THE head booker of a modelling agency focusing on girls as young as 13 has revealed she developed anorexia after starting her career in her early teens.
''I started modelling at 13 when my brother-in-law, who is a Brazilian photographer …asked me to do a few photos and showed them to his friends,'' Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave, head booker at GEAR Model Management, said.
She began competing in modelling competitions in Australia in her early teens against the wishes of her mother who wanted her to focus on school. At 18, Ms Fitzgerald de Grave went to Paris on holiday and was spotted by a model agent. She signed with one of the five agencies who wooed her, but soon after starting her international career her weight and self esteem began to plummet.
''I'm five [foot] eight and I was competing against these 6' 4" Russian girls that were 12 or 13,'' she said.
''My agency asked me to lose 10 to 15 kilograms and basically said 'you need to have the body of a 13 or 14-year-old'.
''They sent me to a nutritionist and a dietician. The reason why is I was competing against those 6' 4" models who were a lot younger than me. The youngest at our agency was 12 years old, and I was one of the oldest models at 19.''
At her slightest Fitzgerald de Grave weighed 38 kilograms.
''I went from eating one salad a day to eating four pieces of fruit, then three, two, then one, and living off 60 millilitres of water. There is so much money to be made [through modelling] that psychologically you convince yourself that it's only for a short time and that it doesn't matter.''
After two years in Paris doing magazine editorial and advertising campaign work, a visiting relative intervened.
''I was in Paris working and my grandma in Belgium saw me and basically bought me a ticket back to Australia,'' she said.
Despite her teenage battle with body image in the international modelling industry, Fitzgerald de Grave now works for an agency seeking out girls as young as 13 for work overseas.
Her response: ''I know many people think 13 is very young but it's what the international brands are looking for in Europe,'' she said. ''Models are too old now at 16.''
She said her motivation was to equip younger models to deal better with pressure than she did at their age.''That is what's pushing me,'' she said. ''If they are wanting international exposure they do heavily focus on size, and if I can prepare them for it mentally before they step into it they might be able to make a better judgment than I did.''