Perth native Dempsey Stewart made her catwalk debut opening for the fall 2011 Richard Chai show in New York. The show, cast by Michelle Lee at KCD — who also does the model pickings at Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton (Stewart walked both shows) — was the 18-year-old's first taste of top modeldom. Stewart's delicate, angelic features made her a canvas for many of the world's premier designers, including: Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Dries Van Noten, and Chloe. Soon thereafter, shoots for Dazed & Confused and The New York Times T Style Magazine followed. We talked to Stewart about her weakness for thrift stores, caramel fudge, and fear of slugs.
Tell us a little about your childhood.
I was born and raised around Perth. My mum and I used to move around a lot. As a kid, I was really shy with people I didn’t know. But I was actually really weird and crazy-fun once someone got to know me. I had lots of good friends who are still my good friends now. I think I was pretty quiet and uncoordinated because I was so lanky. I think I may have tripped over my feet a few too many times at school and let the embarrassment get the better of me. At home, my mum was always creative around me, encouraging me to be creative and expressive. I was an only child until I was 9 when my sister came along. I named her Lily — I actually cut her cord when she was born in the hospital, and helped mum look after her at home.
How did you get discovered?
I was shopping with friends one weekend and [I was] scouted to do a model search competition by the Perth Fashion Festival. I was discovered there and asked to go to work in Tokyo. After I came back to Australia for Australian Fashion Week in Sydney, I was introduced to Wilhelmina in New York and Priscilla's Model Management from Sydney.
Australia has produced Miranda Kerr, Abbey Lee, Catherine McNeil, Julia Nobis, and now you — what is it with all these Aussies and modeling?
People say we are happy and don’t take ourselves too seriously down here. Maybe it’s the clean air and salt water? You know, they say we have something in the water — maybe, as I do drink a lot of water!
What was your most memorable experience from the fall 2011 runway season?
Thierry Mugler! I had a motorbike that day so I was weaving in and out of traffic to all my shows, fittings, and castings, so I ended up at the show about 15 minutes before it was scheduled to start. There was someone out back waiting for me who grabbed my hand, as soon as I hopped off the bike and ran with me backstage, pulling me through the crowd of people and sat me down at the hair dresser’s table. Two seconds later, I had four hairdressers pulling out hair extensions and gluing others in; three makeup artists in front of me doing different sections of my face; and two people standing on either side of me, trying to teach me this crazy choreography for the show. When I got out on the runway with my 9-inch pumps, I tried to remember all the ways I was told to weave through the columns, but I was almost blinded by the massive spotlight! It was such a rush.
What’s your most favorite and least favorite feature about yourself?
My favorite feature is the awesome Harry Potter-lightning bolt-pirate scar I have recently acquired on the top of my foot from an accident. My least favorite is my weakness for thrift-store shopping. Everytime I walk past a thrift store, I have to go in and search through every rack. It’s annoying, even for myself!
Let's play favorites. What is your favorite:
Book? "The Blake Mysteries"
Musician? John Butler
Artist? Amanda Shelsher
Food? My grandma's famous bread and butter pudding!
What's the one thing you couldn't live without?
My mum, because she is always there for me — day or night, it doesn't matter. She doesn't judge me and has taught me everything I know about becoming a strong, independent woman.
Place you’d love to travel?
India or Egypt, because I want to see all the great fabrics, little trinkets, amazing colors, and unusual architecture.
Soft, creamy, irresistibly smooth caramel fudge.
What was the last thing you bought?
This really cool, long, sheer black dress with embroidered butterflies and flowers all over it. It was my first purchase on eBay.
Tell us something random and totally weird.
Apparently an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.
What scares you?
Not much, just needles, knives, and slugs Ugh! [Laughs]
Your idea of happiness is
Being true and content with yourself.
Life is what you make it, so live every day as though it's your last. Don't stop having fun because you're old; you get old because you stop having fun.
What are your plans tomorrow?
I'm not sure, I could be going to London or I could just be making some more jewelry and clothes at home.
If not yourself, who would you be?
I’d like to be a professional pilot that breaks the G-force in a red bull jet plane.
If not modeling, what would you be doing?
I have always wanted to be a fashion designer. I have always made my own clothes. I love going off into my own little world and creating, creating, creating.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If not modeling, I can see myself in my own studio with crazy hand-painted walls, things hanging off the ceilings, and inspiration boards up all over the place. As long as I'm doing what I love, I'll be happy.
Model Profile: Dempsey Stewart
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