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Olivia Inge’s take on Erin O’Connor’s Model Sanctuary

Posted Feb 28 2011 10:44am

Erin O’Connor’s Model Santuary is now in its third year of playing host to really, really ridiculously good looking people. I have   always wanted to go but never found the time between shows, until now.

Back in my day (late 90′s/early millenium) we would go to the pub to discuss/slag off the terrible treatment we sometimes experience while working during the most hectic time of a models’ career – fashion month. We plotted to build a model army where we would stand up to the pillars of the fashion world and protest against the exploitation, the insane working hours, the lack of manners. 5 pints later and we were off to a fashion party to abuse their free bar and dance like nutters. Great fun, but nothing got solved. My model friends filtered off the circuit and picked up various random jobs from yoga instructing to the comedy circuit. One of my dear friends Jen got an office job and then quit after a year to take up modeling again because no-one told her she was pretty or offered her a cup of tea or a trip to St Lucia. Erin is pioneering a change.

Inside the secret location, you are asked to register and if you would like a treatment. The treatment menu stands up to any health spa. They include an Osteopath, a Life Coach, Masseuse, Facialist, Dietician, Fitnesss Team and Ballet Instructor (HOT male model was practising his pirouettes in a very manly yet elegant manner when I peeked through). They serve food throughout the day – a delicious veggie curry today with carrot cake, chocolate eclairs (my FAVE), yoghurts, smoothies, fruit….the list goes on. It reminded me of Byker Grove. But instead of Geordie accents I heard Russian, French, German, American, not unlike a UN summit for the beautiful. Everyone was friendly, relaxed and loving this haven. It was like being at a casting but with the stress removed. No bossy bitches ushering you around like cattle, no screaming producers, no cameras, no filming, just a really lovely atmosphere and a “privacy that is justified” as Erin puts it, for this is “our official HQ where you can share a feeling of solidarity”. Upstairs there is a chill out area, treatment rooms, a Rimmel make up suite, a photo booth and loads of coffee table books donated by one of the kind sponsors LK Publishers. The generosity doesn’t stop there. Upon leaving you are handed a goody bag stuffed with Weleda organic creams and shampoos, Rimmel make up, M&S knickers and leaflets on anorexia. N.B I didn’t see any anorexic models there and in my 14 years of modeling I’ve only met one.

I was soo impressed by what Erin has created. Its all totally non-profit and in light of this, I reckon a summons from the Queen should be in order. She did this because she cares about the welfare of models….Hallelujah…at last someone does.

I spent a lovely part of my afternoon chatting with the timeless beauty that is Erin. She is eloquent, intelligent, passionate about her role as “Super-Auntie” and a pleasure to talk to. We bounced on exercise balls as she told me all about her project (we are such multi-tasking Goddesses, its embarrassing).  When I asked her why she wanted to do this and for no fee, she replied “I felt there was a space in the industry that needed addressing, for the models’ health and wellbeing to be acknowledged and nurtured”. Bingo. “The industry chooses you as a model”, she went on, “it has supported me throughout my adult life and has been an incredible journey, but I could have really done with a monetary adviser who had my interests at heart rather than someone who would abuse that trust”.

With modeling, everything happens so quickly and at such a young age it is very hard to gather contemplative and productive thoughts as you are catapulted around the world at 16 (give or take a few) years of age , working with grown ups who don’t really give a hoot about you so long as you wear the skimpy bikini, stand in high heels and balance sexily on the edge of an infinity pool… that was quite a fun job actually. I love that they have a Life Coach. I wish I could have talked with her when I’d started modeling. She is there to help guide you with what to do next, how to use modeling to your advantage, how it can fund your university degree, how to stay on top of The Tax Man, essential grown up stuff for a grown up world.

I hope Erin’s vision for this to become a staple in every international city on the circuit takes root. These lovely young thangs need a bit of guidance as much as the next person.

To the sponsors that have helped make this happen –, (Leon for the food), Marks & Spencer, Jo Malone, The Sanctuary, Reebok, The L.D.A, The B.F.C, LK Publishers, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and to Miss Erin O’Connor – you are a star, keep up the good work. olivia inge

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