'Irish models get away with a lot, I'm considered curvy abroad', says Thalia Heffernan
Thalia Heffernan tells Joanna Kiernan about her multiple personalities and some of her plans for the future
Thalia Heffernan has been one of Ireland’s most sought-after models for the past four years despite the fact she is only 19.
“I’ve done an awful lot awfully young. I started when I was 15,” she says. “I have just got really lucky, I think. I have got to travel the world and see so many things and to work with so many amazing people.”
I meet Thalia in the Morgan The Agency headquarters in Dublin. A home away from home, where she suspects in jest they like to keep her close for fear of what she might say. However, within moments it is pretty clear that Thalia, though endearingly warm and bubbly, is streetwise beyond her years.
“I didn’t realise modelling is what I wanted to do,” she tells me. “A couple of years ago though I was looking at diaries from when I was quite young and I had written on every page nearly that I wanted to be a model, actress, singer, dancer, everything under the sun, but it was always model that came first.”
“I used to do a little bit of acting when I was really small and I have always been around cameras because my dad worked in TV, so I have always been around some variation of this industry,” Thalia explains. “But it was just luck and fate that it actually happened and it has been pretty amazing.”
But so much success so young can also be an overwhelming experience Thalia admits, depending on your mood and the day.
“It has its moments,” she smiles. “Whenever I come home from a trip the demand heightens because I have been away for so long. So when that happens I can have two jobs a day for a solid week, so by the end of that week, especially being jet-lagged coming home from Australia that did take its toll, but you do get used to it. I love being busy at the same time and having things to do.”
After landing back in Ireland mid-December, following three months working in Australia, Thalia found herself amidst a flurry of seasonal shoots and catwalk shows.
“I was so jet-lagged that I fell asleep between two jobs, amongst a load of Christmas boxes. I nestled in and made myself a little bed,” Thalia laughs. “I was so tired, but thankfully there are great makeup artists that I work with most of the time, so I will text them in advance going ‘please bring extra concealer!’”
“Australia was a huge experience if nothing else,” she adds. “I’m delighted to be home for a while. I missed it big time. I am a total homebird.”
But with Thalia now on the books of five very prominent modelling agencies across the globe – including Premier in London and Ford in New York, it won’t be long before she will be jetting off again.
“It’s great because all of my agencies have a really good relationship with one another,” she explains. “So they all know at the moment I’m in Dublin getting myself settled and then in the later in the New Year I might decide I want to go to London for this amount of time or I might go to New York again.”
Thalia’s international modelling experience has taught her a lot about the industry.
“Us Irish models get away with quite a lot over here,” she smiles. “There is more of a healthy size here that is definitely more realistic, which I personally believe in. I train a lot. I love my food. Both of my parents are unbelievable cooks, so I have always eaten anything I want and in unbelievable amounts as well.”
“My trainer is always on at me about Victoria’s Secret. She’s brilliant, she’s like ‘You’re going to do it!’,” Thalia says. “Obviously a lot of girls aspire to do it; It is a huge deal. I don’t know if I would physically be able to do it, I would probably pass out before I even went into the casting, but it would be an incredible experience to even cast for them.”
“Abroad I could be considered curvy whereas here I wouldn’t be,” Thalia explains. “It depends on the market, but definitely the Irish market is a little bit more lenient in terms of weight, which is great.”
“Australia was quite healthy too, but then most markets outside Dublin that I have been a part of or experienced wanted you to be quite slim,” Thalia admits. “It’s just the nature of the job. It can be quite challenging sometimes, but I am lucky to have such a good team behind me and I have a good enough metabolism.”
The competition within the modelling scene is also much more intense abroad.
“You see the same girls at castings, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to talk to them, it’s definitely much more competitive,” Thalia explains.
“We are all doing it for a reason and for a lot of these girls it is a full-time job; it is their life, so there will always be a little bit of something there, which doesn’t really happen here at all. I am so close with a lot of the other Irish models and I’d hang out with them in my spare time as well, but abroad, there is more competition and especially if you have similar features – the same hair colour, similar height, eye colour or skin tone – then that heightens that competition.”
Thalia is aware that her modelling career has taken her away from her friends to a certain extent, so she makes sure to take advantage of the opportunities she has with them when she is home. My friends are great,” she smiles. “When I am with them I turn back into a 19-year-old girl again. I revert back to what I really am.”
“But they will talk about people and I have no idea who they are, or places. I don’t know anything anymore. They are so good though. We laugh at it,” Thalia tells me.
“I have got multiple personalities at this point. I bounce between being an adult and a child, but when I have some time off I try and spend as much time as possible with my friends.”
However, modelling may not be on the cards forever.
“I love my job and I have been doing it for so long now that it is almost second nature to me, but at the same time I like to keep doing things that are rewarding and I think when you are in a job for too long you can kind of lose that,” Thalia tells me.
“I do love my job and I work with the best people. I think I’ll continue doing this for as long as possible, but there are other projects that I would like to get involved in too.”
“I am a massive animal lover and there’s a big market in South Africa for modelling and there is quite a lot of game and safaris and stuff,” Thalia explains.
“When I was young I spent some time in Johannesburg with my dad and we worked in the Lion Park, which was incredible. Ever since that I have just known that I have to do that again. So this year I might go over and volunteer and also do some modelling work and see how that goes.”
“That would be an ideal situation,” Thalia adds. “But acting is another thing I am also going to try and get into.”
And Thalia has her cousin, Love/Hate actor Aaron Heffernan, on hand for guidance and advice. “Aaron is probably one of my best friends as well as my cousin, he is a great actor so having him in the family is brilliant,” Thalia explains.
“Hopefully 2015 will be my year of figuring out what I am doing with my life.”