Photographed by Tony Palliser
Joanne Nicolas, the talented, brilliant, and beautiful international fashion model, has established herself as one of the hardest-working supermodels in the modelling industry. She excels in various types of modelling and she’s highly experienced with several years of runway work under her belt.
Having 17 years of experience in the modelling industry mostly in New York and Sydney, she was scouted by Victoria Secret to the VS casting in 2011 New York, and she has modelled for several high profile brands such as Oppo with America’s Next Top Model, Maybelline, Myer, L’Oreal, Vera Wang, Sony, Chanel, Max Mara, Westpac, David Jones, Karl Lagerfeld and many more.
Model & Mode Magazine recently caught up with Joanne to discuss his journey in the modelling and fashion industry and here’s what went down:
Can you tell us more about yourself besides being a model?
I’m a model, solicitor, fitness instructor, and model teacher. I’m also a mother of two boys, Matthew and Nicolas, But one thing is constant in my life; without fail, I’m always making time to exercise because exercise is my way of feeling positive, and a way of life for me. Growing up, I thought maybe being a personal trainer was where my life was heading, because I love sport, and was always an age champion year after year. In fact, I was unbeatable at athletics carnivals and district competitions for long-distance.
I used to be up every day before school at 4 am jogging in our backyard, lap after lap, as my dad’s land is enormous, and there was a track I actually made in the backyard from jogging in the same lap track. I was also doing Aerobics Oz Style following the TV instructor, followed by planks. I travelled to Malaysia at 14 years for netball and my position was a goal shooter. But netball wasn’t my long-term passion though, so it fizzled and I just focused on my HSC and used sport as my way of distressing from studying.
How did you get into the modelling industry?
I got into modelling by always being scouted by agents wherever I went. My mum would take all the cards from agents and throw them because she wanted me to focus on my schooling. I never modelled through school. It was just university study days and I was on my way to the State Law Library by train, first-year university into law, and was scouted by Jo from Beth Models. She stopped me and told me she saw me as supermodel material and she needed me to go upstairs to see Beth and get on their books. She was insistent, and she wouldn’t let me walk away. I finally met Beth, Paul, and they did some Polaroids and got me on their website. They called me later advising me of a Westpac casting to go to, and I only had 4 photos in my portfolio at the time. I wasn’t sure what to do – other models who were there had thick portfolios, so I was shocked when Beth called me to say I got the job. It was my first casting and first job, and all because I was on my way to do my uni essay. But I guess what is meant to be just will be.
What do you like most about being a model?
What I love about modelling is meeting amazing artists, models, designers, casting directors and giving justice to the hard work of designers and brands. I meet designers that have worked so hard on their collections, sometimes over 20 hours straight on one garment.. and I love being able to wear such incredible pieces because, at heart, I love fashion, and it also feels amazing to get that great feedback that the garment sold out, and is on reorder. I also love travelling, and modelling requires a lot of that. Especially in New York. I fit right into the New York scene because I work hard, and work fast.
The downside to being a model?
Being a model means being away from family and friends. I’m a very family-oriented person and was always on Skype, and staying up late to call friends and family in Sydney. I stayed with my best friend in New York, and had a very good group of Church friends in New York and we volunteered with feeding the homeless in New York soup kitchens in my downtime from castings. But deep inside I was always missing my family and friends and boyfriend who is now my husband. The travel can also mess with your body clock and I found it hard to sleep, and by the time you come back to Sydney, you’re then finally sleeping in New York time. There were so many times sleeping tablets crossed my mind but I’m an organic person so I never attempted sleeping tablets.
Another aspect is missing on various occasions because you’re always on call. I’ve missed weddings, christenings, birthdays, family functions because an agent has called and said Jo, I need you there. And I’m so professional and reliable I’m always saying yes. I never said no to my agents in 18 years. Anyone who has ever worked with me knows I ain’t give 100%, I give 1000%. You need to be available, and it’s hard to model alongside having a life. Our babysitter Abby is on speed dial if I’m called to jobs. Another downside is castings as I think castings should be a thing of the past. If photos and videos are recent, it’s such a hassle to get to a casting when they already know your dimensions and your look. They should just hire you. I appreciate jobs and booker’s who just hire without casting.. especially if you’re an established model. I was booked this way through Myer and Oppo with America’s Next Top Model, as well as L’Oreal without casting, and it’s so convenient and I love these guys for casting me.
Years ago, I travelled to Queensland for the Brisbane fashion week casting and paid travel and accommodation just to attend a casting. I remember suggesting if I can just send a video but they wanted to see the model in person. it’s Moreno video these days, but back when I started modelling, video reels just weren’t the thing..models these days have it easy.
What has been the most memorable experience of being in the modelling industry so far?
My most memorable experience so far is when I was scouted by Victoria’s Secret for the VS Fashion show 2011. I was super nervous to meet John Pfeiffer, and he wished me a Happy Birthday as I had just turned 26. And also meeting Ed Razek, the CEO of Victoria’s Secret. For people in such high positions, I found them to be incredibly grounded which is a quality I love. I also loved the night of modelling with Oppo with America’s Next Top Model, because everything just ran smoothly, and professionally, and I met a fellow model Sarah, who is a friend for life. She’s an awesome model and awesome friend.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
That question is a tough question, there are so many interesting people I’ve met so far. Nyle De Marco was super interesting and motivating because he’s deaf! and a lot of people hide behind little insecurities and their disabilities, not abilities, and yet he got out there and won America’s Next Top Model 2015. That takes courage. I loved modelling with him when America’s Next Top Model visited Australia and Mame Adjei. Also, Pedro Virgil, a fellow judge on Elite Supermodel Australia 2021. I met him earlier in 2021, and our passion for renovating was something we got on like a house on fire about. I hope I get the chance to actually shoot with him because I’m keen to experience his shooting style. Also Mike Ilagan, he does so many things, and I admire him because he does them all so successfully.
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the modelling industry. This can be about the industry or about yourself.
To be my own best friend and own cheerleader. I’ve learned to keep happy in my own company if I’m overseas, or if I never got a job. You can’t get every job, but you just need to do your best at castings and stay happy even if you don’t get the job. There are only a few selected spots so it’s not something to fret over.
Is your family supportive of you being a model?
My family initially wasn’t supportive. My parents are very academically driven, and it took time before they accepted modelling as part of my life. I was scouted by Delpha Ramos from Elite Models in New York, and my mum would only allow me to go after finishing Law. I became a solicitor by age 22 and focused on my marks as I was needing to get good grades to maintain my scholarship. I then finished Law and went to New York and my family by this stage were my number one supporters. I had a casting for a Myer TVC and my mum said “I pray you get it.” I love the fact they came around because it’s who I am. I feel I was born to be this person.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t change a thing. I have given every grain of my energy, being and put 1000% in. I have practiced my walk until my feet had blisters and bled. I have practiced posing until my body ached in pain.. but it’s worth it when you have a shoot done in just 4 photos and the photographer shakes your hand and says you belong in Milan, or your posing is phenomenal. I have worked so incredibly hard, and I could not change a thing. I can’t have given any more than what I have given, because that was my all every minute over the last 18 years.
9. What is the best advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was by Trish McSkimming at the beginning of my modelling career. She told me to put my money on property. I modelled for her jewellery collection and I appreciate someone giving me advice they would give to their own daughter.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
My future plans are always in God’s hands. But if it were up to me, I would love Australia to bring back Australia’s Next Top Model and me judge alongside Gemma Ward as I love Gemma Ward. I love everything about the role description I experienced with Elite Supermodel and would love to do that on a televised level. I’m very content with my boys but would love to have a little girl. I think my family would be complete with a little girl.
Also, renovations is something I’m doing almost 100% of the time. I’m currently adding an indoor swing to my son’s bedroom. I’m working on a few projects which I’m hoping to finalise by my 20th odd year of modelling. I keep low heads down and bums up and just work and work until projects are finished and it’s time to surface, breathe.