Interview & photos Dusk Devi
Among the many modelling agencies in Australia one that really stands out is Ethnic Model Management (EMM), an agency started by Terry-Ann Lapa to raise the profile of Pacific faces in Australia.
From humble beginnings as Pacifique Models in 2013, Terry Ann's agency is now a respected player in the fashion game, representing not just Pacific faces but models from all regions and races. Clients hail from the Pacific and Australia, seeking not only Pacific and ethnic faces but the faces of Australia.
EMM regularly holds workshops to train models in the art of modelling, educating and nurturing. Fijian/Tongan/Samoan/Chinese, Terry-Ann is constantly pushing barriers. Her goal is to help make diversity the norm and to make that norm the role model.
1. Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?
I didn’t know it would be up this particular path, but growing up I was obsessed with models and fashion. When I was a kid I pranced around in high heels everywhere I could, and would hold my own fashion shows in my imaginary fashion world! I am now doing what I am meant to be doing and it is all for the bigger picture of inclusion.
2. Time travel: when, where and why?
I would go back to the 17th-19th centuries. The clothes were so grand with so much pomp and ceremony in life and in fashion. I’d also like to go back to the 40s/50s where men wore suits and hats for everyday wear and woman were always dressed to present. I like looking at old photos of life in the islands. Despite the colonial shadows, there was elegance in the way ‘my people’ held themselves and the manner in which they dressed.
3. What are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for my life! To be here in this time, to be alive in these days and to be able to make my mark on the world and to have the family friends, and work that I have.
4. What are your best traits?
I am a people person and I see beauty at the core of so many things! I LOVE people. I love their faces, their voices, their mannerisms, their minds. I think we are the most wonderful creatures ever made; babies and old people fascinate me the most. From such innocence to such experience, such depth of life. I am a people watcher. I can do this for hours. Just as well I am in the business of Faces!
5. What colour would you use to describe yourself?
Red. In red I see a fierceness that I didn’t know I had within me. It can be subtle. It can be calm in a heightened way but still full of power.
6. Do you read? If so, 3 favourites.
I love reading. At the moment most of my reading consists of books about business and personal development, although a good fictional book will get me every time. Currently I have on my desk:
Thrive – by Ariana Huffington.
I’ll have what she’s having – Bobbi Houston
Like a Queen – Constance Hall
7. What’s the first place you go online? Your 3 best sites?
Most things I look at right now are fashion, makeup, model related so I start my day with Instagram. It’s research! www.garyvaynerchuk.com is my business inspiration for most days but I also see his work on Instagram or Facebook. And Google is the modern-day Oracle! It answers all my questions.
8. How do you deal with stress?
I used to swear by and thrive on stress, leaving everything till the last minute but life is just far too busy now and I need to be organised. I no longer use stress as my motivation to do a task. I look at a task and do it now, knowing it will save me stress later. I must write everything down on my To Do List or it won’t get done.
When I feel I’m getting stressed, I force myself to take time out and go to the mountain near my house or to the beach and just breathe; sometimes writing in my journal. Nature, and her incredible way of making one feel centred, works for me.
9. What is the craziest thing you have ever done (so far)?
Living my dream is the craziest thing I’ve done by far. The twists and turns, and ups and downs – they can make you or break you. But I’m stubborn and I keep holding on, so this really is the craziest decision I have ever made.
Second to that it would have been the decision to have children. Yes, it’s fulfilling and magical, but it’s also crazy. And the grunt work you have to do to have those moments… wow. No one told me about that. They are my biggest accomplishments but that’s an ongoing story.
10. What’s your idea of a perfect holiday?
Venice, Paris, Rome – for the architecture, the beauty, the history. Singapore, Japan, India – for the people, and food, and majesty of the country and culture.
11. Would you rather fly the plane or be flown?
I’d rather fly the plane. Giving control over to someone else to fly me is fine, but if I could possess that much knowledge and wisdom to be able to fly a plane – hell yeah, I’d fly!
12. Do you have tattoos? Do they mean anything?
Yes – so far, one. The word ‘Diamond’ is tattooed on my left shoulder.
It’s my mum’s middle name, my middle name, and my daughter’s middle name. Before I had a daughter, I was asked to put my name into my sister’s daughter’s name. I chose Diamond as the name I contributed from my name. It’s something sacred and honoured within my family and it’s something that I love and cherish.
13. What’s your biggest indulgence?
Fashion shows. I know – corny. But it is my stock in trade. Fashion shows transport you, just like a movie or a song would. I love figuring out what motivates designers and of course, seeing the faces that represent the times. I watch highlights of all fashion weeks all over the world (and there are many). In a way this is also stress release and research.
14. If you could eat only one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Sushi. All day, every damn day!
15. What is fashion to you?
It’s a story, a journey, a moment in time! Fashion is how we tell the outside world about us without the use of words. It’s how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Trends annoy me. Not that I don’t do any but they’re temporary. Fashion is the total picture. I’ll be in runners today and heels tomorrow but in all of that there’s a story to be told about me.
16. Do you have a signature outfit?
Much to the dismay of the people in my world I wear black on black most days. It’s my uniform. Up til a few weeks ago it was all about taking the effort out of choosing, out of matching, out of coordinating; and deflecting.
It was me saying, “I am not where your focus will be today. We will focus on the task/event/discussion. Not me.”
However, black now is something I wear to enhance who I am rather than hide. It is my badge instead of my uniform.
17. What do you believe in?
Kindness, fun and love.
18. What do you want to be remembered for?
For being able to see beauty. For believing in people. For being able to love, despite differences.
19. What’s the one thing that people misunderstand about you?!
That because I’m good-natured, that I’m a not a fierce crazy woman. I’m polite because I choose to be.
20. What do you wish someone would ask you?
If I would like a million dollars – legally, with no strings attached.