Straight outta Nar­ran­dera

The Monthly (Australia) - - CONTENTS - by Dar­ryn King

Vic­to­ria Lee has done a lot of ca­vort­ing in her un­der­wear lately. “Oh yeah,” she says. “I just walk around in my un­der­wear, get­ting com­fort­able. I ac­tu­ally went to my agency and just walked around like that, just to get used to do­ing it with an au­di­ence.” Sit­ting in a cafe at New York’s Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art, sur­rounded by shapely Chi­nese ce­ram­ics, Lee is con­sid­er­ably more cov­ered up to­day, wear­ing a widestriped brushed-knit Equip­ment mock-neck sweater, The­ory pants and Saint Lau­rent boots. Her mu­seum vis­i­tor sticker is stuck on her grey Is­abel Marant jacket. “My per­sonal style is noth­ing too crazy. I don’t fol­low trends. Usu­ally I leave more to the imag­i­na­tion.” Lee is 26, five feet ten (her other di­men­sions are avail­able on­line), with dark blonde hair, green eyes and a lower lip poised be­tween a pucker and a pout. This year, she’s the face (and body) of Seafolly, Aus­tralia’s big­gest swimwear brand. In Au­gust, it was an­nounced that Lee would walk in this year’s Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret Fash­ion Show in Shanghai. Per­son­al­ity-wise, Lee fits in well with Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret’s pro­jec­tion of women who, rather than ex­ud­ing an icy hau­teur, look like they’re en­joy­ing the world’s most glam­orous slum­ber party. Lee laughs for a long time when asked, à la Zoolan­der, if she be­lieves there’s more to life than be­ing re­ally, re­ally, re­ally, ridicu­lously good look­ing. “Yes. Af­fir­ma­tive. I do.” Apart from undies and cossies, Lee has mod­elled ev­ery­thing from dou­ble denim to haute cou­ture, trouser suits to yoga pants, sun­glasses to socks. One day she might be fur­nished with a $4240 Miu Miu se­quined crepe dress and match­ing $1780 Miu Miu clutch, or a $6800 Chris­tian Dior dress, or $5120 Burberry leather coat. The next day – Cot­ton On swim sep­a­rates (two for $30). Lee grew up in the New South Wales Rive­rina town of Nar­ran­dera (pop­u­la­tion 3746 and a “six-hour drive from the beach”), and re­mem­bers be­ing 13 and notic­ing in­spir­ing im­ages of Elle Macpher­son and her ilk. “It didn’t re­ally put the idea into my head that I wanted to be a model. It was more that I ad­mired that girl, that

im­age and that idea. These ul­ti­mate Aussie beach babes, just the epit­ome of Aus­tralian­ness. I was like, ‘Wow, I want to be her.’”

The dux of her high school (“My mum will be very pleased you men­tioned that”), Lee de­ferred uni­ver­sity and signed with an agency when she was 18. Her first pro­fes­sional shoot took her to New Zealand’s South Is­land, where she found her­self hav­ing to pose vir­tu­ally nude in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures by Lake Wanaka. “Ev­ery­one else on the team was in puffer jack­ets, snow boots, lit­er­ally wear­ing ther­mals. I was in a bikini.” Since then, Lee has been pho­tographed in the desert, in wa­ter, un­der­wa­ter, sprawled over and dan­gling off var­i­ous beds, in the back of a ute, on an air­port run­way, on a squash court, in­door rock climb­ing, do­ing yoga, pump­ing petrol, bran­dish­ing gar­den­ing equip­ment, wield­ing a ukulele, eat­ing a peach, sip­ping a milk­shake, wear­ing bunny ears, wear­ing antlers, along­side a lot of dogs. She’s played a rock chick, a flap­per, a dandy, an equestri­enne, and an end­less suc­ces­sion of dom­i­na­tri­ces, brides and brides­maids. For Van­ity Fair Italia, she mod­elled in a work­ing Mi­ami su­per­mar­ket. “There’s ac­tu­ally one pic­ture where I’m like step­ping into the freezer and there’s a lady do­ing her shop­ping, just star­ing at me: ‘What is this girl do­ing?’” They’re all char­ac­ters, says Lee. “When they’re im­ages of work – in a magazine or do­ing a cam­paign or some­thing – I don’t re­ally recog­nise that per­son. I don’t as­so­ci­ate that with my­self. You’re be­com­ing a char­ac­ter and tak­ing on the role of what­ever girl you’re por­tray­ing.” The flaunt­ing of flesh, es­pe­cially, is per­for­mance and fan­tasy. “It’s fun to be in lin­gerie, play­ing sex­ier roles. For one day, I get to be this very sexy, out-there, out­ra­geous per­son. “Ob­vi­ously, you work on it. I see pho­tos from when I first started, and I see some­one who isn’t putting their whole heart into it. It’s kind of hard to ex­plain. But when you’re look­ing at an im­age, you ei­ther be­lieve it or there’s a ve­neer of ‘She’s not re­ally there.’ You can tell when some­one’s re­ally connecting. And that’s all you want to do. You want to connect, you want to de­liver a mes­sage.” The Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret Fash­ion Show is a kind of scant­ily clad fem­i­nine beauty Olympics. The typ­i­cal

“I see pho­tos from when I first started, and I see some­one who isn’t putting their whole heart into it.”

pul­chri­tude pit crew com­prises six man­i­curists, 32 makeup artists, 32 hair­styl­ists and a ded­i­cated spray tan­ner, with 40 cans of hair­spray and 100 bot­tles of Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret body care prod­ucts at their dis­posal. As part of her prep, Lee has been at­tend­ing gru­elling fit­ness classes and per­sonal train­ing ses­sions six times a week, un­der a ro­tat­ing ros­ter of three coaches. (I en­quired with one of them about Lee’s work­out and re­ceived a de­tailed 1000-word doc­u­ment.) The main fo­cus in re­cent weeks: booty and abs. “It hurts,” says Lee, of the ses­sions. “It’s so bad that it’s good.” Af­ter­wards, she gets into a cryother­apy cham­ber, for in­jury pre­ven­tion; for Lee, the sub-zero tem­per­a­tures are as nor­mal as tak­ing a shower. Even out­side of the Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret gig, Lee’s hours are hardly glam­orous: 3 am starts, all-night shoots. “And you have to be on,” says Lee. “You can’t be fall­ing asleep stand­ing there.” Lee has, in fact, fallen asleep stand­ing there. “I’ll shut my eyes for a split sec­ond. I’ll have a lit­tle mi­crosleep.”

“I’ve been poked with pins and scratched with zip­pers. Not on pur­pose, I like to think.”

There are oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ards be­sides rou­tinely wear­ing win­ter clothes in the sum­mer and sum­mer clothes in the win­ter. “You get your hair pulled, you get pokes in the eye. I’ve been poked with pins and scratched with zip­pers. Not on pur­pose, I like to think. Hope­fully not.” Our in­ter­view took place be­fore pub­lisher Condé Nast cut ties with pho­tog­ra­pher Terry Richard­son due to long­stand­ing re­ports of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour, but Lee did speak, in gen­eral terms, about un­pro­fes­sional work­ing con­di­tions and poor treat­ment of mod­els in the in­dus­try. “I’m lucky enough that I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced that specif­i­cally, but I think there should be more con­sid­er­a­tion of what they’re mak­ing the girls do.” Head­ing out of the mu­seum, Lee is par­tic­u­larly taken by a Monet paint­ing (“You can just lose your­self in the brush­work”). A plaque in the Rodin ex­hi­bi­tion quotes the sculp­tor on the inspiration of “earthly an­gels”: “For an artist, a soft woman is [God’s] most pow­er­ful mes­sen­ger.” Lee passes through with­out turn­ing heads, at least as far as I can tell, but she’s con­scious of be­ing in­creas­ingly less anony­mous these days. “Now that I’m be­ing in­ter­viewed as my­self, and there are pic­tures of my­self as my­self out there, that’s where it gets a bit weird,” she says, strolling by a 2000-year-old mar­ble statue of Aphrodite. “It’s a lit­tle more … more real.” M

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.