Saturday 27 December 2014

Erin plots a pathway to the stars

Leading beauty Erin O'Connor is helping in the search to find Ireland's first supermodel

ANDREA BYRNE

Published 14/09/2008 | 00:00

BEAUTIES: Kate McDaid leads the queue in Dundrum to try out for the series

One of the world's highest paid and best known supermodels, Erin O' Connor, will be spending a lot more time in Ireland -- much to her delight. She has signed up to appear in The Model Agent, a new series for RTE that aims to find Ireland's first supermodel.

Notoriously private, Erin O'Connor (30), is rarely photographed in public (unless it involves work). Unlike many of her fellow models she doesn't date dishevelled hedonistic rockers and is never photographed falling out of nightclubs. "I am well documented as being 'the behaved one' which does come with its responsibilities," she said last week.

The search for an Irish beauty will be led by Erin's close friend and the woman who first discovered her -- Fiona Ellis. Ellis is currently scouring the country looking for talent. Erin's role will be that of 'mentor'. "I can teach them the importance of presence and using personality. We can't just be a face anymore. You have to be an ambassador. You have to be a brand. Careers can be so fleeting these days, so it's up to us to inform the girls that they need to get as much out of it as possible," she says.

Erin's parents are Irish. Both hail from Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. "I was called a Plastic Paddy the other day," she says laughing, "apparently, I don't qualify 100 per cent, which upset me endlessly. I was told that by a cab driver who said, 'nobody in their right mind would name their child Erin in this country -- you have to be a foreigner to get that name'".

"There are challenges," says Erin, in response to a question about industry pressures, "like knowing how to hold your own in a room full of people who you have never met before but who have expectations of you.

"There's a lot of money riding on you, a limited time to encapsulate the image that will be distributed all over the world. The biggest hurdle for me was the intense loneliness -- knowing how to fill my time comfortably in a foreign land wasn't easy in the beginning."

Erin, who is worth €4m, was first spotted by Ellis of Independent Models when she was 16. Other well-known faces on Ellis's books include Georgia and Lizzy Jagger (spawn of Mick and Jerry), Helena Christensen, Liz Hurley and our own Jonathan Rhys Meyers, to name but a small few. A Sideline Production for RTE is now searching for Ireland's new top model and will be screened next January. Aspiring candidates need to be 5ft 7in (at the very minimum) and aged from 16 upwards.

Offering advice as to how to impress Ellis, the lofty supermodel says: "Get those hair extensions out. Scrub that tan off. Get rid of the nails. No make-up. I think there is something very brave about being able to be who you are and not rely on beauty enhancements."

In an industry that's renowned for promoting unhealthy body ideals and is plagued by eating disorders, Ellis bucks the trend by only seeking women with "fit, healthy bodies". She doesn't want a size zero. Furthermore, she's keen to point out that the show is education-friendly. Any travel that is involved will be done during the school holidays.

All week, Ellis has been talent spotting. So far, it has been a mixed bag. "Galway was very disappointing," she says. "Cork was much better. There was a very interesting girl in Cork who I think we could definitely put through."

Yesterday, Dublin was destination model search. Today, it's Belfast's turn. People can also apply online. The winner will be signed to Independent Models. "I am confident that we will find a star," declares Ellis. "I think it will be a challenge. I don't think it's going to be easy, but I believe that there is a beauty out there."

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