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Pretty vacant: Is life on the catwalk actually really dull?


Empty: Cara Delevingne

Empty: Cara Delevingne

Rosanna Davison

Rosanna Davison

Amanda Brunker

Amanda Brunker


Empty: Cara Delevingne

The freebie designer clothes, the first-class travel, the Cristal champagne-soaked VIP parties, and the not getting out of bed for less than 10k - what's not to love about a model's life?

To the (shorter, wobblier) outside world it all looks so glamorous, but according to one of its inner circle, a career in front of the camera isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Despite being a globally recognised face and one of fashion's most bankable stars, Cara Delevingne has revealed she finds modelling unfulfilling.

"I ended up feeling a bit empty," she recently confessed in an interview with WSJ magazine. "Fashion is just about what's on the outside, and that's it. There's no searching, it's just creating pretty things."

She added: "It's horrible living in a world where I'll get a call from someone saying, so-and-so says you were partying a lot and you were looking this way and you need to lose weight. It makes me so angry."

The 22-year-old, who is estimated by Forbes to be worth more than €3m, is now pursuing a career in acting and has a string of roles in the pipeline. Although, she has also just been revealed as the face of Mango, alongside Kate Moss, so perhaps that feeling of emptiness comes and goes.

But she's not the first famous face to puncture the perfect image of working in fashion. Just last month Canadian former model, Erica McDonald, wrote brilliantly for the blog XOJane about the ugly side to life on the international catwalks, branding its 'perfect' façade as "the grand deception" and declaring: "There are about a trillion things more important to do with our limited time on this earth than perfecting appearances to embody unrealistic beauty standards."

A former model and Miss Ireland, Amanda Brunker understands a thing or two about Delevingne's job dissatisfaction.

"I just found it a bit soulless," she explains. "It's a heck of a lot better than many jobs but it wasn't for me. Yes it's nice to get glammed up and feel beautiful. But every day? That can become monotonous.

"Cara is a creative and modelling has been a platform for her, as it was for me - though obviously not to the same level sadly - so I can totally understand her bored stance.

"She outgrew modelling quicker than most supermodels, that doesn't make her grumpy, it just goes to show that she is a beautiful woman of substance that needs to explore her artistic side."

Now a successful writer, Amanda, whose audiobook Champagne Kisses and radio play Curiosity were released on iTunes this week, warns that it's not always easy to escape your former job.

"I'm 41 next month and I'm still trying to get certain snobs to take me seriously, having won Miss Ireland a whopping 24 years ago," she laughs.

"Models definitely have to jump through hoops to achieve critical acclaim."

In a TED talk that's been viewed over 10 million times, Victoria's Secret model Cameron Russell warned modelling was "not a career path" while Russian supermodel, Natalia Vodianova, has recently spoken out about needing a "higher purpose" in her life.

Another Miss Ireland alumni, Rosanna Davison, has worked full time in the industry in Ireland and abroad for the past 13 years, but she too agrees modelling can have its limitations.

"There are plenty of aspects about the industry that I really like," she begins. "I love that each day is different and there are so many incredibly talented and creative people to meet and work with.

"But modelling is also what you make of it to a large extent I've found and, for me, it's always been important to have outside interests and develop other skills which is why I completed my degree in UCD and went on to study nutrition."

With her website, RosannaDavisonNutrition.com underway and a book, Eat Yourself Beautiful, due out in the autumn, she reckons she'll continue to model just "a little bit longer".

"All models are aware that their shelf life is relatively limited," she says. "So building on the next career step is important."

She's understandably evasive about echoing Delevingne's declaration of ennui, but other models aren't so coy.

"I can relate to models who say that it makes them feel empty," says Tia Duffy, who has a successful career in Ireland, New York and Canada for the past five years.

"At the end of the day you are no more than a clothes hanger and you must not have higher expectations going into the industry.

"People think that models live this super, amazing, glam lifestyle when, in fact, it isn't always quite how it looks. It's tiring and it's not something you go into lightly."

Now based in Toronto, Tia says she recently walked by the set where Delevingne's filming her new movie in the hope of spotting the star. She too hopes one day to go into film, seeing it as a 'clever' move on the supermodel's part.

"I think all models should enter the industry not expecting too much. Their job is to make clothes sell, it's never really about the model, and thankfully I've known that from early on so my expectations haven't let me down or misled me."

But Karen Forde, a curvy model with Andrea Roche's agency and writer for HerFamily.ie, says there is a growing appreciation for personality in the job which staves off boredom.

"A model of the noughties lives in the age of social media where contact and interaction with brands happens daily. Walking around looking good is not good enough anymore," she explains.

"You need to have the ability to introduce yourself, stand by your views and opinions - something that young models, who don't know how the game works, can find overpowering."

Though she finds it tedious having her bust size (34DD) double and triple checked at every job, Karen reckons allowing her personality to shine through makes work more rewarding. She also reckons the Irish industry is more nurturing.

"Working in the UK is a closed door by comparison," she says. "Irish girls nearly give too much away when it comes to sharing job experiences," she says.

"The UK industry is very different - there you are a clothes horse. The less you want to chat the better. No-one wants to know your name or make eye contact again."

She adds: "I can only imagine how highly strung and impatient the high-earning designers Cara deals with would be and the huge pressure she's under from brands.

"I wasn't surprised to hear her say modelling left her feeling empty. She's honest and a great ambassador for what is real in modelling."

Though she enjoys her work, she too sees it as a step towards other things. "Absolutely it is," she says emphatically. "

"There's more to life than making someone else - a brand - look good as that is basically your duty as a model."

The simple fact is that even if you're earning millions and your eyebrows have their own Twitter account, if the job doesn't match up with your personal values, you're not going to be content, as Paula Mullin, executive and career coach (paulamullin.com) explains.

"If a person is in the wrong career they often feel empty and have a constant sense that there must be something else out there for them. They're not fully living their purpose and this is what causes their frustration.

"They need to identify their core values and skills - something they can easily do through coaching - and through that, find a career that is much more aligned to who they are.

"After that, it's all about breaking the career transition into manageable steps and making that first move."

Walking away from the catwalk - celebs who hated their model lives

1 Cybill Shepherd soon stepped away from her model roots. "I hated being a model," she says. "I felt like people treated me like an object. They'd be really nice to me at the beginning of a photoshoot and afterwards it was like I didn't exist."

2 According to ex-Calvin Klein hunk Ashton Kutcher "modelling's probably the silliest employment a human being can have."

3 House of Cards star Robin Wright reckons modelling messed with her head. "It was destructive to the self esteem… big time. I'd hear the most awful things, like, 'her legs aren't long enough. Her tits aren't big enough'. There's no respect for you as a human being."

4 Supermodel Christy Turlington revealed "As soon as I was only a model I hated it. I hated the idea that that's who you are."

5 Liv Tyler modelled after school for the money and travel but loathed it. "I was never comfortable with the whole scene," she says. "Most of the time it was pretty boring."

Irish Independent