New York City is about as far away as you can get from the rural town Narrandera where model Victoria Lee grew up. As a self-confessed homebody, she says even she’s surprised that she’s now based in the Big Apple and miles from home. However relocating to the other side of the world is the logical next step when you’re one of the hottest models of the moment. Along with walking in last year’s Victoria’s Secret show alongside Gigi Hadid and Naomi Campbell, she is also a freshly minted David Jones ambassador joining fellow Aussies Jessica Gomes and ex-AFL player Adam Goodes. I caught up with Victoria to chat about the secret to a flattering photo, the one beauty product she can’t live without and how she stays fit.
What’s a day in the life of you?
Every day is different, which took awhile to get used to, to be honest. But I’ve since learned to embrace this fact and just go with the flow—as much as I can anyway! In general though, I love to wake up early, exercise in the morning, make yummy food and then get on with my day. If I’m working the hours and location always change but if I have some time off I’ll usually take care of any chores or e-mails, catch up with friends, sort the neverending pile of mail, run errands… it’s always a little different.
What is Fashion Week like for you?
This is the first time I’ve been home for Australian Fashion Week in a long time so I’m very happy to be home, but also [being here] where I haven’t done the shows. Actually being able to sit and experience the show is fantastic. I’m really enjoying seeing the way the show comes together and to appreciate the collections and creativity of the designers and all their hard work, from the other side.
What was it like to attend Camilla and Marc’s opening show?
I am such a huge fan of Camilla and Marc and to think it was their 15 year anniversary which was amazing. The show was fantastic—you felt transported to this other world through the lighting, set, sounds and music. Not to mention the collection itself which was stunning—the models looked so beautiful, powerful and strong.
Last year you walked in the Victoria Secret show in Shanghai alongside other supermodels like Tyra Banks, Gigi Hadid and Naomi Campbell. How did that feel?
Surreal. It was so much better than I actually expected. I thought I’d be more anxious, that I wouldn’t be fully present and just enjoy, but did. And I think that’s because of the Victoria’s Secret team and the girls I was there with. Everyone is so welcoming and supportive. They know you’re nervous! They really make an effort to make you feel as comfortable as possible and to just have fun and enjoy yourself, which is what it’s all about. It was very exciting, I really enjoyed the entire experience.
What does it mean to you to be an ambassador for David Jones?
It’s a real honour. I grew up shopping at David Jones and admiring past ambassadors Megan Gale and Miranda Kerr. To be a part of such an iconic Australian brand is incredible and I’m so happy to be a part of the David Jones family. Especially now; to be alongside Jess Gomes and Adam Goodes is amazing. And to be celebrating the 180th birthday of DJs is really special.
How did you first get into modelling?
I met with agencies after being recommended by photographers when I was in Sydney one time with my family. However I didn’t start going to castings until I finished school.
Was this always your dream?
No, not at all. Mainly because I grew up in Narrandera, rural NSW. I had no concept of the modelling industry—it was a long way away. Even after I started, I never viewed modelling as a career option. I had no idea what to expect, but I appreciated the fact that the opportunity doesn’t come by every day. I thought I would try it out in between school and university. I’m extremely lucky to have such a wonderful support network that has been by my side every step of the way.
What were you like at school?
I loved sport and athletics but was also very focused on my studies. I worked hard to get the best possible mark on my exams as I could. I ended up being Dux of my school which I was really happy about. All my friends from school try to catch up when everyone is home over Christmas which is always a lot of fun.
What’s something that people don’t know about you and would be surprised to find out?
Growing up I was a real homebody—I hated being away from home. Even on school excursions, I would want to go home ASAP. I couldn’t even do sleepovers. So to now live as far away from home as possible is something that still surprises me!
What was your first big break?
Very early in my career, my first Fashion Week, I walked for Camilla and Marc at Australian Fashion Week.
What has been your biggest pinch-me moment?
Can I have two?! Walking for VS [Victoria’s Secret] and being named as a David Jones ambassador were both pretty special pinch-me moments.
Who do you look up to?
I admire my parents and grandparents—I’m lucky to have such a wonderful family whom I look up to. I also admire women like Elle McPherson, Jess Gomes, Megan Gale, Doutzen Kroes, Diane Von Furstenberg, my agent, Doll, just to name a few! Intelligent, hard-working, very genuine women.
What has been the best advice you have ever received?
My mum always encouraged me to do my best in any situation and not to follow the crowd—be my unique self, always.
If you hadn’t become a model, what would you be doing?
Probably something in health or nutrition. I’ve always been fascinated by the human body.
As a model, how do you stay fit?
I love dance-based workouts—I find my body responds well and they are a great combination of strength and cardio. Along with stretching and recovery I make sure to respect my body and to prioritise sleep and recovery as much as my workouts. Along with proper nutrition. I love food and aim to nourish my body in the best way I can.How do you prep for a big show?
I have a healthy lifestyle constantly but leading up to a big show I’ll make sure to drink plenty of water and get as much sleep as possible. I have a sweet tooth so I might cut back a little on the chocolate. But it’s all about balance.
What is it like living in New York?
I love it. It took a while to get used to—it’s a far cry from Narrandera and Sydney. But it’s an amazing city with such a vibrant and eclectic energy and culture. I’m very lucky to be able to live there and call Australia home. It’s the best of both worlds which I’m very appreciative of.
What do you miss most about living in Sydney?
The wonderful beaches, weather, our laidback attitude, our sense of humour, our fresh food, being close to my friends and family of course. The list goes on… travelling and living away really emphasised to me just how lucky we are as Australians to live here. I know it’s such a cliché, but it’s true—we are the lucky country.
What is the secret to a great photo?
Oh my gosh—good question!! I guess try to relax and keep your chin down.
What is your number one beauty essential?
Oils. I’ve noticed a real improvement in my skin since using them. I love Dermalogica phyto replenishing oil at the moment but I’ll change it up depending on how my skin is feeling. They can be used to remove make up, as a treatment, to prep for makeup, during a flight—just make sure you get one that suits your skin type.
Photography: Sophia Athas and Ash Larden