio.
"That's when I started to get the hang of it. It took me a good two years, but finally I said to myself, 'Mel, you can do this'.
"The jobs were varied. Photographers began paying me to build up their own portfolios and to promote brands and websites.
"And then I had the opportunity to visit LA with other models from around the UK to shoot a calendar, which I did two years in a row. I made good contacts, which worked in my favour when it came to launching my own agency some years later."
From that very first shoot for the UK men's monthly magazine, Curry concluded that nude work was not for her.
In the world of glamour modelling, many saw it as a restrictive move, but there were more important considerations for her at the time.
"My mum always told me to follow my dreams, to do what I wanted to do, but to be respectful to myself and my family with regards to my profession, which I carried into my nearly 10 years of modelling," Melissa explains.
"Not disrespecting my mum is a big thing to me, and I didn't want to do anything she would be embarrassed by.
"Although a lot of people think I'm confident and outgoing, which I am, nude is my limit.
"I believe that you can be sexy and leave a little to the imagination, rather than having it all out on show.
"Plus, my brother already gets enough stick about my photos and lifestyle. I wouldn't want to send him to an early grave."
It was during the early phase of her career, after she had been catapulted into the spotlight, that the glamour model fell into what is now a fairly well-known fraudulent trap. Contacted by what she believed was a reputable modelling agency, she took up an invitation to travel to London for a shoot.
"They told me that I had so much potential and that they could get me work," she says.
"Being young and naïve, I fell for it. When I got there, they hit me with a bill for the photographs, which ended up being £1,000, and when I didn't hear from them after I paid the money, I realised it was a scam.
"I felt stupid that I had been conned, let down and disappointed, but also incredibly angry that there were fake agencies out there willing to take advantage of young girls and ultimately shatter their hopes and dreams.
"Thankfully, my best friend, Siobhan, has been with me every step of the way, pushing and supporting me, keeping me calm before a shoot and grounding me when I get carried away.
"And when I received online abuse for glamour modelling, she was the one who told me to keep going."
Afterwards, Melissa was inspired to provide assistance to up-and-coming models and launched Legenderry Promotions in 2013.
Her current clients have shot campaigns for various companies including Datsun and have featured in local fashion and modelling magazines. Melissa is there for her models every step of the way, vetting photographers and ensuring, as best she can, that everything is legitimate and legal before any pictures even are taken.
"I want to be a mentor for young models, advise them what they need to know in terms of catwalk training, interviewing for pageants, photo shoot prep, and I don't want them getting caught up in the scams that I did," she says.
"I do background checks on photographers and social media checks on agencies, and if a model is wary of anyone who has contacted them, I will do further research.
"I know how to keep myself safe. I'm present in many modelling forums and have a lot of contacts in the industry, so I can ask for references and do test shoots myself with photographers who I haven't heard of before.
"Thankfully, none of my girls have returned with any horror stories, and it's my main aim to make sure that none of them ever do.
"Dodgy characters never want to deal with managers or agencies like mine."
Just this month, Melissa hit "the big 3-0 and had the meltdown to prove it" and is currently contemplating whether or not to continue modelling herself.
Her days in front of the camera aren't quite numbered just yet, though, with plans to shoot more calendars in LA and Miami next year in the offing.
She is realistic enough to know that age is an issue in the glamour modelling game, but she'll bow out gracefully when the time comes, although she has had cosmetic procedures in the past and isn't averse to further nips and tucks in the future.
"I did have a filler in my lip before a job in Marbella two years ago and I've also had a course of 3D liposuction treatment to tone the skin on my tummy," she says.
"A lot of girls on the trip to Marbella were English and had had boob jobs, chemical peels and Botox before. I wouldn't rule it out in the future if I felt I needed it."
In the meantime, Melissa is more than happy with her look, her life and her living. She's single and, as they say, ready to mingle and has a message for any man planning to stake a claim as her Mr Right.
"This is me and who I've been for the last 10 years, so I expect the right man to appreciate that," she says. "I'm not one of those girls who expects the world, because I can work for it myself and buy it myself."