“I used to get really annoyed”
Rebecca Harding opens up about life with high-profile boyfriend Andy Lee – and her glamorous new trackside role
Refusing to be defined by her romance with Andy Lee, Rebecca Harding celebrates her glamorous new role in a racing-themed shoot for Stellar.
Rebecca Harding can cook a mean green chilli con carne. She has a Masters in Communications. And she loves to dance naked in the bathroom every morning. Which is to say that Harding is more than just the model and waitress who walked away with Andy Lee’s heart. For the fiercely independent 26-year-old, it has been a source of frustration to find herself defined by her high-profile relationship over the past two years, rather than by her own achievements.
“I used to get really annoyed if my photo was taken at an event and they’d describe me as, ‘Andy Lee’s girlfriend, Rebecca Harding,’” she tells Stellar. “After we got back together, I saw it written: ‘Rebecca Harding’s boyfriend, Andy Lee,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah. That’s right!’”
If Harding is keen to be recognised of her own accord, she is on the right track – literally, having been named the Myer Fashions on the Field Ambassador for the 2017 Spring Racing Carnival.
The perpetual girlfriend jokes that Lee now gets to be her “arm candy” for several race days. Otherwise, Harding will be going it alone, and loving it: she has been a regular racegoer for more than a decade. As a girl, Harding would spend school holidays riding horses with her best friend. After starting boarding school in Melbourne as a teenager, she fell in love with the glitz of the races.
“I have been going to the races for years,” Harding says. “Whether it’s [members’ carpark enclosure] The Nursery or [A-list corporate marquees] The Birdcage, it’s always an exciting event. I love the fashion, too. I am so excited to have been offered this role.”
Harding prides herself on being able to talk to anyone – and her new gig will give her more chances to do just that. But it has taken her time to feel comfortable in the spotlight. When she and Lee stepped out for the first time at the 2015 Australian Open, everyone wanted to know more about the woman who had replaced Megan Gale at the side of Lee, one-time Cleo Bachelor of the Year. Far from enjoying the attention, it knocked the bubbly brunette’s confidence. She started to question people’s motives, wondering why they wanted to befriend or even hire her. Social-media criticism upset her tight-knit family – younger
sister Poppy pushed back against the trolls, defending Harding as a “normal gal” – and ultimately the celebrity circus took a toll on the relationship, too.
After news broke of her and Lee’s split last August, interest in her private life continued and Harding was hounded to take part in salacious tell-alls. She aimed to maintain a dignified silence. “I’ve always been a very private person with my relationships; I don’t even share details with my friends,” she says. “I really struggled with [Lee’s fame]. I’ve only felt comfortable in it since Andy and I had a break last year. I was struggling with a lot of things. I don’t think I’d found my place in it all. I didn’t understand this newfound interest in my personal life.”
While they were apart, she started a new job at a boutique public relations firm, took up yoga and saw a therapist. “It was a nice time to come into myself,” says Harding, hastening to add, “I know that sounds cheesy! I reconnected with family and friends and surrounded myself with people I trusted and loved. If I saw Andy on the front of a magazine, I ignored it and let it wash over me.” Still, she admits, “We never stopped loving each other. We just needed a bit of time to find our feet.”
Before meeting Lee, Harding had sworn off dating due to a series of romantic misadventures.then he walked into the cafe where she was working. She didn’t want to serve him, fearing her poor serving skills (she calls herself a “terrible waitress”) might scare him off.
Far from it. Lee was instantly smitten with his forgetful waitress, and asked her out. She told him to ask again in a month. Undeterred, he called soon after and convinced her to break the embargo.they went to their local pub for pizza and wine.
During the evening, Harding stopped seeing Lee simply as the “star” – she calls it the best date she’s ever been on.and now, “we are a team. He bounces ideas off me. He shares his thoughts and I share mine; he makes me laugh. I love being there for him, and he loves being there for me.”
Harding long ago stopped paying mind to online commenters, and says she is now comfortable enough in her own skin to let people get to know who she really is. “I am a sister, I am a friend, I am a daughter – just like plenty of other females out there,” Harding says. “I’m a huge dork! I am someone who dances nude in the bathroom every morning to whatever is playing. My sister was right: I am just a normal gal.”
“Andy and I never stopped loving each other. We just needed time to find our feet”