WALKING ON SUNSHINE
With ray of light Georgia Fowler
SShe’s a karaoke master and a Gemini. She plays the piano as a form of meditation and family is everything to her
ome things you might already know about Georgia Fowler: she’s one of New Zealand’s most successful models of the past decade. She’s been shot for French Vogue and appeared on the covers of countless fashion magazines. She’s walked the runways at every major fashion week, and starred in the world-famous Victoria’s Secret show twice — as a newbie in 2016 and with a highly coveted pair of wings in 2017. She’s been romantically linked to A-list suitors from Harry Styles to Leonardo DiCaprio. Last year she starred in the music video for Kygo and Selena Gomez’s ‘It Ain’t Me’. And this spring, she makes her television debut as the host of Project Runway New Zealand — a role made famous in the original US series by Victoria’s Secret Angel Heidi Klum.
Some things you might not know? She’s a karaoke master, and will belt out a convincing rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ every time. She regularly craves a KiwiBurger “with all the goods”, and also counts coconut gelato and tequila among her favourite foods and drinks. She’s a Gemini, which she believes is out of step with her “homebody tendencies” but is probably the reason she can adapt easily to different situations and get along with all kinds of people. She plays the piano as a form of meditation. Her dad’s a pro golfer. Family is everything to her and, she says, the only reason she’s got where she is today.
“My dad is known on the golf tour for being the hardest worker on the circuit — first to the gym in the morning and the last to leave the range at night. I’m always so proud to see him doing well and sticking it out through all the ups and downs,” says Georgia. She describes her mother as caring, selfless and the family’s biggest support. “She looked after my sister and I when Dad was away and encouraged us to put our hands up for everything we wanted. She then travelled with me and taught me how to take on the world until I was ready to do it myself.” Older sister Kate is Georgia’s best friend, “an absolute perfectionist in everything she does and the most loyal and thoughtful soul”. Her aunties have the best senses of humour (“Family dinners often end in fits of laughter because of them”). And last but not least? “Nana is all of that rolled into one, and probably the most social out of anyone, making friends left, right and centre.”
Thank goodness for Skype — because for Georgia, time at home with her nearest and dearest is a luxury. In fact, she rarely spends more than a few nights in one place. She’s racked up more travel miles this year alone than many of us would in a lifetime: St Tropez for a Zimmermann launch, Cannes for the film festival, the Bahamas for a swimwear shoot, New York for her birthday, Sydney, Paris and Berlin for fashion weeks… “It sounds glamorous,” says the 25-year-old, “but I’m usually travelling alone and only in a destination for one night at a time, seeing not much more than the airplane, studio and hotel room, which combined with jet lag can become very alienating.”
You wouldn’t know it, of course, given the megawatt smile that’s a constant fixture on Georgia’s
Instagram. Which is not to say it’s all for show; let’s face it, if you’re in a bikini on a yacht in Capri, it’s probably safe to say you’re having a good time. And upping the authenticity factor is the fact that for every runway shot or campaign image, there’s something decidedly down to earth: Georgia surfing in Raglan, cuddling her nieces, having a dining room dance-off with a gal pal — plus endless silly captions and interactions with friends and family. “I make a conscious effort to share the real me with my followers and not just a gallery of professional photos,” she says.
Still, there’s a balance to be struck between letting fans peek behind the curtain and keeping some things to herself. Georgia’s staunch about leaving her personal life off social media, pointing out that relationships are hard enough as it is. “They don’t need the added pressure of being played out in public,” she says.
She also worries that we do ourselves a disservice by obsessively documenting everything online. “Trying to capture and share every experience can stop you from appreciating it in the present,” she says. On July 1, she partnered with New Zealand-based mental health organisation Y&X as an ambassador for its inaugural Digital Detox Day, designed to drive awareness around digital addiction and its correlation to poor mental health and youth suicide. In line with the initiative’s mission statement, ‘Ditch the likes and do what you love’, Georgia challenged her followers to switch off their phones for 24 hours and commit to being present for a day. “We live in a world in which we’re more connected than ever, yet disconnected at the same time,” she says. “That’s why it’s so important to disconnect and enjoy the moment and the company you’re with.”
The double-edged sword in this era of influencer marketing is that increasingly, a public profile is something that can be monetised. The stronger your celebrity status and the more engaged your following, the more value you can bring to the brands you work with, and the more likely you are to land big contracts with big pay packets. For someone like Georgia, going off the grid completely would be career-limiting.
“It’s so much more than just being a model nowadays — you’re building your own personal brand,” she confirms.
Playing the game paid off this year in the form of the Project Runway gig — a career coup for the first-time host. But although the half a
million-plus Instagram followers she brought to the table would certainly have helped her win over the producers at TVNZ, one can’t help but think it was her natural charisma, confidence and compassion for those putting themselves on the line in such a competitive environment that made casting her a no-brainer. Adamant that she’d remain true to herself at all times and not be complicit in any contrived, made-for-TV drama, Georgia kept the contestants top of mind while performing her hosting duties. Inspired by the evolution of their designs and their courage to continually push themselves, she says the biggest challenge was sending someone home each week. “I was overcome with emotion a few times because I could see how hard they’d all worked and how much they wanted to stay in the competition.”
Being that judgement, criticism and rejection are part and parcel of being one of the world’s top models, it’s not surprising that Georgia — who says her superpower is “grittiness” — was able to empathise with the eliminated contestants. A turning point in her own career was when she realised she can’t please everyone or be right for every client or collection. “It doesn’t necessarily mean the casting director doesn’t like your look,” she says. Apparently, looks aren’t everything, anyway. “That might be what gets you booked the first time, but in order to get rebooked, you need to be a pleasure to work with. There are so many pretty faces out there, but being a hard worker and getting along with everyone on set is what makes you a stand out from the rest.”
If Georgia’s impressive resume is anything to go by, her reputation is up there with the best. She picks being cast — and recast — for Victoria’s Secret as her proudest career moment, with other highlights being her French Vogue shoot and walking high-fashion catwalks for brands including Balmain, Miu Miu and Alberta Ferretti. She’s also worked alongside CanTeen and UNICEF, and plans to continue to use her profile to support these charities. “I’m a huge believer in giving back and helping out in the community and the world,” she says.
Well and truly bitten by the TV bug, Georgia’s also interested in trying her hand at acting, and like any self-respecting, side-hustling millennial, she’d love to channel her creativity and industry knowledge into producing her own product line. “I’m not one to shy away from new challenges,” she says. “It’s important to me that I continue to upskill and grow as a person, so I’m ready for any new career opportunities that arise.”
With more and more projects to juggle, looking after herself is imperative. “Keeping my body in shape is a large part of my job, but what’s most important to me is feeling healthy, strong and confident,” she says, explaining that exercise is her key means of achieving this. Her preference is for hard workouts that see her break a sweat (Boxing Alley in Parnell, Auckland, is a regular haunt when she’s home). For core strength and muscle lengthening, she incorporates Pilates and yoga into her regime. “The slower pace forces me to relax, which provides not just a physical, but a mental break,” she says.
As for diet, the focus is on performance, not punishment. Echoing the words of Victoria’s Secret casting director Sophia NeophitouApostolou, who made headlines in 2016 by comparing Victoria’s Secret models to Olympians, Georgia says being skinny is not the objective, “nor do I ever want to idealise a certain size, because we’re built so differently and are all beautiful in our own right”. A sucker for fresh fish and grilled vegetables, she says she sticks mainly to wholefoods simply because they’re what make her feel best in her own body. “I’ve grown up eating healthily, so it’s not a diet to me — it’s what I actually love.”
Above all, being a role model for her impressionable young fans is not something Georgia takes lightly, and promoting a healthy attitude towards diet and exercise is essential to that. There is, of course, an element of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’, and occasionally she does get affected by the comments of ‘keyboard warriors’. “But I try to remember that those who know me personally love me, and their opinions are all I care about.” Or in the words of Dr Seuss? “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
No throwaway reference, it’s clear that for Georgia, those who matter are, in essence, all that matters. Asked in honour of Fashion Quarterly’s
‘Happiness issue’ to define happiness, she says it’s contingent on two things. The first is identifying and then pursuing your own version of happiness. “We often struggle to find happiness because we shuffle through life looking for a pre-defined version of ‘happy’,” she says. The second is something her interview answers, Instagram posts and inimitable positive energy all attest to. “Surround yourself with those you love the most,” she says with her signature smile. Simple as that.
For your extra Project Runway New Zealand fix, check out our dedicated hub at FQ.co.nz/ProjectRunwayNZ
Paris Georgia jumper, $580. Maryam Nassir Zadeh boots,$1235.