Samantha Harris has spent two decades as one of Australia’s top models, and yet remains as down to earth as ever. To wit – up she pops on Zoom a couple of minutes early, still in active wear, without a trace of makeup (though skin and smile as gorgeous as you’d expect), dealing with her joyfully exuberant puppy, Anubis. When his excitement eventually proves a little noisy, she sweetly but firmly squirrels him away into another room, unfazed by the interruption to her flow, but also keen to get on with the task at hand. When we last interviewed Sam, she was about to turn 24, and even at such a young age was already celebrating ten successful years in a notoriously difficult industry. Now, at 31, we explored the ways her career, beauty routine and outlook on life have evolved, and found a woman who is professional and focused, while also very much at peace.

“I grew up in Tweed Heads, on the Queensland/New South Wales border, with my parents and two brothers. My mum also raised my two cousins, and my older brother lived at home with his girlfriend and their kids, so it was a pretty big family and we were all together in a three bedroom house.

I had a really normal childhood, just going to school and spending time at the beach, until I was 13 and ended up as a finalist in the Girlfriend modelling competition. I quickly had to get used to being away from home and being away from my mum, which was hard as we were so close. When I went to Sydney to work during the school holidays, I’d stay in the head of my agency’s house, and being in that family environment definitely made it easier. I think if you get the opportunity to do something you really want to do, you figure out a way to get there and just keep going, even if it’s difficult.

I met my now-husband Luke just after high school, so we’ve been together now for fourteen years, and have been married for seven. 

Some people like to share everything and it works really well for them, but there are certain parts of my life that are so special to me that I do like to keep them private when I can. I don’t think there’s much middle ground with social media – it’s sort of easier to share everything or nothing, but I try to find some sort of in between. I do like to share my work, and that’s really what I have my social account for, especially to bring some attention to the charities I work for.

Of course, the pandemic has affected everyone’s lives and their jobs. I’ve been lucky to work with brands entirely online, which was quite cool and nice for a change. Our whole industry was affected by COVID, so I do feel grateful for this new way I was able to work.

Black Lives Matter is a great movement, but it’s a tragedy that a death had to happen for it to come about.

It’s a very important movement, so to disregard it because it maybe feels like ‘oh well, it’s been talked about’ defeats its whole purpose, which is to keep up the conversation. We all need to keep it relevant, keep talking about it, keep people thinking about it. If I can use my platform to help do that, then I am glad to.

I’m not a huge reality TV person, but I do think Brooke Blurton being the first indigenous, bisexual person on The Bachelor franchise earlier this year shows that Australia is slowly moving forward.

We are a multicultural country, we are many different colours, and it’s great to see people on TV who look like me. Her presence this season added a bit more depth to the reality genre, and most importantly, it really generated conversation. Within our indigenous culture, there are so many tribes – there are people from the desert, from the coastline, and we are all very different. It’s important for all of us to never stop learning.

I’m glad to say my career is still really busy, and I do have more freedom now to do the sort of work I really care about.

I am deeply passionate about the charity work I have the chance to do now, like my ambassadorships with World Vision and the World Wildlife Fund, and speaking to kids in schools. I have a real sense of having my own agency in what I choose to do, and it keeps evolving.

I still have so much fun with my work, too. I’m quite shy naturally, but modelling has become second nature to me, so there’s part of me that’s absolutely in my element doing it.  I definitely still love getting my makeup done, even after all these years. There’s honestly not really anything I dislike about modelling. Well… I guess really early call times. And shooting summer fashion in the middle of winter is never my favourite!

When I’m not working, my style really depends on where I’m going.

I mean, if it’s just a home day or I’m popping to the shops, I’m very casual. Mum and I did a shoot last year for Mothers Day with Camilla, and they sent me all these beautiful outfits, which are amazing if I’m going somewhere special. I’m pretty much entirely on and all dressed up or entirely off and just in shorts, haha. For great basics, my go-tos are Witchery and Country Road. I do like a designer bag, which helps you dress up whatever else you’re wearing without looking overdone.

I have always loved skincare; it’s my thing.

In the mornings, my routine is pretty boring, though. I don’t properly cleanse because I’ve done it the night before, so I just wet a microfibre pad with water and sweep that over to freshen up. Then I apply my eye cream, which is Biologi’s Bk Vitamin C Face & Eye Serum. For the rest of my face, I switch between three different Biologi serums – Bf Face & Body Serum for its anti-aging properties, Bd Luminosity Serum for hydration or the morning serum that’s part of the Bqk Radiance Duo, for brightening.

At night, I cleanse with the Biologi Bc Refresh Cleanser. I like to use the Frank Body Original Face Scrub once or twice a week, to properly get all the dead skin off, which sounds pretty gross but it’s important! Then I finish off with an oil rather than a night cream. I’m fairly gentle in my approach to my skin, and don’t go nuts with things like retinoids. I never want anything too harsh…. partly because I can’t afford the down time.

I was into makeup before I even started modelling, though I wasn’t so much about the natural look back then! My mum loves makeup too, and she used to do mine for pageants when I was a kid, so we’ve always bonded over that.

I have different foundations I like depending on what I’m doing that day. If I’m just ducking down to the shops, I like The Ordinary Serum Foundation to even things out and give a little bit of coverage. If I’m going out somewhere a bit fancy, then Dior Backstage Face & Body Foundation in shade 4N is one of my favourites. I also really like the Dior Backstage Face & Body Powder-No-Powder. It’s a lightweight pressed power, and it’s not heavy – it’s so good. Dior gifted it to me, and I didn’t think they’d have huge colour range in Australia, but they even had a powder in a shade that was too dark for me! I gave it to Mum and it was perfect for her. We both like that you can build it, and even if you do, it doesn’t get cakey.

The only mascara I ever use is Eye of Horus Goddess Mascara – I look like I only have two eyelashes if I use any other one! I also like their Duo Essential Palette, and pop the bronzer on my eyes to define the crease, then the highlighter in the inner corner, and I’m done. It’s just quick and easy. I use Ere Perez Annika Concealer in Brew, which is vegan. For lips, I am a gloss girl, and usually just like a plain gloss. I love Lanolips. When they did a collaboration with One Teaspoon they sent it to me and it added just a little bit of colour and felt so nice on [Ed note: this was limited edition and is no longer available, but you can try their latest collaboration with Zimmerman for a similar finish.] 

I’m not a makeup artist by any means, but constantly being in an expert’s chair has really allowed me to perfect some of their techniques when I go to do it myself. Generally, the more OTT makeup looks aren’t my cup of tea, but equally, someone else might not like the more natural looks I go for. I think makeup is a great way to express yourself, to experiment, and to do whatever makes you happy.

One of my favourite tips that I still use is grooming your eyebrows with hairspray. You just spray a little product on your finger and smooth it over your brows for shine and hold. I’m also grateful that I have learned to be able to pick the right foundations for me by looking for red undertones, so I can avoid any ashiness.

I try and look after my hair as well as I can, as it’s always getting styled for work. I’m definitely more conscious of the toll that takes on my hair than I was when I was younger, so that means keeping it as simple as possible at home.

I have been using the NAK Signature range lately, which really suits my fine hair, and I like that it’s vegan. In terms of tools, a few months ago I did a job with Dyson, and that blowdryer really is amazing – it uses so much less heat than others do.

I recently got my hair done at Acadèmie Salon at Annandale, and loved it. Generally I go to a salon ‘at home’ here in the Northern Beaches, Robertson Kirkwood, for ballyage and trims. I have been going there forever.

Every so often, I’ll go to another place here in the Northern Beaches, Cryo, and go into a chamber and get frozen! I find it good for circulation, and it’s meant to be good for your skin and bone health.

They also do Glow Facial Treatments using cold air, which feels amazing and helps reduce pigmentation. Like the name says, I just leave glowing after having one of those. I try to visit every three weeks.

It’s great that beauty is becoming about more than just what you wear on your face, and  that we’re considering how important it is to look after your body from within, and to look at wellness more wholistically.

Even though my days can be pretty different, every morning Luke and I start with ‘our drinks’ – we both have warm lemon water, then coffee and then we take our collagen. Supplements have become a busy space these days, and it can be hard to tell what you might want to take and which brand to trust. I followed Locako for quite a while and tested the products myself before I came on board to work with them. I like being able to work with smaller Australian companies to help get them noticed and make sure they’re not overlooked. I also think it’s really cool that they use native Australian ingredients, like finger lime and Kakadu plum.

If a shoot day for me is starting at 8 or 8.30, I’ll be up at 4.30 and get ready for the day, then I’ll take the dog for a big walk for an hour or so before I head off. If it’s not a shoot day, aka a ‘lazy day’, we might start with our drinks and our walk, then a swim, home for brekky and then we might go and train together at the gym a bit later.

I don’t think about exercise or supplements or diet the same way I might have thought when I was ten years  younger, like ‘how will this make me look?’ Instead, I am very much focused on my overall health in my mind, body and soul, and how what I do will make me feel. 

In my early twenties, I was always on the treadmill, thinking ‘gotta lose weight’, ‘gotta burn calories’. It’s worlds away from how I think of exercise now. I like to do all different forms, to keep it fun, and it’s become really important to me. I know I always feel better after doing it. I guess it’s about the whole lifestyle, isn’t it? When you move well and eat well, it helps you to feel positive. I don’t do any of this just to look a certain way… that would drive me mad. I am all for healthy eating, and not being too restrictive. I mean, we know sugar isn’t great in huge amounts, but no food is ‘bad’. Everything in moderation! I try to focus on nourishing myself and remember that food is meant to be enjoyed.

I certainly become more confident within myself the older I get. When I was younger, I used to hear people who were older than me say, ‘this is me, love me or hate me’, and now I totally get that.

I do think it’s important to make time for the things you get a lot out of, but also to think about what really makes you feel good, including proper relaxation.

My days tend to either be super busy, or there’s a lot of down time, so I know that temptation to be doing ‘all the things’ instead of letting yourself have an actual break. Having said that, there’s no better feeling than when you’ve cleaned your whole house and can look around and just go ‘look at how clean this is’, haha! I love time to just be pottering around, doing chores, walking the dog, enjoying the simple things. I really appreciate that.”

Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Photography by Camilla Quiddington. Hair and Makeup by Melanie Burnicle

Samantha has paid relationships with Lokaco and Dyson.

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