'It’s a real story of bouncing back from adversity': 43-year-old mum of two hopes to win TopModel 2019 competition final

Fiona Harrington on the catwalk.
Fiona Harrington on the catwalk.

A teacher is hoping an outfit created by fashion lecturers at The Northern School of Art's Hartlepool campus will help her clinch the top spot in a prestigious national modelling competition.

Fiona Harrington approached the team behind the school’s BA (Hons) Fashion with Body Contour degree course for help in creating a costume to make her stand-out when she found out that she’d reached the final of the 2019 TopModel competition.

Fiona Harrington at last years TopModel competition.

Fiona Harrington at last years TopModel competition.

The 43-year-old Billingham mum of two, who teaches full-time at a Middlesbrough secondary school, has her heart set on winning this year’s contest having narrowly lost out last year, so contacted The Northern School of Art’s fashion specialists to ask if they had a knock-out design that could help make the difference in the ‘self-style’ round of the event.

Dr Carol Harris, who leads the school’s fashion department at the Hartlepool campus, said the team were only too happy to support Fiona.

“We put our heads together and came up with something we thought would be just right for Fiona and that also shows off all the skills we teach on the programme.

“We’re keeping the details under wraps until after Fiona’s worn it in the final but it looks absolutely stunning on her.”

Fiona Harrington on the catwalk.

Fiona Harrington on the catwalk.

Fiona is thrilled with the design, saying: “I wanted to showcase the talent there is in the North East which is why I approached the school and I am so happy with what they have created. It’s absolutely perfect and just what I wanted.”

The Trinity Catholic College business teacher hit the headlines when she made the Top Model final in 2018 with the story behind her bid to get in front of the cameras.

“It’s a real story of bouncing back from adversity,” she explained. “When I was 15 I had the chance to model for a top London agency but didn’t take the offer up after being taunted at school, which as a youngster was difficult to deal with.

“Then at the age of 42 my husband left and I thought about it again. I also lost three stone in weight and I wanted to have no regrets in life so I thought if I don’t try now then I will never do it, so I gave it a go.

From left, Fiona Harrington with Dr Carol Harris, Karen Peacock and Alison Hudson from the School's Fashion with Body Contour degree programme, Picture credit: The Northern School of Art, Russ Norman.

From left, Fiona Harrington with Dr Carol Harris, Karen Peacock and Alison Hudson from the School's Fashion with Body Contour degree programme, Picture credit: The Northern School of Art, Russ Norman.

"I went to London and gained an excellent portfolio and a modelling business card from an agency and entered lots of competitions and was successful in being offered fashion show and other modelling opportunities.

“Each fashion show I did led to something else and I have been in many fashion shows and photo shoots over the past year as well as the success of once again gaining a place in the final of TopModel in 2019. Winners from this high profile competition have ended up in the likes of Vogue and walked at London Fashion week.

“In my normal everyday life I am a teacher, but in my spare time I’ve been networking and gaining more and more modelling work as well as getting on the books of both London and Birmingham agencies.

“I’m forever telling my students to always go for their dreams, and not to think they can’t achieve what they set their mind to. If I can do it, so can they. Some of the people who originally taunted me are very positive about my achievements now so the tables can always turn.”

Fiona has the full support of her children Lauren, 22, and Rees, 18, and her parents who started her on her journey. “I still remember the night before I was due to go to London and my mam came into the bedroom and said, ‘Please go tomorrow it will be a fabulous opportunity for you’ and I remember being upset and refusing.

“From that day I regretted it and knew one day I needed to put it right so I am so glad I have been able to do that now. They are so proud to have seen me walk the catwalk and they now have my photos from shoots all over their front room.”

Carol Harris added: “The Northern School of Art’s fashion team are all rooting for Fiona, she’s a real inspiration and her attitude and spirit are amazing. Fingers crossed the outfit will help her towards a win this year – she really deserves it.”

The over 25s category final of TopModel 2019 takes place in London on Saturday March 23. As part of the competition one of the rounds is to raise funds for the charity Children with Cancer. To make a donation and vote for Fiona visit www.topmodel2019everydayhero.com

The Northern School of Art is holding open days at its Hartlepool campus on Saturday, March 23, Saturday, June 8, and Thursday, July 4.