Samantha Harris became a household name at the age of 11 when she won the Girlfriend Covergirl competition.
Now 29, she’s had a long and successful career in the fashion and modelling industry — but here she explains why she’s more than just one of Australia’s most recognisable faces.
Life’s not always easy, especially when you’re a young indigenous girl aspiring to become a world-class model.
It’s not common to see kids from remote indigenous communities in Australia rise to popular stardom.
When I started modelling, all the other girls looked alike and I wanted to look like them.
I was a shy girl with big dreams. I had a passion for modelling, but didn’t believe that I could make it.
Over time, I came to realise that my differences were what made me stand out.
My differences made me special. My differences were my strengths.
My mum has always been the biggest inspiration in my life. She didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. She truly is a fearless woman.
Despite being part of the stolen generation, my mum managed to give all her children the chance to become whoever they wanted to be. It’s thanks to her bravery and perseverance that I could start my modelling career.
Back then we didn’t have much money, but that didn’t stop my mother. She worked incredibly hard to make sure we had a bright future.
She believed that her little girl could make it.
Having my mum and other amazing, fearless women support me through my journey has influenced me to become a source of inspiration for other young girls who might be struggling. I want them to know that I had to work hard to get where I am today.
Throughout my career, I’ve been put under constant public scrutiny. The negative opinions and harsh comments were a tall obstacle to overcome, but eventually I had to become a fearless woman myself and actively focus on all the positive instead.
Age and experience helped me get over my insecurities and shyness, which is essential in my industry.
Modelling was my tool of empowerment, because it gave me a powerful platform to express my opinions and criticisms. I especially love bringing awareness to things I am passionate about, and supporting my people.
In fact, I am not just a model anymore.
Being an advocate for the wider indigenous community makes me proud, and especially knowing that there are many indigenous children out there who look up to me.
I want my story to become a model for those girls who come from marginalised and oppressed communities, and show them that if you really want it, anything is possible.
A lot of my shoots involve indigenous artwork and other projects that support indigenous and remote communities. It is an honour for me to be able to do the work that I love and incorporate my heritage and my culture in it as well.
I think the biggest challenges indigenous young girls face are the major responsibilities they have to shoulder from a very young age. Their contribution is fundamental, as women are the backbone of these communities, but it is also important that they receive adequate support to follow their own paths.
Every single one of us can help to give more girls living in disadvantaged communities a chance to achieve their dreams. You can sponsor a child through World Vision’s 1000 Girls campaign, which aims to provide sponsorship to over 1000 girls in developing countries by the International Day of the Girl, on October 11.
If I could give all girls around the world one piece of advice, it would be to find that something that they are passionate about and to keep working hard until they get there.
It is going to be different for every girl, but if they can create a loving and supporting circle of people around them, and they take advantage of every opportunity they are given, then great satisfactions will come their way.
Samantha Harris is a Goodwill Ambassador for World Vision Australia. You can support the 1000 Girls campaign here.
Originally published as Sam Harris: ‘I’m not just a model’