Open Advice for my Younger Self: The Fashion Fox Tells All
"I should have married the pilot that loved me when I started flying. I shouldn't have listened to people that said that pilots are bad news when I did, in fact, have a child with a professional football player."
Welcome to the Tuesday night blog! Tonight I am bearing all through sharing my past and valuable lessons learned from age twelve till now. So let’s get straight into it, I’m ready to call a spade a spade and spill some real truths transparently warts and all.
Girls were really nasty to me in school. My high school story is awful to say to least. I was leading two different lives: one which was fun and glamorous (as a child and teen model) and another which meant constant bullying and exclusion at a time in my life where I really didn't truly know who I was yet. On my days off school I was a busy working model in Manly, Sydney from the age of eight. I earned $250 an hour as a model (back then) when I was thirteen, which is the equivalent to say $600 an hour now. I was on the cover of magazines in Australia and internationally, I modelled for Dolly magazine, Country Road, I did the Big W catalogue, I was on Johnson & Johnson’s posters. Modelling was a source of joy but it was fatefully the same reason I was bullied constantly.
I would come home from a photo shoot happy and excited, then I'd go to bed and wake up for school. In this environment, amongst my peers and the bullies I became introverted, shy and would just recoil into myself; girls would just pick on me. They would tell me how ugly I was, to quote word for word, “the ugliest model" that they had "ever seen." I remember when someone wrote on a desk in the science room for everyone to see that ‘Nicole Byrne should go to the petrol station and get her boobs pumped up’. It sounds funny even as I type it now but back when I didn't have a strong sense of who I was it was humiliating and upsetting.
My body shape was straight up and down like a bean pole and I developed late in life. All the girls would always call me “frigid” because my parents were strict. I didn’t go anywhere because I wasn't allowed to and the expectation on me from my parents was that I would go home immediately right after school. It goes without saying that I definitely wasn’t allowed out on weekends, so this made me very uncool. After the school day I would look forward to going home away from the constant negativity. Being at home meant I was safe, I could watch movies, do my home work and be with Mama Dee.
Mama Dee would pack a wooden spoon when we would go out of the house. She would take it with her when we went shopping and leave it poking out of her hessian bag. I would see it in there and it would be the fear of it being with us at all times. If I ever got in trouble I would quickly hide behind my older sister, Reannan, to avoid getting smacked by the wooden spoon. The presence of the wooden spoon all by itself meant "good behaviour" most of the time as you can imagine. All the teenage girls would talk about 'controversial' topics that were new for us, things like having their period. I didn’t have mine yet so I pretended that I did so I could fit in. I just wanted to be the same as the other girls and be heard saying the same things as them. The girls would go and have parties without me then talk all about how fun it was the next day at school right in front of me. I felt conflicted, unpopular, excluded but then happy and excited about modelling. I was constantly receiving mixed messages from the school and model world as a result.
LIFE ADVICE FOR MY TEENAGE SELF (and any teenager that needs to hear it):
If I could sit in front of my little twelve year old self and say anything, I would say, “You look like an Hawaiian princess and fuck the haters.”
Being at home and being safe and not at parties is for the betterment of your life. It’s time spent with family and with yourself that you’ll never get again so treasure it.
Be nicer to Mama Dee and not resent her for not letting me go out and do things.
Focus on your family.
Read more, always read, be educated, knowledge is power. Doesn’t matter what you’re reading, you’re still learning and bettering yourself. Whether it’s Dolly magazine or a comic book read everything that you can.
Seek out role models and people to look up to, surround yourself with them. I really lacked amazing role models close to my age when I was a teenager and this is something I would have really thrived from having (in hindsight).
Create vision boards of your goals and do a new one each year.
Comparison is the theft of joy.
Back then I never wanted to be like the Manly girls who married a Manly boy and stayed in Manly. But I look back it was honestly paradise, and I would say don’t leave Manly. (Ultimately, I was meant to leave, it was my life path and the universe had my back and guided me here along with the rest of my family who moved to Brisbane). But young Nicole shouldn’t have turned her nose up at this quaint little scenario back in the day.
Nineteen saw me become a flight attendant. I would say to Mama Dee when I was a little girl, “Mum I want to be a ‘hair’ hostess just like you” and it was genuinely all I wanted. Mama Dee and I have lived such similar lives in our younger years, we were both models and flight attendants. I really looked up to her growing up.
I love travel, I love aviation and I have such a love for aircrafts. It’s like fashion, you have to feel the “omg”. People are drawn to a job as a flight attendant because they want to get paid to travel but it’s honestly so much more than that. To last in the industry, my take is that you have to have the urge and need for it, the adrenaline and excitement of travel, take off, landing and flying. I used to love meeting people and chatting to them. I’d always walk down the cabin and chat to passengers. It was a part of the job I loved so much.
If I saw a child passenger on a flight I would get dry ice and put it in a cup and say that the Captain put a cloud in a cup for them. Everyone loved it and it made me so happy in my heart to bring the joy of aviation to children. Every six months all flight attendants would be tested to ensure we had the most up to date information to perform our jobs. I always studied (I hated the study process but loved my job) so I’d always lock myself away for entire weekends, or longer, and just study. I always recieved 100% in EP (Emergency Procedures). I used to call the sky my office. It was so amazing when you got a good crew to work with! And by the same account, if you got a disjointed crew that didn't flow well together you just couldn’t wait for the shift to be over.
I lived in Cairns for eighteen months (and was based in Hobart before that), as a flighty. Dancing on the tables at The Woolshed when I lived in Cairns was the absolute highlight of my young adult life. If I hadn’t been able to have that time of fun I would have really struggled with becoming a mum at 24 years old. By the time my son was born I felt like I had accomplished so much and had so many fun nights and so many amazing memories behind me. I felt I could become a mum without feeling like I was 'missing out'.
I lived with two other flight attendants back then and used to date a really hot Canadian backpacker. His name was Kyle. When you’re young, you don’t think of all the other big picture adult things such as being a partner with someone who compliments your strengths and weaknesses, or needing a stable man who is intelligent, a team player and a provider etc.
You just like the guy in front of you for exactly who they are, in that exact moment with almost no genuine, solid thought of what the future would be and you’re in it for the fun and feelings.
Isn’t it nice and freeing to not have to think ahead about building a life but rather living in the moment and liking who you like simply because you do?
I slept in a tent for the first time with him at Airlie Beach. I wore a backless top and heels on a night out at Airlie and everyone judged me but I couldn’t have cared less. That’s one lesson I didn't have to teach my younger self - I always wore what I wanted to wear and never questioned it no matter how the people around me responded. Kyle was lovely but I always knew it would be a summer thing. He went back to Canada and kept calling me all the time. I wish I had just said "yes" to that potential adventure and gone to explore Canada with him back then. I look back now and think, “why not?”.
Back then my highest priority was what dress I would wear out on a Saturday night. One of my favourite stories from my flighty years is that, on a night out, I won $500 at a wet t-shirt competition when I was in my twenties. I didn’t even take my top off or go crazy like all the other girls. Instead, I did splits on the dance floor then tipped jugs of water all over my head. I smile and laugh even thinking about how fun that night was. Sometimes it feels like it was yesterday.
I put $300 of my ‘winnings’ on the bar tab and the day before I had seen a top I really wanted but couldn’t afford. So the very next day, after winning, I used to pay for the top.
LATE TEENS AND EARLY TWENTIES ADVICE
Date a pilot - go for it. Don't listen to other people, not every person is their stereotype. I would have probably been better off with a pilot who is fifteen years older than me and treating me like a queen. There’s something sexy about a man flying on an aircraft. He used to call me when the crew would have overnights and say “I’m in room such and such” and I would say “goodnight” and he would help me cross the seatbelts over when the aircraft was empty so we could chat for longer even though it wasn’t in his job description.
Enjoy your overnights more - I had so much fun but I really was quite serious and didn’t want to be considered unprofessional or be judged by others in the aviation industry. But now I wish I had let my hair out a bit more and laid on that pilot’s chest.
Kiss more boys.
Avoid becoming a mother when you’re in your early 20s, if I could pick and choose I would have liked to have had my Bman now (at 38).
Travel more - see the world/
Own who you are without apology.
Go and see Canada with hot backpacking Kyle.
Stop worrying about the future and live each day as it comes.
Do not date a football player, ever.
Go on maternity leave when you fall pregnant (like everyone else) don't get sold a dream based on the promises of anyone else.
Save more money, every single week, doesn’t matter if it’s $20 or $50 save money.
Always listen to your mum, just remember even though you don’t think she’s cool at the time, she’s been 'you' she's been there and done that. If you have a good mum, hang on her every word and treat her well. She’s lived an entire life before you and wants nothing but to see you succeed.
And that's a wrap for Tuesday night ladies. I hope you enjoyed this read. I pulled lots of images that are really special to me out of the archives. It feels great and freeing to share my genuine thoughts with you all, it's one of the reasons I enjoy creating blogs. Even if I'm completely snowed under each week I always make time to make this happen for us. All of your positive feed back means the world to me and keeps me going.
If you'd like to see more of me during the week feel free to follow me on my boutique Instagram account @misshenryboutique I'll be here for you every Tuesday, stay tuned for the next blog post - you will not want to miss it! Love, The Fashion Fox @the_fashion_fox_