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Why 2018 is already looking good for us! Sought after top Northern Ireland models on new year plans

They are two of Northern Ireland's most sought-after young models, but what is life really like for Phoebe Tan and Alex Catherwood — and how do they plan to spend next year? asks Una Brankin

Alex Catherwood in the black dress with Phoebe Tan at Belfast's Christmas Market
Alex Catherwood in the black dress with Phoebe Tan at Belfast's Christmas Market
Alex in the grey jacket and Phoebe in the pink jacket

Phoebe says: I'm the only blonde in the family. Dad's half-Malaysian, so the rest are dark. Some people are surprised that Naoise and I are sisters, others can see the resemblance straight away. I can't see any resemblance with Auntie Susan - she has more Asian features. I'm pale.

I think I get my sportiness mostly from my dad. Mum was good at sports at school, but she didn't carry on. Dad played rugby a lot until he wrecked his knees in his forties.

They both gave me advice on modelling at the start and set me off in the right direction. They told me what was dodgy or not. Modelling wasn't something I was really keen to do when I was younger, but when Naoise started at 14, I started to get interested.

My youngest sister, Cara, does a lot of dance - ballet, Irish, jazz, contemporary, lyrical. Aside from her GCSEs, that's her main focus. She hasn't really shown a large interest in becoming a model. However, like me at that age, if the opportunity came, I'm sure she would take it.

It's a different world to when mum and dad and auntie Susan were modelling 30 years ago.

Susan was 16, the same age as Naoise, when she was approached by a model agency while trying on bikinis in TopShop. Her dad wouldn't hear tell of it - he thought it was all very shady, but my dad - he's Susan's brother - was going out with my mum then and the agency approached her and also asked if dad would do a bit of modelling, so they knew the ropes.

Cathy Martin had seen my face about when Naoise started modelling and she knows my mum from way back. One day she just asked if I was interested. I love the excitement of a catwalk show - the buzz backstage with the rest of the girls is great. In a photoshoot, you're on your own, although I like the one-on-one with the stylist and make-up artist.

I haven't met any famous models yet. I really admire Kendall Jenner and Taylor Hill. I love how they carry themselves. They don't act as if they're superior - they seem down-to-earth and friendly. The pictures they produce are amazing.

One of the highlights of my modelling career so far has been my first campaign, for Lifestyle Sports, in Dublin this year. That was quite a big deal.

I've been happy to do it as a hobby so far, but I'd like to go to London, like Naoise, to give it a good shot after my gap year. I'm going to South East Asia and Australia with my boyfriend, Johnny, in March. We're on one-way tickets, so I don't know when exactly we'll be back - it'll be six months at least. We were at school together and we'll be living in each other's pockets when we're away, so we'll know each other inside-out by the time we get back.

My new year's resolution is to go to the gym twice a week. I've got out of the habit recently. And I still want to go to university. I chose to study real estate after talking to my sister's boyfriend, who studied it. I thought it sounded really interesting.

One day I'd love to have a family of my own. I come from a big family and I love being surrounded by people. It might ruin my figure, but I'll just have to sacrifice that.

I'm spending New Year's Eve at my friend's house with a big group of my school friends, many of whom have gone abroad for uni, so it will be so lovely to celebrate the start of a new year with them.

For me, the new year is really special, simply because I find it so exciting going into a brand new year full of new opportunities and to reflect on all I experienced the previous year.

In 2018 I hope to tick a lot of things off my bucket list while travelling.

For Northern Ireland, I would love to see the country progress in terms of the acceptance of minority groups, so people feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a safe environment.

Phoebe Tan

Height: 5ft 9in

Waist: 25in

Shoes: 6

Hair: Blonde

Length: Long

Dress: size 8

Phoebe Tan was only 12 years old when she was spotted by agent Cathy Martin. Phoebe's elder sister, Naoise, now signed by Storm in London, had joined the CMPR agency at 14, following in the footsteps of their parents, both former models, and their aunt, Susan Tan, a former Miss Northern Ireland (1984) who runs her own alternative private healthcare centre, The Synergy Clinic, on Belfast's Cregagh Road.

Now 19, Phoebe is taking a gap year before university, where she hopes to study for a degree in real estate. Currently working as a nanny when she's not modelling, she recently signed with a Milanese modelling agency and has a meeting lined up with a company in Australia, which she will be visiting in the spring as part of her gap year travels with her boyfriend, Johnny, a bartender she met as a fellow pupil at Methodist College in Belfast.

At 5ft 9in, Phoebe owes her graceful posture to ballet - which she studied from the age of three - and Irish dancing. She credits the disciplines with building the leg strength she required to win both UK and Irish high jump championships.

One of five children, Phoebe has three sisters, Cara (15), Naoise (22) and Niamh (29), and one brother, Ryan (28). She lives at home in Belfast with her parents, Michael (49), a GP, and mum Denise (51).


Alex says:

I get compared to Jodie Kidd all the time. I Googled her when people started saying it. I don't know if it's the high cheekbones or the fact that we're around the same height. I had a lot of growth spurts when I was younger - in Primary One, I was taller than my sister in Primary Two. She's two years older and about 5ft 3in now.

My biggest growth spurt was my first year at school. I was 5ft 10ins and I felt really self-conscious. I was constantly asked what height I was and got a lot of comments - including a lot of negative ones. That's why I started modelling - to help give me confidence.

Now, I feel my height is something to be proud of. My dad's quite small, but there's height on my mum's side. Her grandfather was 6ft and his sister was 6ft 4ins.

My sister's more academic than me - she's doing a physician's associate course - but we both did kickboxing when we were younger. I did a lot of sports, including ice-skating up to level 10. It was good fun and I got to bronze in it. Now I'm into netball mainly. My height helps - I'm a goal shooter.

I go the gym at work, at the QUB Sports Centre, where I'm a lifeguard. I haven't saved anyone from drowning yet, but there was a guy who overdosed on heroin outside the centre's doors and I performed CPR on him while we were waiting for the ambulance. The first-aid training came in very handy.

I felt quite anxious at Miss Ireland this year. It's very different to what I'm used to. I used to be terrified when it came to public speaking, but I got through it well and came in the top eight. I was one of the tallest girls, but there was one other girl who was the same height as me.

I notice the younger generation here are getting taller, but the girls in England are even taller. Cara Delevingne's an exception to that rule, but she's so unique and true to herself. She's not afraid to be herself - she knows who she is. I admire Jodie Kidd too, of course.

I'd love to try my hand at modelling in London at some stage, but my main ambition in life is to make a difference in other people's lives, no matter how small.

I volunteer with Childline, answering the phone and doing online chats. I work with a group of people and we talk the callers through their issues. It's very fulfilling work. Eventually, I'd like to study psychology, either child or forensic.

As for modelling, I love doing Belfast Fashionweek and I enjoy local work. I've got offers for uni, but I'd like to build my modelling portfolio first. I'll be putting this feature in it.

As for how I plan to celebrate New Year's Eve, I will be with all my close family and friends, celebrating both the start of 2018 and my 21st birthday at our local golf club.

I have four new year's resolutions. The first is to travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Bali for a couple of months.

The second is to impact at least one person's life in a positive way.

The third is to gain my level two gymnastics coaching qualification.

The fourth is committing myself to creating a successful modelling career.

Alex Catherwood

Height: 6ft 1in

Waist: 26 and half inches

Shoe size: 8

Hair: Blonde

Length: Long

Dress size: 8/10

Alex Catherwood turns 21 on Sunday, January 21. At 6ft 1in, she is one of the tallest girls on CMPR's books. In demand for both ethereal and edgy photoshoots, she is also known for her elegant walk on the fashion ramps.

As a schoolgirl, Alex excelled at athletics, particularly hurdles and the high jump, like fellow model Phoebe.

Aged 11 she was really into kickboxing and also won the 200 metre race and the javelin competitions at her Prokick club athletics competition, where she also took third place in the long jump.

This year, Alex took part in the Miss Ireland competition as Miss Down, finishing in the final eight.

Currently working as a lifeguard at Queen's University Sports Centre, Alex also volunteers with Childline. She is single and lives in Holywood with her sister, Alana (22), and their mother, Tracey.

Phoebe Tan and Alex Catherwood have both made their mark on the catwalks of Belfast Fashionweek, the annual style extravaganza sponsored by West Coast Cooler. Phoebe will be on her travels for the upcoming March event, but Alex will be strutting her stuff at venues across the city. The week kicks off on the evening of Thursday, March 22, with a high-street fashion show at St Anne's Cathedral, and ends on the afternoon of Saturday, March 24, at Zen, Adelaide Street. See

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