It’s not too late to enter the Examiner’s Model of the Year competition. Entries close next week in time for the final casting on May 17. But what can the winner expect? Hilarie Stelfox talks to Huddersfield model Fiona Beck whose career was launched by winning a model competition when she was just 15

LEARNING how to confidently stand tall on the catwalk was a life-changing experience, says model Fiona Beck.

The 21-year-old from Cowcliffe won a model competition, launched by the Huddersfield-based Louise Morton Model agency (now Morton Gledhill – The Fashion Team), back in 2006 and has been modelling ever since.

As a teenager she’d already taken a basic modelling course but part of her prize was a place on an advanced course which led to her being signed by the agency.

“I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without the modelling,” said Fiona. “It’s not just about modelling, it’s about building confidence for the rest of your life.”

Although Fiona made a decision not to enter the profession full-time and has been studying for a degree in marketing and advertising at Leeds Metropolitan University, she has had a steady stream of catwalk and photographic work since her days at Rastrick High School.

In a week’s time she will be jetting off to Barcelona to model at a wedding fair and this summer she’ll be on the catwalk for the graduate fashion shows at both Huddersfield University and Bradford School of Arts. In July she’ll be strutting her stuff in the Fashion Pavilion at the Great Yorkshire Show.

“I think of modelling as a hobby that I really enjoy,” explained Fiona. “The benefit is that the pay is quite good and I don’t think of it as work. It’s fun as I get to hang out with my friends.

“But I know that I’ll probably only model until I’m 26 or 27 because after that the work will dry up. Models are getting a lot younger and many of the girls in the London shows are just 15 or 16.”

Fiona decided to opt for an academic degree to give herself a better chance of finding permanent work.

She accepts that only a tiny percentage of models can earn a full-time living or make it into the big time. And she’d have had to move to London to pursue the dream.

“I knew I probably wouldn’t get enough work and I’m going to need a full-time job,’’ she said. “I’m a creative person and would like to work for an advertising agency.’’

Over the years Fiona has enjoyed a certain success in competitions, coming second in a contest run by car company Vauxhall to find a new face to promote its Tigra range.

She also made it to the final 15 – out of thousands of hopefuls – for the Britain’s Next Top Model television programme.

She has modelled for everyone from a multi-national haircare business to a knitwear company.

Modelling, she says, can be physically demanding and it’s not unknown for models to turn in a 13-hour day when working on catwalk shows.

But the pay rates are good. She was once paid £300 for a single day modelling for L’Oreal when she was still a teenager and says models can expect about the same for appearing in a fashion show – including fittings and rehearsals.

Fiona, whose parents Noreen and Peter are both area housing managers for Kirklees, conforms to the industry standard dress size of 8/10 and is a naturally slender 5ft 10ins tall.

“I have a high metabolism and have to eat a lot,” she said. “I’m sorry to say that I eat a lot of takeaways when I’m at university and I absolutely hate going to the gym.”

It was her height that initially drew her towards modelling.

“My friend kept saying I should try modelling but my mum was a bit sceptical about it all,” said Fiona.

But mother and daughter talked to Bernadette Gledhill, a partner in the Morton Gledhill fashion team, who said that while there were no guarantees of supermodel stardom, a modelling course would give Fiona confidence and poise.

Bernadette, who joined the Louise Morton agency at the age of 14 and worked for 25 years both on the catwalk and running the business, says only 10% of young models will make it to the top.

“They have to be totally focussed,” she added.

What sort of a career could the winner of our competition enjoy, if she proved to have the right qualities?

Bernadette added: “This varies. You could be the perfect look for a few seasons and then required looks change so you have to constantly keep ahead.

“The majority of models, particularly in the north, work alongside going to university or college or have another career to fall back on. We always advise this, in case it doesn’t work out.”

During her time as an undergraduate, Fiona has found modelling to be a useful source of supplementary income and, as most of her work has been in the summer months, it has fitted in quite nicely with her studies.

Does she have any advice for wannabe models or girls entering our competition?

“Go for it,” she says. “Don’t be shy and grasp the opportunity. But don’t pay out ridiculous amounts of money to people who say they’ll get you a modelling career.

“Find someone who will take pictures for your portfolio without charging you. I approached a local photographer who wanted to practice working with a model so we both benefited. But you could also ask a photography student or someone like that.

“I’ve had a really great time and made some fantastic friends,” she added.

The winner of The Examiner Model of the Year Competition will scoop up to £1,000 in prizes as well as the chance to audition for a place on the books of a professional modelling agency.

Our competition, sponsored by Huddersfield’s Morton Gledhill – The Fashion Team, Max Factor at Boots, Rubens hair salon in Westgate and the Pixie Pop and Posh boutique in Queen Street, is open to female readers aged from 16 upwards.

The prize package includes an Introduction to Modelling course worth over £250 from Morton Gledhill; a cosmetics hamper from Max Factor, also worth £250; outfits from Pixie Pop and Posh up to the value of £250; hairstyling by Rubens; a full make-over and a portfolio of photographs.

Anyone who wishes to enter needs to pick up a form from the Max Factor counter at Boots and book a free make-up appointment with consultant Jo Burke. This can be done anytime before May 13.

All entrants will be photographed and finalists will be invited to attend a final casting on the evening of Tuesday, May 17, at Rubens hair salon in Westgate.

Because we’re looking for a catwalk model, all entrants must comply with the industry’s requirements and be a minimum of 5ft 8ins tall and a maximum of 6ft. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and have their permission to enter.

Normal terms and conditions for Trinity Mirror competitions apply and the winner will not be guaranteed a modelling contract. For further details check out