The Daily Mail (London, England), Oct 14, 2009
Byline: by Patrice Harrington
YESTERDAY was her 20th birthday, but quirky model Carrie-Anne Burton from Co. Down has already experienced winning a reality TV show, parental break-up, teenage troublemaking, unplanned pregnancy, epidural-free labour and the ongoing dilemma of how to juggle motherhood with her promising career.
Posing for photographers in Irish designer Peter O’Brien’s elegant new collection for A|wear — which goes on sale in stores this Saturday at 9am — the first thing you notice is a waist so tiny it is almost impossible to believe she gave birth to her son Maximus just three months ago.
Later she will explain how she didn’t realise she was pregnant until almost four months had passed, because her tummy was still as flat as a ballet pump (small wonder the teenager was ‘freaked out’ at the news).
Peter O’Brien knew he wanted to work with Carrie-Anne when he saw her on RTE’s The Model Agent earlier this year. The show followed top British model scout Ellis — and her most famous ‘find’ Erin O’Connor — as they trailed through Ireland in search of 12 girls with supermodel potential.
Carrie-Anne infamously announced her pregnancy during the final stages of the competition but still went on to win, much to her own amazement.
‘I just thought she was streets ahead of all the other girls,’ says O’Brien. ‘The rest were very pretty girls, but Carrie-Anne is a chameleon.’ Startling blue eyes, razor-sharp cheekbones, strong eyebrows, an expressive mouth — her unconventional beauty meant she saw herself as ‘the lanky one with the big ears’ as a child. She rejected her otherworldly appearance and made a rather drastic effort to fit in.
‘When I was about 15, I dyed my hair bleach blonde and shaved off my eyebrows and drew in little fine ones to go with the hair. I bought bottles of fake tan and plastered them all over myself, along with make-up.
‘After a while, I just thought, “Why?” Then I went back and just accepted me. I took off the fake tan, let my hair grow back to its natural colour and dressed the way I wanted to dress. That’s when I started getting noticed and people started mentioning modelling to me.’ Carrie-Anne was chosen as the Face of DV8 clothing store in 2008 and was signed by a modelling agency in Northern Ireland who encouraged her to audition for The Model Agent. She was chosen straight away and was an early frontrunner.
‘I had no idea I was pregnant. It was mad. I didn’t put on any weight at all. My bump didn’t show until the last few months. I was three or four months pregnant when I found out and we were in the middle of filming. I got the shock of my life,’ she admits.
‘I thought: “Is this going to jeopardise my place in the competition?” I knew it was in Ireland and not in the North so I pictured all the Catholic families thinking it was a disgrace. There’s this stereotype of nuns and stuff in the South. But it was fine. Everyone was dead on.
‘My mum is Catholic and she was fine, it was more my dad I was worried about because I’m not his innocent little girl anymore. But he was great.’ Carrie-Anne’s parents are divorced and her dad is remarried with a second family. ‘He lives about an hour away and his daughter is only two-and-a-half but she’s Max’s Auntie Lily,’ giggles Carrie-Anne.
‘Mum hasn’t met anyone new yet but she’s happy as she is now. She’s got her new grandson to keep her occupied. She lives only five minutes away from us so we’re very lucky.’ Carrie-Anne has bittersweet memories of growing up in Downpatrick. ‘It’s a small town, it’s not too bad. There’s a cinema now — wahoo! There’s not much to do, basically. Before the cinema came there was nothing for any young people to do except doss about and get into trouble.’ Did she get into trouble? ‘Slightly. Och, it was just being influenced by stuff, you know. I started off in school quite good, top results and stuff. But then after a while I just gave up. I went down the bad road for a wee while. I think most people do. You need to, in order to learn and turn yourself around. Och, like every teenager has their bad moments. I was getting in trouble in school and coming home and Mum would be standing there and I just knew the school had phoned or the neighbours had heard something or seen something.
‘My mum would say, “Thingy saw you do this” and she grounded me once for a week. I waited until she was in bed and then I got out the window and still went out with my mates. But then a neighbour saw me jumping out the window one night. Just the normal stuff. I did have a kind of wild streak in me but that’s well and truly over now. I used to go down to the bars and have a few pints. But there’s nothing to do in the town. There are more bars than there are bloody people.’ But if it weren’t for the pubs, she may not have met her partner Darrell, 29.
‘He’s a barman and I was in his bar having my usual afternoon beverage of a nice pint of Carlsberg,’ she grins.
It is difficult to imagine such a slight young woman downing pints. Would she not get drunk after just one? ‘Well, before I got pregnant — because obviously I haven’t drunk in ages — it took quite a bit to get me drunk, actually. Four or five and I might have a wee Jagermeister in between. I can’t even remember, it’s been that bloody long. The first time I had a drink after Maximus was two months later. I went out and it didn’t take that much to get me drunk. But it was lovely just to get that taste of beer. It was like: “I missed you!” ‘ They say that having a baby puts pressure on couples — how have she and Darrell coped? ‘Having a baby does strain a relationship in the beginning, I’m not going to lie,’ she says, with refreshing candour.
‘There’s tension because of the lack of sleep. If you don’t sleep for ages you feel sad and down. And he’s not going through it the way you’re going through it. You’re doing the whole breastfeeding and everything. Darrell was very understanding, he was very good but you do bicker a lot more than usual because of the tiredness for the first few weeks. But things are easier now that Maximus is a bit older. Me and Darrell have a very good relationship.’ Her dependable partner is taking care of Maximus while she is working in Dublin.
‘I would never leave Max with a nanny or a childminder or someone I didn’t know. Not at the moment, he’s too young. I don’t actually feel that bad leaving him because he’s constantly surrounded by people like my mum who know him best and know his wee routine and stuff. I miss him but I know he’s in good hands. He’s with his daddy so he’s grand,’ she says, admitting that juggling work and motherhood is tough.
‘I’m going to London on Thursday for two weeks and I am going to miss him. It’s going to be hard. But he’s better off at home while I go away. It definitely wouldn’t be practical to bring him on jobs. You couldn’t concentrate on your job and look after a wee baby. They need constant attention. It really is a full time job on its own. Maybe when he’s a bit older,’ she muses.
As part of her prize for winning the Model Agent, Carrie-Anne was signed to Tess Management, formerly known as Independent, in London, who represent top models like Naomi Campbell, Lizzie Jagger and Liz Hurley.
‘I’m going over to go to the agency and they’re going to basically get my face out there with castings, clients, hairdressers, photographers — all the big ones. I am excited but I’m nervous too in case I go over and they’re all like, “No, no, no, no.” But we’ll see. Apparently it just takes one person to mention your name and that’s you sorted.’ She seems remarkably unfazed the cut-throat nature of the fashion world and has hopes of modelling for the rest of her life.
‘The industry is a bit notorious for being bitchy but Ellis and Erin were brilliant mentors, you couldn’t ask for better. They’re such nice, genuine people. And it’s in the agency’s interests for you to succeed, too. I’m wise enough to handle whatever is thrown at me. I don’t expect it to be easy, but I’m willing to work hard at it and having Max will help me keep my feet on the ground. I know your looks only last so long, but as long as you take care of yourself there is modelling work out there no matter what stage in life you’re at. I have my A-levels but I would hope to continue to work as a model for as long as possible.’ Well, the agency can’t fail to be impressed by her post-baby physique — how on earth did she do it so quickly? ‘I was really thin beforehand, I literally had a small, wee bump. I put on a lot of weight on my bum, actually, I’ve a few stretch marks on my bum but I think they’re fading so I’m not too worried about that.
‘I’ve actually been so lucky. The breastfeeding really helps. As long as you eat really well, the weight just goes. I didn’t have any exercise or gym but I did eat healthily, I cut down on the crap, just to try and get back quickly enough. I’ve always been lucky in that respect. My mum is thin and my daddy’s lanky and skinny. And everyone says when you’re young and you have a baby it’s a completely different story than if you have it ten years later.’ Carrie-Anne breastfed for three weeks until she had to prepare to get back to work.
‘I started working about a month after Max was born. I did the shoot for A|wear and some other bits and pieces in the North. We were really lucky because he loved the bottle straight away. Now I feel like three months on I can go back properly to work.’ At least now she looks forward to photoshoots. When she won The Model Agent, Carrie-Anne had just a month to go until Max was born and was unsurprisingly self-conscious before the cameras.
‘I don’t know any woman who would feel comfortable posing for photographers in their last stages of pregnancy because I know I didn’t. I just felt yuck and really paranoid,’ she grimaces.
‘I was so far along I was practically giving birth so I had other things on my mind.
‘The baby came on July 5. I went in at five o’clock that morning and he was born at two minutes past eight in the evening. It flew in, it wasn’t that long at all. The Ulster maternity hospital was really nice. You’ve got your own room, your own bath, Sky TV, your own birthing pool — and it’s all free with the NHS.
‘I tried the birthing pool but it wasn’t for me. You need to be up and walking because of the pain. I didn’t want an epidural,’ she scoffs.
‘Giving birth is a natural thing to do and they didn’t have any of these things a 100 years ago. I didn’t want anything to interfere with the birth. He was 6lbs 4oz.
‘Fair enough, I’ve never experienced pain like it before, but it was good pain. I found giving birth a really peaceful, nice experience. I’m weird like that,’ she giggles.
‘I was told to go to antenatal classes but I didn’t bother. It’s not me, sitting there on a beanbag in a group of strangers. I was quite scared when I went into labour but then I just thought: “This is my experience, I’ll make it my own.” ‘ It is the same attitude that helped her to win a modelling competition despite being pregnant.
And if she applies the same mantra to her London debut, this won’t be the last we’ll hear of Carrie-Anne Burton.