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Steele 16 and Donald Trump's Fiji pick for world catwalk

Dawn Gibson and Ana Madigibuli
Saturday, June 01, 2013

FROM the confines of the Sigatoka coastline to the busy life of a New York Trump model, Phillipa Steele is about to venture on possibly her biggest journey yet.

To say that the 16-year-old high scholar's dreams have come true would be an understatement.

Miss Steele will literally move from the modest life of a teenager completing assignments and homework, to the hustle and bustle of the multi-million-dollar modelling industry on the other side of the world.

In tears at the confirmation of her being selected to fly to New York City and join Trump Model Management, Miss Steele said she would not have accomplished anything had it not been for her family's support.

In an interview with this newspaper, the modest Miss Steele said catching her breath at that moment became quite a task.

"There was so much going on in my mind that all my thoughts were tangled and my emotions were everywhere, but if there's one thing I can recall feeling, it was gratefulness," the Sigatoka lass said.

Ms Steele, who is one of seven children, said it was always difficult for her family to come down to Suva and watch her model.

"I've always wanted my mum to come and watch. The first time my mum ever saw me model was just a few days ago, the day that I was so nervous about letting her down and the day I got picked to represent Fiji in such a major modelling agency.

"It's crazy. I simply told my mother on the drive down not to expect anything from this and that I was just giving it a shot because, to be honest, I was more worried about letting her down than about not getting this opportunity."

The Sigatoka Methodist College student was chosen from over 50 potential local candidates on Wednesday afternoon by Trump Model Management's head scout Duane Gazi-White.

Fascinatingly, it was reported by Fiji World News that Mr Gazi-White returned from China where he scouted through 700 girls in search of modelling talent and did not choose a single one - only to come to Fiji and find Miss Steele.

In justifying his choice on the evening, Mr Gazi-White said upon seeing Ms Steele walk in, he had to collect himself.

"When I first saw her it took me a moment to capture myself.

"If she continues and follows what we have done, she will be a successful model and people would see her internationally and Fiji will have a top model in the business," he said.

Also in rapture at Miss Steele's incredible break was FJFW's managing director and local fashion mogul Ellen Whippy-Knight, who said Miss Steele was an amazing young woman.

"She's humble, she's hardworking and most of all, she's got an international face," Mrs Whippy-Knight said, adding that although young, her competence always stood out.

"We've been working with Phillipa since the beginning of the year and have found that no matter whatever the situation, however long the hours, her attitude is the same ? we've watched her display amazing professionalism from the very beginning.

"We wish her well, especially now that she'll show the world what is available in Fiji."

Miss Steele has a long way to go, as online statistics predict that about 232,000 people attend the New York Fashion Week each year. This equates to 116,000 people at each fashion week.

On the financial side, estimates that on average, a fashion model at Trump Model Management receives about $US163,000 ($F300,000) annually.

Miss Steele attributes major homage to the support and encouragement she receives from her family, describing them as "absolutely everything".

She will sign her contract with the agency next week, after which she will focus all her efforts on studying for her FSLC examinations, before readying herself for departure in January next year.

"And this way, I will be able to take care of my parents and my seven siblings because they need the support.

"All I want to do is give back to my parents for everything they've sacrificed for me," she said.

From Kulukulu to New York

Full name: Phillipa Anne Steele

Age: 16 years (turns 17 on July 28)

Hometown: Kulukulu, Sigatoka

Parents: Coleen and George Steele

Number of siblings: Seven

School: Sigatoka Methodist


Favourite foods: Anything my mum cooks

Favourite drinks: Sprite

Favourite movies: Too many to name

Hobbies: I love to sing, dance

Polynesian items (the hula especially), read books (especially non-fiction), swimming, watching movies and being with my family.

Tips: Always give your best - it's the best you can ever offer and no matter where you are in life, always be humble and always put God first.

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