Do you recognise this 90s supermodel?
Alison Brahe-Daddo was one of Australia's golden girls.
A regular cover girl on glossy mags like Cosmopolitan, Cleo and Dolly (may they RIP), she was also one half of a 90s super-couple, married to actor and presenter Cameron Daddo. She was the real girl alternative to seemingly untouchable Elle MacPherson, once voted more influential than Madonna and regularly had women approaching her in the streets.
Then, she walked away from it all.
In today's terms, the decision would be comparable to Jesinta Campbell picking up and moving halfway across the world to support Buddy playing overseas while she stopped modelling and became, I don't know, a nurse. It's almost unimaginable. But that's (almost) exactly what Ali Brahe, now 49, did. And she has absolutely no regrets, "I never ever wanted to go back to it at all once I left it," she tells whimn.com.au.
Meeting her 27 years later, dressed in a khaki green flowing dress and an Akubra no less, there's not an ounce of pretension about the former model. She's makeup-free, and talks comfortably about her decision to leave the world of highly publicised social events, paparazzi and fame behind at the height of her modelling career to support Cameron pursue his acting career in America.
"I decided I really didn't want to do it there, it really wasn't fun," she says, reflecting on her choice to step away from her successful career after a couple of years of modelling in the States.
"All my friends and people I knew in Australia - the photographers and makeup artists - they were no longer there. So, I'd walk in, know no one and I was like, 'this doesn't feel good at all'. I was really, really happy when I stepped away from it."
Instead, she became a birth coach, and then eventually, a preschool teacher, where she was surrounded by much smaller people who she says, "couldn't care less about what you look like".
But despite being sure of her decision to leave the life she knew so well, she still isn't free from the post-traumatic effects of the high-profile former life. "I'm still recovering from being a model," she tells me with a wry laugh, explaining the impact her work as a super model had on her relationship with her body.
"It's funny, because I grew up dancing, I was a ballerina for 14 years, so I always had a relationship with my body but it wasn't particularly critical. Modelling was good to a certain point, but because it becomes such an external fixation on how you look, it started to wear away. I didn't have a tonne of self-confidence, I didn't grow up a particularly confident kid, but what confidence I did have, it wore away."
One of the aspects of her life at the time she found most troubling, and one that was probably also incredibly frequent, was the reactions she'd get from women on the street that'd approach her to express their awe. "I always hated when I'd get complimented by girls who'd tell me, 'oh, I wish I looked like you' or, 'I wish I could be you', I just hated that," she says before hinting at the mental toll her career had on her saying, "I'd say 'thank you, but I just want you to look like you. For you to look like me then you'd also have to take on all the things my head's doing, too.'"
She says the experience irrevocably changed the way she approached parenting her three kids, Lotus, 22, River, 18, and Bodhi, 13. "The thing that impacts kids the most is how their parents are with their bodies and that's something I had to learn the hard way," she says.
"I had some hang ups about my physicality and I could start to see my eldest daughter especially take on little things and I was just like, 'Nooo'. That was a real kick in my pants and the first thing I had to work on; how I spoke about myself in front of my kids because that is really damaging and how I spoke to them about what kind of people they were. So we always put the focus on other things, so telling them, 'you're so kind, you're so strong', rather than 'you're so pretty'."
Talking to her, you get the sense that Alison Brahe Daddo had too much heart, and too greater sense of purpose, to be a model. And indeed, the one thing she says she'd tell her 20-year-old self is to just "Own who you are as a person. It's not about who likes you or what you look like. Put any facades down or concerns that people aren't going to like you because you're not living up to their expectation of who you should be."
It's advice that we can all take on board, 90s teen or otherwise.
- Courtney Thompson is the Entertainment Reporter for whimn.com.au
- This story originally appeared on whimn.com.au and is reproduced here with permission