THE WHEEL TURNS FOR RACE DAY AM­BAS­SADOR

THE GIRL FROM THE BUSH WHO WAS KNOWN ONLY AS THE GIRL­FRIEND OF RA­DIO’S ANDY LEE HAS NOW FOUND FAME IN HER OWN RIGHT AS A LEAD­ING MODEL AND THE FACE OF THE CUP’S FASH­IONS ON THE FIELD

Life & Style Weekend - - READ - WORDS: KIRI TEN DOLLE

Not that long ago Re­becca Hard­ing was the lit­tle-known lady on funny man Andy Lee’s arm. Fast for­ward two years and she is carv­ing a name for her­self on the cat­walk and a ca­reer in com­mu­ni­ca­tions. And it’s on race days, like the Mel­bourne Cup, where it’s in fact Lee who is Hard­ing’s “arm candy”. The 26-year-old model is also the fresh face of Myer’s Fash­ions on the Field Am­bas­sador for the 2017 Spring Rac­ing Car­ni­val. “I think peo­ple are prob­a­bly sick of this story, but we (Hard­ing and Lee) met while I was work­ing as a wait­ress dur­ing my fi­nal month of study,” Hard­ing says. She pro­fesses to be­ing “ter­ri­ble but very smi­ley” on the job. Hard­ing ap­par­ently didn’t want to serve the for­mer Cleo Bach­e­lor of the Year, but it didn’t stop a smit­ten Lee, 36, from ask­ing her out for pizza and wine at their lo­cal pub. But be­fore Hard­ing was a reg­u­lar in The Bird­cage (A-list cor­po­rate mar­quees), she was bare­foot in the red dirt of the Kimberleys. “I was so lucky to spend my child­hood run­ning around ex­plor­ing the gorges in the Kimberleys and swim­ming in the muddy waters of the mighty Mur­ray,” she re­calls. Born in Mel­bourne, Hard­ing lived in Mid­dle Park with her par­ents Gaby and Lee and sis­ter Poppy un­til she was six. “My fam­ily then moved to a tiny min­ing town in ru­ral Western Aus­tralia called Kam­balda, about a 30-minute drive from Kal­go­or­lie and we lived there for about four years. “We then moved to Mil­dura on the Mur­ray River and lived there un­til I was 14 when I moved back to Mel­bourne for board­ing school at Mel­bourne Girls Gram­mar in South Yarra. De­spite both Poppy and I go­ing to board­ing school at the age of 14, we’re a su­per close fam­ily.” Af­ter high school, Hard­ing com­pleted an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in Me­dia and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions with a ma­jor of Pub­lic Re­la­tions, fol­lowed by a Mas­ters of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at RMIT Univer­sity. “I’ve been mod­el­ling since I was 18 and was scouted on Chapel St. It was a great part-time job while I was com­plet­ing my un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree,” Hard­ing says. Life in the spot­light can be chal­leng­ing at times but the model says hav­ing an un­der­stand­ing of the me­dia land­scape is help­ful. Her sis­ter Poppy hit back at trolls on so­cial me­dia last year, de­fend­ing Hard­ing as just a “nor­mal gal”. She spent school hol­i­days at pony club and first got a taste of be­ing track­side dur­ing her teens, watch­ing Fash­ions on the Field. “I’ve been at­tend­ing the Mel­bourne Cup Car­ni­val for over 10 years now, so I’m ab­so­lutely over the moon to have an of­fi­cial role this year,” Hard­ing says. “I spent my teenage years with friends and fam­ily in the Nurs­ery (mem­ber’s carpark en­clo­sure) and on The Rails (ad­ja­cent to the track), and now love spy­ing some of the ex­cit­ing ac­tion in The Bird­cage.” Hard­ing’s not giv­ing much away about her own Cup day out­fit other than it will have lots of colour. “I’m quite an up­beat per­son, so I love to project that in my race wear.” What about some of the sea­son’s big­gest trends? “We’ve al­ready seen a lot of red in the spring sum­mer col­lec­tions, which I love but just colour in gen­eral,” Hard­ing says. “I also look for­ward to see­ing peo­ple have some fun with millinery, boaters, wide-brim hats.” But her big­gest tip for win­ning the style stakes at your lo­cal race meet’s fash­ion on the field com­pe­ti­tion? “To show­case your per­son­al­ity and smile. A smile goes a long way.” There’s hardly a photo on Hard­ing’s In­sta­gram page where she’s not smil­ing. And it’s prob­a­bly hard not to grin when you’re dat­ing one half of the ra­dio comedic act that is Hamish and Andy. Hard­ing posted “Proud third-wheeler” in a photo with Lee at the re­cent Aus­tralian Com­mer­cial Ra­dio Awards, where Hamish Blake and Lee won two awards for best sta­tion-pro­duced com­edy seg­ment and best sta­tion pro­mo­tion. “It’s great, we laugh a lot and have loads of fun,” Hard­ing says of her re­la­tion­ship. The cou­ple, who live to­gether in Mel­bourne, will no doubt have more down time to­gether at the end of the year when Lee and Blake step down from ra­dio. “My ideal day would be a nice sleep-in, a Pilates class and to cook a beau­ti­ful lunch for fam­ily and friends,” Hard­ing says.

“I WAS SO LUCKY TO SPEND MY CHILD­HOOD RUN­NING AROUND EX­PLOR­ING THE GORGES IN THE KIMBERLEYS.”

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