By Alix Norman
Effie apologises for showing up early. In fact, she set off early, she tells me, to be sure she could find the café in which we were meeting. Immediately, I like her; forethought and planning, courtesy and humility are rare in anyone under the age of 30, but Effie has them in spades… along with brains (she’s just finished her Postgrad in Career Guidance at Canterbury) and beauty. And it’s the last of these qualities which has me interviewing her today, for Effie will shortly be representing Cyprus as a finalist in one of the world’s leading contests: Top Model Worldwide.
It’s certainly a huge achievement to be representing one’s country in a platform that includes models from all four corners of the world, especially when there have been over 4,000 applications. And Effie is still reeling from having been chosen: “When I opened the acceptance email, I couldn’t believe it,” she says, shyly, lowering her cornflower blue eyes. “A friend had persuaded me to enter, representing Cyprus, and I never thought they’d accept me. I’m still shocked!”
One of the leading international professional model search competitions, with a proven history of discovering new model talent and creating dreams, Top Model Worldwide consists of three shows over two days and features over 30 aspiring models, 12 top designers and a live audience of more than 1,500 people. Based in the UK, and running since 2006, the competition currently boasts five categories (including the obligatory swimwear and evening wear), and an international worldwide final.
And with the chance of a professional modelling contract (along with a host of other prizes) Effie is also thrilled to know that, during the competition, she’ll be receiving professional runway training and the chance to walk in London Fashion Week.
“One of the reasons I applied for the competition was to break into modelling,” she explains. “I’d always thought about trying it, ever since I was little. I used to look at models in magazines, or in television advertisements, and thought it looked fascinating. Sometimes,” she adds, with a giggle, “I used to practise poses in front of the mirror.”
Her friends, she explains, have always been supportive, often suggesting she try modelling, but with her full time studies, there was never really the time. “I did a Bachelors in psychology here at the University of Cyprus,” she says, “and then when I’d finished, I spoke to a couple of Career Guidance counsellors about what I should do next. And as soon as I saw the prospectus for the Postgraduate Diploma in Career Guidance at Canterbury, I knew that was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go,” she continues. “It offered me the chance to do the practical work that I felt had been missing in my degree.”
Putting all thought of modelling on the back burner, Effie prepared to set off for England and a future in counselling and guidance. “This was my first time abroad. Ever! I didn’t know anyone, and I was terrified! But though I struggled in the beginning, especially being away from friends and family for the first time, I’m very glad I did it. The course was amazing, and for the first time I was allowed to do practical evaluations. And the tutors were very, very good, offering support and advice not just about the course, but also about living in the UK.”
I get the sense that for this young girl from Larnaca studying abroad was a huge leap to take. But, in many ways, very indicative of Effie’s character. Because, no matter how much something scares her, she’ll still give it a go. And it’s this determination to try that now seems set to launch her modelling career.
“After I finished studying, I came back to Cyprus to look for a job,” she says. “But there was nothing, absolutely nothing in my field. I was willing to take anything, and applied everywhere, and in the end, I got a job in an Espresso Bar as a waitress. To be honest, I’m just happy to be employed,” she says gratefully. And now she’s finished studying, she has the time to focus a bit more energy on modelling, picking up the odd job here and there. But the breakthrough came, of course, when a friend persuaded her to enter Top Model Worldwide.
“I never thought they’d accept me,” she reiterates, “but it was an excellent opportunity and I knew I had nothing to lose. At first, when I saw in black and white that I was a Grand Finalist, I didn’t believe it. I closed the email, and then opened it again to reread it. ‘Congratulations’ it said. ‘We look forward to working with you.’ Of course I’m very nervous about going, but I’m so pleased to have been chosen to represent Cyprus.”
There’s still a lot of hard work before she gets to the UK in March: sponsorship being the main worry. “It’s difficult to find the money for the tickets and the accommodation,” she says ruefully. “I’ve been given lots of advice about how to find sponsors, but it’s all quite a challenge. This is something completely new for me,” she adds, humbly. “I’m one of those people who worry a lot. But then, in the end, I’ll give it my best. And I’m really excited that I’m going to be learning so much, and especially looking forward to meeting all the other girls and making friends.”
If the brief snapshot I’ve had of Effie’s personality is anything to go by, then she’ll certainly be doing just that. Because, while she’s not the most colourful or dynamic young girl you’ll meet, there’s something very memorable about her innate courtesy and quiet charm. And surely there’s no better representative of our island than someone who makes an impression through quiet diligence and gentle good manners. Best of luck, Effie!
The Top Model Worldwide competition will be held in London on March 15, 2015, and Effie does need sponsorship to get there, so if you or your company are interested in sponsoring the Cyprus Grand Finalist, visit www.topmodelworldwide.com, where you can also show your support for Cyprus by voting for Effie