Was it to buy a bottle of shampoo or to get a haircut? Sophie can’t remember, because since the first time she set foot into a Hairhouse Warehouse, her life has been a whirlwind.
As a 16 year old, the temptation of walking away with a free hamper was too much to turn down, so Sophie Van Den Akker, agreed to the shop assistant’s request of being entered into a competition.
“Three months later I get a call saying ‘you are in the top 25 to be the face of Hairhouse Warehouse, it’s being held at Crown, we need you to come in for rehearsals.’ It was a huge shock to me, it was the first I had heard of it and I thought it was a prank call to be begin with. I ended up winning, and I became the face of Hairhouse Warehouse for a year, and I won, I think it was, $25,000.00, a few photo shoots and a little bit of travel.”
Modelling was something that Sophie just fell into; originally wanting to have a career as a mid-wife, it was initially hard to not go through all the doors that were opening for her, but the lure of Australia’s Next Top Model was too much to walk away from and it was here that Sophie’s career became set in concrete.
“The auditioning process (for Australia’s Next Top Model) was funny, because my brother’s girlfriend wanted to audition. I said ‘hey, I will come along with you, I don’t want to audition, I will just go shopping while you stand in line.’ She said ‘you are here now; you may as well just stand in line with me and talk to me.”
From standing in line to keep her friend company, to coming third runner up in the series – obviously Sophie stood out in that line of hopeful models.
“That, I think, was the learning curve for me as a model. I got to deal with different personalities and really learnt that it was what I wanted to do,” said Sophie.
“I loved the experience, if I could go back and do it again I would. I think it was a learning curve of dealing with different personalities and emotions. I was there for three months; we had no TV, no newspapers, no radio, and no private time, except for when you were in the shower. When you are that young, it becomes extremely challenging. It was fun because you were with all the girls but at times it was challenging.”
The experience also taught Sophie, that modelling isn’t all about looks, a lot of the time it has also about personality, particularly when you are involved in areas of modelling where you are interacting with the public.
“Personality is a huge thing and I think I was fortunate enough to have a personality on the show. People say I was a little bit ‘out there’, but that’s just me. I never change who I am, I haven’t over the past four years of full time modelling. I think that is due to my family, I have a very grounded and supportive family.”
It was soon after finishing with Australia’s Next Top Model, that Sophie was signed with Priscilla’s model agency and when she was presented with her first big modelling campaign with Speedo.
“Straight out of Australia’s Next Top Model, I went into shooting a Speedo campaign with Rachel Finch, we took over from Lara Bingle, and that’s when everything started to really happen for me as a model, and as a person you could say.
“With big things like that, Speedo and all the top campaigns, you have to go through quite a lot of meetings and sit down with the client, they really narrow it down, you become short listed and it goes from there. I think personality comes into it a lot as a model, you can’t just look good.”
Personality and looks alone sometimes can’t get you through the often ‘cattle line up’ process of model casting. It can be daunting and soul destroying and there are many who can’t cope with the pressure. Sophie feels that the casting experience is like going for a job interview and because she has done so many castings now, she is not overly fazed by them, but that is much different to how she felt in the early days.
“It was extremely nerve wracking. When you are young, especially as a model, you compare yourself; the number one thing I have learnt is that you cannot compare yourself to others. Even now, with runway, I get nervous; I wouldn’t put it past me to hyperventilate back stage. My legs shake, I go through stages of whether I am going to do runway or I am not going to do runway. I always say, ‘If you get me past the casting process, I will be fine for the show’, but it doesn’t faze me so much now.”
Since the early days of Top Model and the Speedo campaign, Sophie’s face has graced many billboards, posters and flags, she is the face of Zachary, has walked at many fashion parades including Melbourne Fashion week where she worked with Dannii Minogue, and has just finished shooting a shoe campaign for Jo Mercer’s.
Now signed with Chadwick model agency, Sophie sometimes finds it hard to keep up with her schedule, often not knowing what each week will bring.
“I don’t know necessarily know what I am doing all the time, I used to struggle with that when I was younger; I think you need structure when you are young, that discipline, but now, I don’t think I could go back to a normal job. I like not knowing what’s coming up. I would fear looking in front of me and seeing a schedule, it would be overwhelming. I like the excitement of not knowing what’s coming, I think it’s mysterious. I have certain commitments that I fulfil that are obviously pencilled in continuously, but I like the 50% that’s not pencilled in.”
Networking is a large part of modelling, you need to get out there and be known, and something that is very natural for Sophie.
“I like meeting people face to face, I think it’s a lot of ‘who you know’ and I like involving myself in certain things because it opens the door up to different things. On the weekend I test drove a Mercedes, we all drove down to Daylesford and had lunch and then drove back. It was cool and exciting. The Mercedes team were really lovely and I go to a few lunches and things with them as well.
“I went to Dolce and Gabbana last Friday night, for me, the reward is getting to do things and have experiences, where, half of them you might not get paid for, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. And they are experiences you can’t pay for, you can’t get back, and you get to talk about them, it’s really fun. The only thing I hate is that I get to experience it by myself; I don’t get to bring my friends and family with me.”
This Melbourne born girl, who proudly speaks of her love of her home town, has lived and modelled in Perth, Sydney, Paris and Hamburg and when I spoke to her was just about to head back to Sydney to shoot some more campaigns before heading off to USA. She has worked with some high profile people and attributes a lot of her success to her professionalism as a model and always being ‘kind’ to others.
It’s that professionalism that has earned her respect amongst her clients because she lives by her statement “I am happy if you are happy”.
“You see yourself in such a different light to how others see you. My quote has always been ‘Every Eye has a different beauty’. I am always interested to see what pictures they choose, because you see yourself so differently, and I am comfortable now, but it has been a long process to get here. You have to let go of yourself because you are walking into somewhere as a blank canvas and the client sees you how they want to see you and they will make you up how they want you made up. I think some girls struggle with that. I have known models to go and redo their makeup in the toilet after just having it done. You can’t do that. They (the client) have booked you for a reason, for a specific look, it’s only for a day. I will not leave a shoot until they are happy. I have never left a shoot where the client is unhappy, that’s what it comes down to for me. This is my job and I want them to be happy. I want to leave them with what they want, it’s my reputation.”
It’s her reputation that she guards fiercely, saying, “if there is something that you don’t ever want to do, stick to that. I would never jeopardise my reputation. I wouldn’t do anything that would inflict negativity on my reputation.”
Thankfully Sophie hasn’t ever been asked to do something that would jeopardise her reputation, but that is more than likely because she finds out all the facts of a shoot beforehand. For example, if you are strongly against wearing fur, make sure, BEFORE the shoot, that this isn’t something you will be expected to do.
“It is very easy to get sucked into this industry; there is a very fine line of reality. I think that’s where the family and support comes into it. It’s very easy to wander off and go down the wrong path.”
Having done all sorts of different modelling, from commercial to editorial to runway to working with the media, Sophie now feels that her career is heading towards television. “I am a person that rarely says no, I like to give things a go, I do feel like TV is what’s coming next, whether that’s Getaway, or The Block, I’m not sure.”
Now signed with six agencies worldwide her trip to USA will definitely open up even more doors, but when asked if she would move overseas permanently, Sophie says “I never say never with anything, but, I will go and work there, but be based in Melbourne. If an opportunity arises over there for four or five months, I would definitely do it, I would be silly not to. I have always stood strong in that I have always wanted Melbourne to be my base. I am happy to travel and happy to do stints everywhere, but my family is here so I am here, family is first with me.
“The bottom line for me is, I love what I do, I love the people I meet, I have never had a bad experience, I have never worked with anyone bad. If someone said to me, ‘would you think you would be where you are now?’ – Not a chance! No way! I am extremely lucky, extremely.”
SOPHIE’S THREE TIPS FOR ASPIRING MODELS
Don’t compare yourself to others, be your own person.
Being kind gets you further.
What you put in, you get back.
Our shoot with Sophie was styled by Chrisi Tsakiris from Pro-Glam Makeup and Hair.
Chrisi’s love for hair and makeup began when she worked with at her Mum’s salon at age 13. By the time she finished year 12 she realized that makeup was her passion and gained qualifications in both makeup artistry and hairdressing.
Now a successful hair and makeup artist, Chrisi is called on to style many high profile shoots.
For professional hair and makeup you can contact Chrisi – Pro-Glam Makeup & Hair at www.proglam.4ormat.com
B&W Studio Photography: Matthew Wren
Hair & Make Up: Chrisi Tsakiris, Pro-Glam Makeup & Hair
Clothing: Matcho Suba
Photography Studio: Sun Studios , Richmond