Model and fashion blogger Nikki Phillips began her modelling career at 14 and is currently an ambassador for Puma. The 32-year-old chatted to me about getting her start in New Zealand, landing modelling jobs for Dolce & Gabbana alongside Gisele Bundchen, and her struggles with cervical cancer and public criticism.
What was your first big break?
My big break came when I did a modelling competition in New Zealand [The Face of ’98]… It was from that I got the contracts overseas. It was such an odd competition; it was like when you fully had to walk with books on your head!
When did you move from New Zealand to Australia?
I moved here in 2002 … I wanted some time off and a friend of mine owned a modelling agency [and offered me a position to work] … I was like, ‘Yes, I’d like to actually learn the business side’ … I would be booking models [for clients] but they would be like, ‘Well, are you available?’.
What was it like growing up in New Zealand?
I’m a country kid at heart. I think I live this life that’s fashion and so incredible but my upbringing was the total opposite, like running around in bare feet, going fishing with the family.
What were you like at school?
I was in a popular group, but …I was like the loser in the popular group [laughs] … I started modelling pretty early and got bullied like nothing on Earth … I actually left school early [at the beginning of year 12] because one girl cut me with a craft knife.
Was it always your dream to become a model?
Yes, the dream was to travel and become worldly and go to all these amazing places while working. I mean, I did incredible things. I walked in a Dolce & Gabbana show in Germany with Gisele [Bundchen] … Being a Kiwi, to go from the bottom of the world just sitting there in these situations, I knew how lucky I was and I never understood why I was getting chosen for this.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been working on some filming projects along with recently shooting the Puma Oceania “DO YOU” campaign, which will launch in Australia and New Zealand from this month. Cara Delevingne is the face of Puma’s most recent “DO YOU” campaign, which rolled out globally, so it’s an honour for Jodi [Anasta, another Puma ambassador] and I.
Tell me about your Puma ambassador role.
Obviously I wear heels all the time, but I love to wear flats and now I have the best excuse to constantly wear flats … Right now to be involved with Puma is absolutely amazing with [the singer] Rihanna as creative director. And Kylie Jenner [was] the face of the Fierce campaign. Puma are so forward thinking in their marketing and the way that they have developed their recent ranges.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I’m very fortunate to actually love my job and it gives so much happiness. I’ve married the man of my dreams [singer Dane Rumble]… Obviously, we would love to have a family, but it’s out of our hands. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not working?
We really are home bodies … we like go to the gym and then we go to the park and then we’re addicted to Netflix. So we watch like a series and we’ll watch that series in one sitting. In our down time, we love like going on Airbnb and renting little places and taking the dogs and just getting away for weekends.
Where do you love to travel?
We’re in love with Callala Bay at the moment, down near Jervis Bay … We rent this amazing place there and the beach is dog friendly so we just go to get away from everything.
Do you switch off?
One hundred per cent, you have to. Obviously, when we’re down in these beautiful locations my brain is always on work and I’m always like, “Can you just take a photo of me doing this?” My husband is like, “For God’s sake, OK”, but I always make sure that if I take some photos, I won’t publish them.
What’s off limits when it comes to social media?
A lot of my private stuff. So, obviously my house is off limits … it’s not just my home, it’s my husband’s home as well and that’s our little space. My family is off limits [too].
What has been the biggest challenge?
Probably, for me, it was my cervical cancer. I think because you always think you’re invincible and you think it’s never going to happen to you and then to get that diagnosis … I wanted to share my story because to prove that I wasn’t invincible … unfortunately people attacked [me] saying that it was a paid story.
Why did they attack you?
Why do people bully? Unfortunately it’s a characteristic we all have and some people use it more than others… I think a lot of people thought that I got paid for the story and I should get a real sickness before I start making money … That was probably the hardest [thing] because I had already gone through a hard time and it had taken me six years to even say that [out] loud. But I mean, that’s the nature of social media, you put a photo up, one person is going to knock it down. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in nowadays.
How do you cope with criticism?
I think you build a little bit of a wall and I think that’s why I am so closed off when it comes to family and my home …Too many people can just comment and say what they want and at the end of the day you just have to be happy within the four corners of your own life.
What’s next in the pipeline?
[I’m in] the French Alps in January for a job with Club Med Valmoral and then on to London Fashion Week. After which it’s back to filming some exciting fitness videos with Puma and my wonderful PT, Laura Basta.
WE WENT TO Cala Luna, North Sydney
WE ATE piatto di pesce (a seafood platter) and filetto e guancia di manzo (beef cheek fillet)
WE DRANK mineral water
NIKKI WORE Puma shoes and top, Asos pants, Boda Skins jacket.