Drop dead gorgeous and humble as pie, we meet one of Australia’s most successful models – Samantha Harris.
Read some of the many stories on Samantha Harris and you’ll quickly learn that she is renowned as being the second Australian aboriginal woman to grace the cover of Vogue at the age of 18, and that she began her impressive 20-year modelling career when, as a shy girl of only 13 years, she won Girlfriend magazine’s coveted modelling competition. These stories may also tell you that Samantha is the daughter of an aboriginal woman who was a part of the Stolen Generation, and that she is outspoken about Indigenous rights and the renaming of Australia Day.
What you might not know is that Samantha Harris has to be one of the most down-to-earth, humble models on the planet, and actually, she finds it ‘kind of weird’ that people think her job is a big deal, as “it’s work, at the end of the day”, that she feels very lucky to have.
Sam has more than 70,000 followers on Instagram and is the ambassador for many products and organisations such as Biology Smart Skincare, Jeuneora skincare from New Zealand, World Vision, Barnados (a charity to help keep children safe from abuse and neglect), the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence.
“I hope that by being an ambassador for brands and organisations that mean something to me, I can make some kind of difference to other people’s lives,” she says. “I’m the kind of person who enjoys making other people’s lives that bit better, if I can.”
Sam and her husband travel a lot with her work and it’s a part of the gig that she adores. “We love exploring new places and experiencing different cultures,”she says. “It’s a part of the job that I really enjoy.”
Samantha Harris and her mother recently embarked on the trip of a lifetime for World Vision where she visited Indigenous families living in remote communities in the Kimberley region, and it was something entirely new to her.
“The people I met had so little in terms of material belongings, but they were so happy,” she says. “Some people have so much and yet it’s never enough. All the people I met in those communities simply needed their families around them, food and shelter,” she says.
Samantha Hariss on embracing all bodies
Samantha is also passionate about showing others that beauty is not skin deep, and she is proud of the fact that she is not a rake-thin model of the kind everyone was accustomed to seeing in the 1980s.
“We’re all special and unique in our own way,” she says. “And we’re all beautiful. I hope that I encourage young people to be happy with who they are as we are all different shapes and sizes. There is no ‘right shape’ and I am proud to have been a part of the change in the way that people perceive models. We aren’t all size 6 or 8 and you can’t expect to sell clothing to someone who is a size 12 or 14 by showing them a photo of someone in a tiny dress. That’s unrealistic and fashion brands need to understand that they have to cater for all body types.”
It’s this humble attitude towards fame and fashion that makes Sam so relatable. “Through my social media I hope to also show the normal side of my life. Going to the park with my husband for some exercise, us at home with our cat. I was the first person to be sitting around at home in my Ugg boots and PJs watching Netflix when COVID hit, believe me!” she says with a laugh. And that smile – it’s dazzling. It speaks of a person content in her own skin.
“I can see why young people look at models in magazines or on Instagram showing off beautiful things – whether its clothing, perfume, bags or a holiday at a fancy hotel – and perhaps feel down. Maybe they don’t have those nice things and they don’t look like that model. But it’s important to remember that it’s not all glitz and glamour being a model or an influencer. And young people need to understand that what they see online is a showreel of the best parts of someone’s life. It’s not a true depiction of what their life is, day in, day out. My husband even says to me sometimes – put your phone down and look around you!”
She says this as she sits in a pile of ivy in a garden where its recently rained, re-arranging herself so that the twigs don’t scratch her ankles and she doesn’t get dirt on her jeans. Somehow she looks completely comfortable, and she continues to smile.
A proud Indigenous Australian
Samantha Harris grew up in Tweed Heads with her mother and three brothers. She shares how her mother had a tough upbringing without a family around her, so the main thing her mother wanted to give her children was love. “That’s what she has always done – given us love,” Sam reflects.
Sam is passionate about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that gained serious momentum after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this year, but she finds it sad that a man had to die in order for another conversation to be sparked and for the subject to be firmly resurrected around the world. “Someone should not have had to die for the conversation to be taken seriously,” she says.
Having been targeted by racism herself over the years, Samantha is not shy about sharing her opinion on the topic.
“I’ve been targeted by racism – it still happens – but the older I get, the less I take that kind of thing personally,” she says. “I just think – I don’t know this person and they don’t know me and what they are saying is not valid. If someone is racist, it says more about who they are, rather than being about me.”
Sam has also been vocal regarding the debate about moving Australia Day to another date.
“Australia is a multi-cultural country and everyone has their own opinion, but people also need to understand that it’s hurtful for everyone to be celebrating a day when the English arrived, and once they settled, started raping, murdering and kidnapping. My mother was taken away from her family as a part of the Stolen Generation, and everyone is running around celebrating that day. I’m proud to be Australian, but it’s not easy to see why some people are upset. You can tell history however you like but there is no sugar coating it. No amount of sugar is going to change what happened.”
Sam doesn’t look back though – she’s too content looking forward, perhaps soon, to a family of her own. I ask her what is the most important thing in life, and her humble nature shines through. “Being happy. And being the best version of yourself that you can be.”
Love getting close and personal with our Aussie stars? Check out these conversations with some of our favourites:
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Sam Bloom, and the magic of a magpie