SAMANTHA HARRIS

IN HER WORDS
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By model standards, Samantha Harris could be fearful of approaching the big 3-0. By any other standard, she’s only just finding her stride. As the famed model begins her 29th lap around the sun, we spoke to her about the highs and lows of life as a modern Australian woman, her fears and insecurities and her hopes for the future. These are her words as spoken to Claudia Liebenberg. Her reflections on the past, present and future.

I think this is one of the reasons our immediate family is so close-knit. Family is everything to me and being away from them was one of my biggest challenges as a young model. When I was 14 years old I was plucked from relative obscurity by one of the world’s most famous fashion photographers, Patrick Demarchelier, to form part of his Iconic Faces campaign for American Glamour in New York. 

I missed my family and I struggled to feel comfortable in my own skin. While I can laugh about it now, my crippling shyness almost rendered me unable to mutter a simple hello. It’s gotten better with time. People often ask me how I overcame my fears, and really, like so many things in life, it simply took time. Over the years I found my groove. I became more aware of who I was and less aware of what other people thought of me. I grew up. I became more confident because I had those years of experience under my belt and I was able to stop sweating the small stuff so much. I knew whatever life threw at me, I could handle it.

Sometimes to look forward, you need to look back and see how far you’ve come. As a painfully shy young woman, on the brink of big things, I never in my wildest dreams believed that my life would turn out this way. My big break came through the Girlfriend Model Search competition at the age of 13 years and from then onwards, I was thrust into an adult world that took me years to understand.

I grew up in Tweed Heads in a loving family with a strong role model of a mother who wanted the best for my brothers and I. We didn’t have a lot, but we had enough, and we made do with what we had. In retrospect, I had a charmed childhood. I spent my days on the beach with my three older brothers and weekends pippying with my mum. I was always interested in modelling and my mother would enter me in beauty pageants, often sewing my outfits herself.

We were a close-knit family and I know my mum did everything she could to give us the best possible upbringing. I don’t think life was easy for her and she had a traumatic childhood, taken from her family as part of the stolen generation. It is only in recent years that she has reconnected with her family, travelling to Kempsey to meet her aunties and the elders from her community.

Sometimes to look forward, you need to look back and see how far you’ve come. As a painfully shy young woman, on the brink of big things, I never in my wildest dreams believed that my life would turn out this way. My big break came through the Girlfriend Model Search competition at the age of 13 years and from then onwards, I was thrust into an adult world that took me years to understand.

I grew up in Tweed Heads in a loving family with a strong role model of a mother who wanted the best for my brothers and I. We didn’t have a lot, but we had enough, and we made do with what we had. In retrospect, I had a charmed childhood. I spent my days on the beach with my three older brothers and weekends pippying with my mum. I was always interested in modelling and my mother would enter me in beauty pageants, often sewing my outfits herself.

We were a close-knit family and I know my mum did everything she could to give us the best possible upbringing. I don’t think life was easy for her and she had a traumatic childhood, taken from her family as part of the stolen generation. It is only in recent years that she has reconnected with her family, travelling to Kempsey to meet her aunties and the elders from her community.

I think this is one of the reasons our immediate family is so close-knit. Family is everything to me and being away from them was one of my biggest challenges as a young model. When I was 14 years old I was plucked from relative obscurity by one of the world’s most famous fashion photographers, Patrick Demarchelier, to form part of his Iconic Faces campaign for American Glamour in New York. 

I missed my family and I struggled to feel comfortable in my own skin. While I can laugh about it now, my crippling shyness almost rendered me unable to mutter a simple hello. It’s gotten better with time. People often ask me how I overcame my fears, and really, like so many things in life, it simply took time. Over the years I found my groove. I became more aware of who I was and less aware of what other people thought of me. I grew up. I became more confident because I had those years of experience under my belt and I was able to stop sweating the small stuff so much. I knew whatever life threw at me, I could handle it.

 

At the beginning of my career I just wanted to fit in, I wanted to look like everyone else. As I got older I realised how ridiculous that was: I am who I am and I can’t change that. Ironically, my individuality is what made me stand out, it gave me the life I know today. I no longer want to look like everyone else – I want to be me.

With confidence I think comes happiness and while I was never unhappy, I certainly think I’m in a better place today than I was 10 years ago. I still have my moments where I judge myself harshly and am critical of myself, but for the most part, I like who I am and every day I try to be the best version of that person.

I surround myself with good people – my family, my agent and my husband, Luke. Luke has stood by me for more than 11 years and he is without doubt my best friend, my biggest supporter, my past, present and tomorrow. I can be silly around Luke, we have a lot of fun together. I don’t believe in relying on other people to validate how you feel about yourself but having his love makes me love myself more.

It’s impossible to predict the future but I hope to one day have my own family and allow my children to grow up slowly. I want them to have a simple childhood, similar to mine, full of love and adventures.

I am in a good place with my career and in the future, I’d like to continue to build my personal brand and hopefully build a business empire of my own. I look up to people like Elle MacPherson and Miranda Kerr who continue to model but are also business women in their own right.

I don’t think I’m just a pretty face in a magazine anymore and I don’t want that to be all that defines me. I love makeup and I’d like to develop an affordable brand that feels and looks luxurious; we all deserve to feel special.

If I think about what I want my legacy to be, it is without doubt a mentor to young girls and I take my role as an Australis GRLBOSS mentor very seriously. I used to wear their products as a young girl attending modelling competitions and I am honoured that they picked me as an ambassador for their brand.

As an indigenous woman I am proud of my culture, yet I’m saddened to see how many people from the Aboriginal community still struggle.

My mum and I are looking forward to spending time in remote closed-off communities later this year, listening to my people and hearing their stories. Sometimes I think people just want to know they have a voice, and someone is interested in hearing what they have to say. I hope to inspire young girls and show them that the sky is the limit.

I believe in the saying ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and so I want them to look at me and see their future. Looking back, I know I have lived an extraordinary life and I am thankful for it and excited about my future.

I am who I am and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Samantha Harris will be a guest judge at the Australis Face of Façon runway finale at Westfield Kotara on October 12, 2019.

 

At the beginning of my career I just wanted to fit in, I wanted to look like everyone else. As I got older I realised how ridiculous that was: I am who I am and I can’t change that. Ironically, my individuality is what made me stand out, it gave me the life I know today. I no longer want to look like everyone else – I want to be me.

With confidence I think comes happiness and while I was never unhappy, I certainly think I’m in a better place today than I was 10 years ago. I still have my moments where I judge myself harshly and am critical of myself, but for the most part, I like who I am and every day I try to be the best version of that person.

I surround myself with good people – my family, my agent and my husband, Luke. Luke has stood by me for more than 11 years and he is without doubt my best friend, my biggest supporter, my past, present and tomorrow. I can be silly around Luke, we have a lot of fun together. I don’t believe in relying on other people to validate how you feel about yourself but having his love makes me love myself more.

It’s impossible to predict the future but I hope to one day have my own family and allow my children to grow up slowly. I want them to have a simple childhood, similar to mine, full of love and adventures.

I am in a good place with my career and in the future, I’d like to continue to build my personal brand and hopefully build a business empire of my own. I look up to people like Elle MacPherson and Miranda Kerr who continue to model but are also business women in their own right.

I don’t think I’m just a pretty face in a magazine anymore and I don’t want that to be all that defines me. I love makeup and I’d like to develop an affordable brand that feels and looks luxurious; we all deserve to feel special.

If I think about what I want my legacy to be, it is without doubt a mentor to young girls and I take my role as an Australis GRLBOSS mentor very seriously.I used to wear their products as a young girl attending modelling competitions and I am honoured that they picked me as an ambassador for their brand.

As an indigenous woman I am proud of my culture, yet I’m saddened to see how many people from the Aboriginal community still struggle.

My mum and I are looking forward to spending time in remote closed-off communities later this year, listening to my people and hearing their stories. Sometimes I think people just want to know they have a voice, and someone is interested in hearing what they have to say. I hope to inspire young girls and show them that the sky is the limit.

I believe in the saying ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and so I want them to look at me and see their future. Looking back, I know I have lived an extraordinary life and I am thankful for it and excited about my future.

I am who I am and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Samantha Harris will be a guest judge at the Australis Face of Façon runway finale at Westfield Kotara on October 12, 2019.

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Editorial: Lara Lupish
Marketing/PR: Claudia Liebenberg