“FAMILY COMES FIRST”
She’s the girl from Gunnedah who conquered the catwalk and launched a successful business. Now, Miranda Kerr’s focus is on her young son.
When she was little, Miranda Kerr’s nan would look after her while her parents worked at their Gunnedah steakhouse. Ann Kerr remembers bathing the tot in one side of the double sink while peeling spuds in the other. Then they’d sing songs and tinker on a piano. As she grew older, Kerr would run around her grandparents’ property with her cousins, taking turns behind the wheel of the family Valiant and climbing the weeping willow tree.
It was, perhaps, a perfect childhood – the cocooning love of a mum, dad and brother, a nanna she loved like a second mother, plus all the freedom any child could want to run, explore, and laugh.
But in 1997, her mother, Therese, sent a few photos of Kerr to a modelling competition in Sydney and life changed for all of them, forever. And so Kerr’s son, Flynn, is growing up in a world that could not be more different.
Flynn Bloom, five, lives in Malibu, California. His parents are celebrity personified – Kerr for her modelling, and dad Orlando Bloom for his acting – so he can’t leave the house without paparazzi trying to photograph him. His parents are separated, so he divides his time between them, and while there is no shortage of money or love, Flynn will never be able to work at a check-out, or race motorbikes, or traipse around paddocks in gumboots with the freedom his mother had.
Kerr, however, who still considers her just-turned 80-year-old grandmother one of the most important influences in her life, is determined to give Flynn whatever elements of her childhood she can. “That’s one of the reasons we moved to Malibu, we have a vegetable garden there, and he has land that he can run around on,” she says. He has a swimming pool, and swims like a fish.
Kerr is busy these days, with a new relationship, multiple business deals, including a new one as the face of the Bonds Swim range, and her own skincare company, but being mum to Flynn is her most important job.
And with Kerr’s engagement to Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, Flynn may also one day experience the joys
of a big family. “I am very content with just having one [child], but I am definitely open to the possibility of having more,” says Kerr. “[Flynn] will often say, ‘My friends have brothers or sisters, will I have a brother or sister one day?’ I say, ‘Maybe, honey.’”
PETER CHADWICK, THE founder of Chadwick Models, spent one day a year for a decade looking at 3000-odd photos that had been sent in by teenage girls desperate to be the next winner of the Dolly magazine modelling competition. From that mountain of entries, he and senior magazine staff would select six finalists, and Dolly readers would choose the winner.
In 1997, a set of photos of a big-eyed, dark-haired 13-year-old from Gunnedah, in north-eastern New South Wales, caught his attention. The magazine flew Kerr to Sydney along with five others, including 14-year-old Abigail Cornish, who would go on to become an acclaimed actor. Another of the finalists was Carlie Draeger, who now runs a beauty salon supply business on the Gold Coast.
“We did photo shoots, went to restaurants for dinner and were put up in a hotel for about two days,” recalls Draeger. “It was lots of fun. I remember Miranda was very shy, very petite, and obviously tall. A sweet girl.”
Kerr was presented to Dolly readers as a country lass with a big appetite, a favourite pair of denim shorts, and a crush on JTT (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) from Home Improvement. The readers showed a keen eye for modelling talent when they chose her as the winner, but the experience was bittersweet for Kerr, and was her first lesson in how the celebrity spotlight can burn.
Dolly’s cover image of Kerr in a low-cut gold cardigan sparked outrage from several female politicians. Then Howard-government Minister for Women, Jocelyn Newman, accused the magazine of “using a child to send sexual messages to teenagers”. NSW Minister for Women Faye Lo Po said the image was “near-pornographic” and Marlene Goldsmith, a NSW Liberal MLC, said the image allowed “paedophiles to get a sense that their activities are legitimate”.
Publicly, Kerr brushed off the furore. “All the media attention was absolutely ludicrous,” she told Dolly. “I just didn’t take any notice of it at all.” Privately, says Chadwick, she was distraught. “I remember her mother saying she was really upset by it,” he says.
Kerr’s parents even had to install security systems at their home because of persistent calls from men wanting to meet their daughter, according to a newspaper report at the time. “It’s terrible for a little girl who is frightened out of her wits,” said her mum Therese, who told the paper she wished Kerr had never entered the competition. “People have turned something beautiful into something nasty by putting adult perceptions on a young girl’s dream.”
But, as Chadwick says, “She certainly got over it and proved everyone wrong.”
Kerr signed to Chadwick’s agency, but only worked during holidays. “It was hard to get [the Dolly winners] working,” says Chadwick, “because they were at school, and I’ve always believed you shouldn’t be interrupting their school.” Kerr’s family moved to Brisbane for the last two years of her study so she and brother, Matthew, could get a taste of city life, and Kerr could pursue her modelling career.
“I didn’t want to move at all,” she said in a 2014 interview with Country Style. “I wanted to stay in Gunnedah, get married and have babies.
“But then my boyfriend died [Christopher Middlebrook,brook, 15, was killed in a car accident in 1998]. After that happened,d, I didn’t want to go back… because cause he was from Gunnedah,dah, and it was too painful. ul.
“So that was kind d of what made me lett go of that yearning to go back there, because he was the one I wanted to get married to and havee babies with.”
Kerr was, says those who knew her then, a “commercial”” model. She didn’t have ve the height to model luxury brands on the runway, but her look stood out in advertisements as customers, sick of the e ethereal waif look that hat had been popular with th high-end magazines,, responded to her doe eyes and dimples.
She became the faceace of chain store Portmans, ns, and “every time she appeared eared in a campaign, the clothes would disappear fromm the
store,” said one insider. “She had a look that sold.” Kerr was also a regular on the cover of the now-defunct Madison magazine, which was read by the same young women who had voted her winner of the Dolly competition as teenagers. She had a generation of Australian women in her corner.
Kerr moved to New York when she was 19, and in 2007 became the first Australian to sign with US lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret. That changed everything. The girl from Gunnedah became one of the hottest supermodels in the world.
“It’s kind of weird – I never took modelling very seriously,” says Kerr. “I was like OK, well, this is a means to an end. I will be able to work and pay the bills and meet creative and interesting people. I never really had that desire to be a model. The role model for me was always my grandmother, the way she carries herself, her style, her heart, the way she makes people feel good.”
Kerr’s is an extraordinary success story to everyone but her son. Five-yearolds do not care whether their mother is a famous model, or their father is a famous actor; to them they are simply Mummy and Daddy, the providers of love and security, the suns around which their little worlds revolve.
And when marriages end, all the money and celebrity friends in the world don’t make co-parenting any easier. Success or failure at this most delicate of jobs comes down to the commitment and maturity of each parent, and their ability to put their child’s needs ahead of their own.
Separation in itself does not damage children, says Relationships Australia’s
``I never took modelling very seriously… The role model for me was always my grandmother ´´
Elisabeth Shaw. The damage happens when there is conflict between parents, whether it’s over access visits, money, or when one parent tries to turn the child against the other. “The child is the blood of both parents,” she says. “For the child’s self-esteem, they need to feel that they come from good stock.”
Kerr and Bloom separated when Flynn was two years old, and they decided from the outset to co-parent from a position of kindness. “Orlando and I are really close, and we work it out,” says Kerr. “I try to make sure that [Flynn] spends time with his dad, because I feel it’s important and Orlando does too. We have the same manager, so when I have to go away, we make sure someone is always with Flynn. It’s really lucky we can make it work out that way. That’s why planning our schedules six months in advance is really helpful for us.”
The pair, she says, have a shared parenting philosophy, and Kerr regards herself as a co-parent, not a single mum. “Often Orlando will call me [about an issue], and I’ll say, ‘OK, Daddy and Mum agree,’ which is so important. We spend time together as a threesome all the time. Tonight is Flynn’s night with Orlando; I just came past and said hi to them, and gave Flynn a little kiss and a hug and said I would see him tomorrow.
“The most important things that Orlando and I agree on is that Flynn is healthy, he is grateful, he is kind, he is thoughtful, and that he understands the importance of communicating the way he’s feeling, the way he’s thinking, and feeling safe in doing that.”
Flynn, she says, is growing into an empathic child. “He’s a gentle boy, very thoughtful, and intuitive for someone his age,” says Kerr. “The other day I was running late and he could tell I was frustrated. We got into the car and he said: ‘Mum, sometimes I feel frustrated. What I do is take a deep breath, close my eyes and imagine a rainbow, and that makes me feel better.’ If I’m ever having a tough time, it warms my heart to think about Flynn and that little story.”
Kerr spends as much time as she can with Flynn. That has meant organising photo shoots when he’s with his father and working on her skincare business, Kora Organics, while he’s at school. Kerr is consciously scaling back her modelling jobs and focusing on her business and creative roles so she can be at home as much as possible. “I have accomplished all I have wanted to from a modelling standpoint, and now I feel like my prime focus is foremost on Flynn.”
While Flynn doesn’t understand the significance of what his parents do, he does feel the effects. “He doesn’t like the paparazzi, and Orlando and I do a lot to keep him out of that, to protect him,” she says. “There are very rarely pictures with his face in them now. There have been so many times when we’d like to go down to the beach, but instead we’ll sit by the pool so he doesn’t have to deal with that.”
These days, their little threesome has become four. Spiegel, 26, and Kerr will marry next year and “keep our wedding small and intimate”. Her fiancé and son get on well, adds Kerr. “They have so much fun together. Evan is really great with him. They love doing arts and crafts and building projects together.”
And with Kerr being open to having more kids, not to mention the rumours that his father is engaged to singer Katy Perry, Flynn might soon get his wish for a brother or sister.
While he might not have the kitchen-sink baths, an old Valiant to drive and a weeping willow tree, Flynn nevertheless has the most important ingredient of his mother’s idyllic childhood: an endless supply of love.
``EVAN IS GREAT WITH FLYNN. THEY HAVE SO MUCH FUN TOGETHER. THEY LOVE DOING ARTS AND CRAFTS´´
MODEL MOMENTS (clockwise from left) Evan Spiegel; running errands with son Flynn this year; in 2013 with ex Orlando Bloom and Flynn; the Dolly cover that launched her career.
MIRANDA WEARS Salvatore Ferragamo cape, ferragamo.com; Bonds Swim swimsuit, bonds.com.au; Stella Mccartney sunglasses, David Jones; Tony Bianco shoes, tonybianco.com.au