Pacific Rose

holly rose emery by will bailey

Last week, frockwriter reported that Auckland model agency Red Eleven had high hopes for one of its new faces, Holly Rose Emery, on the runways of the upcoming New Zealand Fashion Week. And why wouldn't they? At  5'11.5", the angelic Auckland schoolgirl bears a passing resemblance to a few major modelling names, such as British Sixties fashion icon Twiggy and top contemporary girls, American Lindsey Wixson and Dutch world number #1 Lara Stone. Holly Rose has only been a model for three months but, like many others in her line of work, she is already fielding commentary about her weight – specifically, questions asking if she has an eating disorder. Yes, there are some models who suffer from eating disorders and are painfully thin. Just as there are some actors, athletes, dancers - not to mention people who have nothing to do with modelling, film, sport or ballet - who also suffer from eating disorders and who are painfully thin. Many are convinced that exposure to images of thin fashion models is the root cause of the problem. Others disagree. In any event, with a BMI of 18, Holly Rose is considered to be in a healthy weight range for her age and height. It was a different story two years ago.


amanda betts via red eleven models

When Holly Rose walked in to Red Eleven Models on her 16th birthday in May this year, she was signed on the spot. 

It later emerged that she had an interesting back story. 

Before having the confidence to rock up to the agency, as Holly Rose puts it, she lost a bit of weight. 

Thirty-six kilos to be precise.

If that sounds like a lot of weight to lose, it is: 36 kilos is over half of her current weight, which oscillates, she says, between 58-59 kilos.

At 5’11.5” or 1.8161m, 58-59 kilos is in the healthy weight range for a 16 year-old girl according to the BMI calculator on the Victorian Government’s Better Health website.

Using the same calculator, 95 kilos - which is what Holly Rose weighed at her heaviest at age 14, when she was 1.79m - produces a BMI of 30, which is considered obese.

How long did it take her to lose the weight? Two years apparently.

According to Holly Rose's mother, Leonie Emery, the weight loss has prompted several enquiries from Holly Rose's school asking if she is unwell. Red Eleven co-director Amanda Betts also recently received a letter from a teenage girl at the same high school, asking why the agency is supporting a model with an eating disorder. 

“I have had my daughter’s school call me twice about her having a potential eating disorder" Leonie told frockwriter, after we sent some questions across to Holly Rose to answer (see below). One of the questions was whether or not her eating and exercise habits at age 14 were healthy. 

"I did say [to the school] with tongue in cheek.....’Funny nobody called me when Holly was obese’. Why is it OK to pick on skinny people, but not PC to pick on fat people?

” added Leonie. “Holly most definitely does not have an eating disorder. She is now conscious of helping size and good nutrition. As a child she would have two large sirloin steaks.... now she has one good quality eye fillet. She has replaced ice cream with fruit, though does not deny herself chocolate and ice cream if the taste buds desire arises. Thanks for the vote of no-confidence re her eating habits prior to losing weight.... this can really destroy a mother’s self-esteem. No, we would provide healthy options, but what child really wants wholegrain bread and salad for lunch? Both children ate healthily, but large sizes/portions. Many a time I would say, ‘Do you really need two .......’ [regarding] whatever they were having two helpings of. 

"Exercise was another thing Holly & Tim became focussed on. Tim, her brother, rowed for   X [school] and became quite buff. Holly was selected for the top netball teams at school, mainly for her height and skills. The weight loss was a combination of Jenny Cade, an awesome coach, Mike [father] and I and Holly’s sheer will to succeed. A trait that will remain with her. She is very focussed, not only about modelling but also achieving high marks at school”.

The school's alleged lack of interest in Holly Rose's health prior to her weight loss does not surprise Boyd Swinburn, Professor of Population Nutrition and Global Health at the University of Auckland. An obesity expert, Swinburn previously established the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention and Related Research and Training at Melbourne’s Deakin University and remains a consultant to the WHO and the International Obesity TaskForce on global strategies regarding obesity issues.

New Zealand, incidentally, boasts the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, with one in five children considered overweight and one in 12 children considered obese according to New Zealand Ministry of Health figures. 

“There is huge under-recognition of overweight and obesity in kids and a huge reluctance on the part of schools and clinicians to even recognise and address it, so it doesn’t surprise me that it goes unnoticed and uncommented on” Swinburn told frockwriter. “There is also a huge nervousness about eating disorders, which is a much smaller problem in terms of the numbers of kids involved. I think that message needs to get through”.


laura allard-fleischl via red eleven models

PH: How long have you wanted to model for? 
Holly Rose Emery: I only seriously thought about wanting to be a model since the beginning of this year, but I guess it has always been present in my mind since I was 11. Isn’t it every girl’s dream to be a model?

What size clothing did you take before you lost weight and what size do you take now? I was a 16 at my ‘biggest’ and now I am a size 8. I was 95 kilos at my heaviest and now I fluctuate between 58 - 59 kilos. So I haven’t really been big by normal standards. I didn’t have any confidence when I was a size 16. My face was just totally round for example. So it wasn’t just about my body or my face, but how I felt about myself. I didn’t really think about the reality of being able to model until I started to lose weight.
With so many great plus size models now becoming high profile e.g. Crystal Renn in the US and Australia’s Robyn Lawley, did you never consider pursuing plus size modelling - and heading to a plus size-specialist, instead of a regular model agency? The thing is, my dad is really tall (6’7”) and used to be quite large, so I just thought I was exactly the same as him. He lost heaps of weight when he was 18. I didn’t consider modelling at all when I was a size 16 because I actually didn’t think I was pretty. And by the time I started to think about if I could model, I had already lost too much weight to be able to do plus size modelling. I think if the weight started creeping up on me again, I would definitely consider it now. Sounds like I can’t lose! Ha ha.
Did you consult a doctor or health professional before trying to lose weight? I did actually go to the doctor when I was starting to get serious about losing weight to see if it was a smart idea for me to go to Weight Watchers. I used to have the slip that said my weight and BMI but it's gone missing.
How long did it take you to lose the weight and how did you do it? It took me two years and I did it with a healthy diet, really watching my portion sizes and exercise. Just the normal stuff really.
What were your eating and exercise habits like beforehand? My eating habits were terrible. For example, I used to go to Denny's and order the adult's portions – like, three large pancakes, because the children's weren't big enough for my appetite. Then I would finish that off with some toast left lying on my parents’ plates. My exercise habits, if you call walking between the fridge and couch exercise (ha ha!), was minimal really. I only played netball, which consisted of one x one hour practice a week and one 40 minute game each week. Also, the occasional walk as a family - which I dreaded. I was a comfortable couch potato.
Apart from being snapped up by a model agency and booking fashion jobs, what difference, if any, has the weight loss made in your day-to-day life? I definitely have gained more confidence. That has been awesome. And how good is shopping when you feel good about your body? And the kind of clothes I can wear now... I love Stolen Girlfriends Club and Glassons and now I can actually wear a lot more different types of clothes which means I can define my own style. It sounds cliché, but I really love fashion and being able to make a decision around what I want to wear and not what I have to wear. It just makes dressing each day a lot more fun. That has been amazing. Though the best part about losing weight is not about what I look like in my clothes but has been having more energy and being more positive about life. 
What are your thoughts on the body image debate that continues to rage in the fashion industry and the pressure that all models are under to be thin? And, conversely, the position that only women who reflect the "average" size of 14-16 are "real women"? I know it sounds cheesy but I think all women can be ‘real’ women whether they’re skinny, short, tall or curvy. Being too much of anything is actually not good for your health – both physically and mentally. Too skinny is dangerous just like too weighty is dangerous. I think everyone has to find their own happy place about their size. I was really unhappy being larger, especially as all my friends are teensy. It’s such a huge social time in your life, the teens, and I am only 16. What’s more annoying is that I am now getting accused of having an eating disorder, yet I put so much work into my diet, exercise and portion sizes. And now with modelling, the choices I make about my weight and body are all mine – my choice. My agency is not hassling me to lose weight. But yeah, I go to the castings and a lot of the models still seem smaller than me. Or I feel like 'the big girl' still. It’s quite strange. But then I have a reality check to call upon when my mind runs away with me. The other models haven’t lost over 30 kilos like I have so we have different things to think about.
At the end of the day, I won’t do anything I don’t want to do. I really love modelling and it and losing all that weight has changed my whole life. I wouldn’t have it any other way either. I am really grateful for the fact I was bigger and now I’m not. It makes me appreciate everything that happens for me, and it makes me feel like I am a more balanced person.
Who says you have to be skinny or large to be considered 'real'? It is honestly about how happy you feel about yourself. And that part actually has little to do with your weight.