some people whose pictures I have admired for a while – lots of new people – but also getting back into it and seeing people I have worked with previously. I love those reconnections.”
There is, in talk of reconnecting, an implicit reference to the deeper root cause of her initial break from modelling. Ward had just emerged from her teens when the pressures of work and the death of then-boyfriend Heath Ledger in January 2008 caught up with her. Everyone wanted to talk about her break – with commentary and theories flying about exactly why she had taken it. But for much of the time she was away from fashion, one voice was missing from the discussion: Ward’s own.
That’s changing. And over the past few years, Ward has been increasingly frank about the eating disorder and mental-health issues that made it necessary. “There’s still a lot more to be said,” she tells Stellar. “Everyone can benefit from reflecting on their experiences, to move forward and have a more positive future. I’m definitely sharing more with my immediate family, friends and loved ones, and then on a wider scale to press and the public. Sometimes it does need to happen slowly. It’s nice to be at a place where I can just talk about it.”
Christine Fox, who works at modelling agency Vivien’s, scouted Ward when she was a 15-year-old Perth schoolgirl, and says the pace at which her career took off was intense, more so because she was so young. “She went to the top very, very fast,” says Fox. “And in those days, they got their pound of flesh out of her. Not many models do that at that level; her look defined a decade because she was so unique. She had something special.”
Fox continued to represent her via Vivien’s in Australia during Ward’s hiatus and until 2012, when she signed with the local arm of global mega agency IMG, and says she was acutely aware of the need for Ward to take some time off. “[There were] too many pressures, and to maintain that is exhausting. To step down was probably the best thing that she did,” she says, adding she had always hoped Ward would return when the time felt right for her. “It’s like a waiting game for lots of kids – they either love this industry, or they hate it, or they’ve got to just learn to see it through different eyes. Because she’s lived it so full on, and had that break, she was in control when she came back. Good on her.”
But even while her work in fashion was on hold, Ward was trying other things. She says she still has career ambitions outside of modelling; already she has worked as an actor in plays and films including 2011’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. She’s open to new acting gigs, plays music on piano and guitar – when her kids aren’t trying to take over the instruments – and has recently found herself writing in her spare time. She’s working on a screenplay, and has also taken up the kickboxing martial art Muay Thai.
Nevertheless, Ward is enjoying her job and the rest of her world too. Life with a young family and a more sustainable workload indicate she’s finally found the balance that was so lacking at the start of her career. “I’m really happy with the amount of work I’m getting and the amount of time I get to spend with my kids,” she says. “I’m in a really good place, I’m getting enjoyment from my work. I have very diverse interests, and I’m constantly trying to fit them all in. But at the end of the day, kids come first – and work comes pretty high after that.”
(from top) Artist Vincent Fantauzzo with his portrait of Heath Ledger that won the 2008 Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award; Fantauzzo, here aged seven, struggled in school as a child due to his dyslexia; with his wife, actor Asher Keddie, and children (from left) Valentino and Luca in 2017; (opposite) as photographed for Stellar.