I was fortunate to grow up with natural living being a normal way of life, my Mum’s passion and belief in herbs and nature was instilled into me from a young age. When she opened The Herb Farm in 1993 it seemed like a natural progression to me, whereas she was actually a pioneer in the industry at the time.
After completing the first year of a Business Degree I decided that I would like to travel overseas and see some of the world. Someone mentioned modelling to me and I thought that sounded like it was worth a shot! I sent some pictures to a modelling agency in Auckland and to my surprise it seemed I had a look which they thought would be well received and I was signed by Clyne Model Management.
After a quick test shoot in Auckland I headed to England where I was to nanny for a summer. After this summer Mum came to visit me and we headed to the fashion capital of Milan to meet with potential modelling agencies. I was signed by one of the agencies and when Mum went home I stayed in Milan to begin my modelling career…
Eating disorders, drugs and partying
The world of modelling has a reputation of being many things, among them shallow, catty, judgemental and images of eating disorders, unsavoury characters, drugs and partying might spring to mind.
Sure, these do feature in the industry, but they are probably present in many industries. Looking back I took the world of modelling seriously, I wanted to succeed, be professional and I wasn’t looking for any of the above.
Over my 3 years as an international model I lived and worked in Milan, London, Singapore, Tokyo, Athens, Belgium and Sydney and I gained some really valuable skills and experience – it was certainly character building at times!
I was my first business
Modelling is essentially about what you look like – and if that matches what the client wants for their job.
It may sound strange but I think this was my first experience at running my own business – I was my business!
To succeed long-term as a model you had to look after yourself, if you turned up to jobs with break-outs or tired eyes it would be frowned upon. Punctuality and professionalism were other traits that took you far, I worked with people from different cultures and who spoke different languages to me and to be able to get on with everyone was important.
Patience has never been a natural strength of mine but this is something I learnt a lot about during my modelling days as there was a lot of waiting! Waiting at airports, waiting at castings (auditions for jobs), waiting for hair and make-up, and even waiting while holding poses! I became an expert in waiting.
Being judged on what you look like is not always easy, even for those with relatively high self-esteem. I lived and worked with girls from all around the world and with different backgrounds and I saw how this affected some of them.
When I lived in Tokyo we had a weekly ‘weigh-in’ and had to report to our agency to be weighed and measured to ensure we weren’t putting on weight. I was relatively ‘old’ as a model (20ish) but saw how this pressure to maintain measurements was hard for the really young models (14-16) and we tried to support them when we could.
I generally found that the girls I was living with had a positive approach to nutrition and exercise and my agencies supported this. However it was inevitable that I had to wear non-natural make-up, dye my hair and apply fake tan at times.
Natural products were not readily available in those days but I always had my Herb Farm products from home and felt better knowing I was able to wash away the toxins from the day naturally.
There were many calls to Mum to send over more supplies, although the Italian post couldn’t be relied on – sometimes the parcels never arrived! I sometimes imagined some Italian mailman enjoying the Rose Face Cream!
I would get nice comments on my skin from make-up artists and photographers and would always take the opportunity to say I used The Herb Farm natural products. Maybe I contributed to the growth of the global natural industry in some way!
I will always have fond memories of my modelling days, of the people I met, the places I went and the skills and qualities that I developed.
It was a step in my journey towards taking over The Herb Farm from my Mum and re-enforced my passion for natural products and holistic wellbeing.
Although modelling was largely about your exterior appearance I found that the most beautiful people I met had beautiful souls as well.
By Sarah Cowan (Managing Director, The Herb Farm)