Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Mum's the word for this model daughter

By Una Brankin

Magherafelt model Jayne Higgins and her mother Catherine talk about their work in front of the camera, their beauty regimes ,and why they feel so strongly about raising awareness of mental health issues.

They have the same green eyes, same fair hair, same complexion and same 5ft 9ins height. Yet top model Jayne Higgins looks more like her timber-man father than her glamorous mother, Catherine.

The perfect symmetry of Jayne's features lies in the mix of similar physical genes from her parents.

"My face is like dad's but mum and dad are quite alike in a funny way - they have the same shape of eyes and mouth," says Jayne (23).

"She has the best of us both," agrees Catherine (51), her native Cheshire accent intact.

Supermodel Cindy Crawford was once held as an ideal of facial symmetry, the scientific marker for beauty - although her admitted use of Botox has affected that once flawless balance.

"I couldn't possibly comment on that," laughs Catherine, who models part-time for a Dublin agent. "But she still looks great. Botox and fillers are not for me, though."

Jayne is packing for a week's holiday with a friend in Dubai when we catch up with her and Catherine at their welcoming family home in the Magherafelt countryside.

A public relations graduate, Jayne is based in Belfast and is often working in Dublin, but she loves to get home.

"She's a real home-bird and she's very close to her brothers - John who is 21 and a personal trainer, and Mark, who is 19 and a business student - and her dad, who she's on the phone to 10 times a day," says Catherine, a former long-haul BA flight attendant. "They know each other inside out."

It's clear the family live a charmed existence, with their collection of dogs and horses, on their well-kept property, which has a sprawling back garden and spacious conservatory. But they are very aware of those who don't.

Jayne is a passionate ambassador for the charity Cycle Against Suicide, which raised £5,500 on a fundraising cycles from Belfast to Cork to Dublin earlier this year.

Ambulance crews were called to 130 suicide attempts in Magherafelt alone in one year recently.

"I'm planning to go around schools and chat to girls, and show them photographs before and after they have been Photoshopped, and tell them not to feel pressurised into looking perfect because it's not realistic," says Jayne earnestly. "We're all human and we all have flaws. There's so much pressure on girls - and boys now, too, thinking they have to look as good as David Beckham, that they can easily fall into depression. It very hard for young people to understand what goes on behind all this imagery to make people look so perfect.

"Even though I am in the modelling industry, I find it sometimes hard for girls like myself who are modelling to look at the supermodels like Heidi Klum, and try to be like those girls, who are superhuman.

"I would hate for girls to think they have to aspire to that, it all comes down to Photoshop. I admire their work but you know from being in the industry that 30-40% of it is the model and the lighting is just everything else.

"Mental health issues are everywhere. I want to help make people aware that mental health is as important as physical health."

The suicide rate in Londonderry is 38% higher than in the Western area generally and a recent report by the Men's Health Forum Ireland (MHFI) found that, amongst men aged 15-34, suicide is the principal cause of death in Ireland.

The celebrity chef Derry Clarke, a regular on RTE One's Seven O'Clock Show, cycled from Paris to Nice this year to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Catherine remarks that it must have been very painful for Derry and his wife Sallyanne, who own Dublin's Michelin-starred l'Ecrivain restaurant, to go on the Late Late Show in September, to talk about their 16-year-old son Andrew's tragic death by suicide, in 2012.

"It was very brave of them. There is a growing problem but people don't want to speak about it. It's still a taboo subject but it's so prevalent now, it really has to be discussed," she says.

"Home life is so important in that regard. I have always advocated sitting down around the table and discussing things. Letting the kids speak and listening to them so they can get any issues off their chests.

"I always knew by their faces coming in through the door if there was anything wrong with them. Talking is so important - you have to let children express themselves."

Like many country families, the Higgins's back door was usually kept unlocked during the children's childhood. Dad Seamus's colleagues from his timber manufacturing business and horsey people are regularly in and out, along with the terriers and poodles. It's a very different scenario to Cheshire-born Catherine's former life as a London-based French translator and model.

"The Ann Scott agency in London needed extra girls for a show one time - I did it for a laugh and extra money," she recalls. "I was in my early 20s and it was so exciting to get to model in Paris. Size 10 was small enough then and 5ft 9ins was tall - there were none taller than me then. The six footers were part of a new generation that came along in the late Nineties.

"I was quite naïve," she adds. "I didn't admire any of the famous models in particular then, but Twiggy's legacy rolled on a long time."

Catherine met Seamus when she was in Magherafelt visiting relatives, the Forbes furniture family, almost 30 years ago. After they married, Catherine began working with the former Brian Massey modelling agency, doing commercial work. And when Coleraine Council needed a mother-and-baby image for a Waterworld ad, Jayne made her modelling debut with her mum, at five months old. The pair went on to learn horse-riding together when Jayne was four.

"I grew up around horses - I'd muck them out and every weekend we'd pack up the lorry and go show-jumping or to dressage competition," Jayne recalls. "We'd be up at 5am some mornings to drive to Cavan or Dublin. It wasn't very glamorous, and even though mum was modelling, I just saw her as mum. But I do remember her doing her make-up to go out with dad and trying on her shoes - she had some amazing ones and a very glamorous wardrobe."

Catherine interjects: "She's always stealing my clothes and my jewellery." And then the two dissolve into peals of laughter.

In their jeans and boots, they're more like two sisters teasing each other than mother and daughter, although Catherine has always laid down the law as a parent.

"I've always got behind them all and knew where they were going and what they were doing," says Catherine. "I certainly wouldn't have allowed Jayne to miss university for modelling - and she didn't start doing it part-time until she was 18. One of the criteria I laid down was for her to get her degree in PR."

With the wholesome corn-fed look of a young Grace Kelly, Jayne combined modelling with her studies at Jordanstown after spending a week on work experience for Cathy Martin's Belfast public relations and modelling agency, helping to dress the models backstage at Belfast Fashionweek. Enjoying "the buzz and excitement", she decided to give modelling a try and was immediately signed up by Cathy Martin. Her very first assignment saw her become a familiar face across Northern Ireland when she fronted Victoria Square's Spring/Summer billboard fashion campaign.

"Mum never pushed me into it but she has given me some very good advice along the way," says Jayne. "She told me to stand up for myself and if I wasn't comfortable modelling anything, not to do it - just say no. There are lots of young girls who want to do catwalk modelling and they end up doing lingerie because they think they've no choice. I'm very good at saying 'no'; it's not for me. There are plenty more jobs out there.

"I don't feel pressure to be super-skinny either - I enjoy dinner too much! Mum rustles up amazing casseroles out of whatever's in the fridge. She should write a cookbook."

After four years working part-time in Belfast while studying for her degree and taking part in every Fashionweek event, Jayne decided to go into modelling full-time and joined the leading Dublin agency, Andrea Roche, for her work in the Republic. Since then she has done fashion shoots all over the world and would like to live in London at some stage.

"I'd still come back though - it's a luxury to come home and hear birdsong in the mornings instead of sirens, I love it," she admits.

"And I'd be on the next plane to London after her if she moved - we all would," says Catherine. "I've lots of friends in London and the kids often come over with me. Jayne and I see each other every week and I'm sure we still would if she moved."

Jayne agrees. "We're very close; we have the same sense of humour - quite wacky! Mum's also very practical and hands-on, a very good problem solver, and tenacious. I learned that from her; like, when I'm in the gym and hating it, I'll just get on with it to get it finished and out of the way, like she would.

"She's quite affectionate and emotional as well. We both cry our eyes out at things on TV like Long Lost Families.

"Dad's determined and stubborn. I've got his personality. Mum's OCD. She mops the floor around your feet and she'll have your plate lifted the second you finish your dinner. I think she's scared the house will be smelly, with all the animals we have. She's very practical, and she never faffs or fusses."

Catherine and Seamus are now in the property development business. Jayne hopes to follow in their footsteps and would consider TV work (her cousin Claire Forbes is married to Sky Sports and former UTV presenter Graham Little).

"I always wanted to go into business like dad, wear dressy suits and go to meetings. I've had a good education and I want to use it. Magherafelt has great schools and I had a far better education than a lot of girls I know who went to city schools. I couldn't fault my school, St Pius X, and the University of Ulster at Jordanstown."

Catherine admits she wouldn't mind a few grandchildren running round at some point, but Jayne's in no hurry. "I've been single for two and a half years - I like being footloose and fancy free. I'm enjoying my early 20s; I'm not settled and don't know where I want to be yet.

"Of course, if Mr Right came along, fair enough, but I'm not looking. I'm focusing on my career at the minute."

The two of them are joining forces next week to support their local O'Donovan Rossa GAC club in Magherafelt in a fundraising Strictly Come Dancing competition. Jayne's judging and - having done ballroom dancing in the past - Catherine's dancing with "the bravest, strongest local guy, Barry Gillis".

As for the future, Catherine's hopes for Jayne are universal.

"I just hope she remains as happy and carefree as she is now. She's an extremely caring person. I wouldn't say no to grandchildren but I can wait a while!"

"As long as there's a pony club, she can throw them on one and she'll be fine," laughs Jayne.

  • If you would like to volunteer to help suicide prevention, contact To register for any or all of the days in the two-week cycle, If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, contact the Samaritans on tel: 084 5790 9090, or Lifeline on tel: 080 8808 8000

Catherine's Beauty Tips

Cleansing: Old habits die hard - I tend to wash my face morning and night with a face wash, then apply a hydrating cream.

Products: I have used Clarins for about 10 years now. I tend to have sensitive, dry skin - Jayne is the same. It took a while to find skincare that didn't irritate me and actually improved my skin.

Facials: I wouldn't be great with this. Finding time is hard - it's not easy actually getting round to organising and booking a facial. I would go maybe four times a year, usually for a hydrating facial or whatever the beautician would recommend.

Botox or fillers? Neither. I've never really considered or thought about it.

Lasers or peels? Neither!

Supplements: Just the usual tonics and vitamins. My advice is not to get too hung up about these things - laughter is a great tonic.

Anti-ageing tips: Don't smoke, drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Beauty icon: Audrey Hepburn.

Jayne's Beauty Tips

I use cleanser and toner from Boots No7. I'm only 23 so spending crazy money on skin care is not viable for me yet. I use Nivea moisturiser.

I have an obsession with always having my nails done though. Nails and eyebrows are my thing. I have never gone without my nails done in six years, since I discovered gel nails. I go to T Zone in Downpatrick for nails and eyebrows - they are truly the best in that field.

I never get waxed anymore, I prefer sugaring. It's an old technique that has come back into fashion. I go to International Beauty in Lisburn with Pamela Kennedy, who owns the license for it in Ireland. It is the most amazing hair removal technique.

Like my mum, getting time for a facial is difficult but usually I would try to have one every two months - it would be a hydrating one as I have very dry, sensitive skin.

I care more about my hair - I get a lot of work because of my hair, so I keep it healthy and having a good hairdresser is crucial. I go home to Magherfelt to a hairdresser's called Atchison Hair; they always colour my hair to perfection.

Famous modelling mums and daughters

Cindy and Kaia Crawford

Cindy was criticised for letting her daughter model at 13, but she is very selective in what she lets her do, and Kaia seems as healthy and grounded as her supermodel mother.

Yasmin and Amber Le Bon

Amber has got her mother's colouring and her Duran Duran singer father's features. Expect to see her equally beautiful little sisters following in her modelling footsteps soon.

Jerry Hall and Elizabeth and Georgia May Jagger

Jerry's stunning youngest daughter Georgia May, an infant when dad Mick was cavorting with Carla Bruni, has eclipsed her older sister Elizabeth.

Pearl and Daisy Lowe

Pretty Daisy has great genes on both sides. Her sultry mother Pearl was once the face of Agent Provocateur and her father is dishy Bush singer, Gavin Rossdale.

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