Samantha Harris marks 20 years since winning iconic Girlfriend model search

Samantha Harris has made a name for herself in the fashion industry, after having risen to fame after winning the Girlfriend magazine Covergirl competition at the tender age of 13.

Now, the Indigenous model, 33, is reflecting on her incredible career so far, as she celebrates a milestone 20 years since the competition helped put her on the map.

Speaking exclusively to 9Honey this week, Harris said she always knew she wanted to be a model and reflected on how much things have changed in the industry after she first got her foot in the door.

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Sam Harris selfie

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“I just always wanted to be a model. I think as a young girl starting off, I think every girl wants to be a model and I Ioved the hair, makeup, clothes the very superficial things,” Harris said.

“I was very young, the more I did it the more I loved it, it was different, different locations. Being in the industry 20 years makes me feel very old!” she said with a laugh.

Harris said the modelling industry has changed ‘so much’ in the last two decades.

Miranda Kerr and Samantha HarrisSamantha Harris

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“Things have changed so much in the industry, there are far more Indigenous models, body diversity has changed, the everyday Australian woman can see someone of their size on the catwalk which is lovely,” she explained.

“And again with social media, that’s thrown another spanner in the works, it’s not like when I started.”

Harris, a Yorta-Yorta woman who was born in Tweed Heads, NSW, won the Girlfriend model competition back in 2003.

Samantha Harris

She then rose to new heights when she became the second Australian Aboriginal woman to grace the cover of Vogue at the age of 18. She has worked with the likes of Miranda Kerr, Jessica Gomes and Shanina Shaik.

Harris said social media is changing the game for young models and model scouts alike – and advised for parents to ‘guide’ their children if they want to crack into the industry.

“With social media these days, you can see the agencies on Instagram, it’s an easier way to navigate and get in contact. Back in the day you had to call up,” Harris said.

“For young girls, make sure their parents know as well as they’re very young and it’s good if Mum and Dad is there to guide them,” she added.

Harris, who has walked the runway for the likes of David Jones and Alex Perry, said she’s grateful to now have a platform to raise awareness for the issues she cares about, including the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia (WWF).

Harris is hoping to raise awareness of deforestation in Australia and the loss of koala and animal habitats.

“To shine a light on certain topics and what people need to be aware about [makes it worth it],” she said. 

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Samantha Harris

“I’ve worked with WWF for three years now and I love raising awareness. Seeing the deforestation, it’s not an exciting thing to be talking about, but I think it’s a prominent thing we should be talking about.”

“If we keep going at this rate, we’re going to have nothing. I think the older you get it life you become more aware of things going on, I love animals and I have them myself and we only get one earth,” she said.

“We can’t just pack on in 20 years time and onto the next, we need to look after it and be thankful.”

Samantha Harris WWF

Harris said little things every day make a difference to helping the environment.

“Pick up a piece of rubbish, try not to drive your car as much, little things can lead to a bigger outcome. With deforestation, if we don’t get the conversation going we won’t have any trees,” she said.

“I do have a platform and can raise awareness, but I do actually care, it’s a wonderful experience,” she said.