Ellie Jayne Kelleher, 24, grew up on a council estate in Cardiff and says it helped her become a successful model travelling the world. Ellie was raised by her dad in Fairwater and lived there until she moved to London at the age of 18.
She left education early as she didn’t know what career she wanted to pursue and craved independency. As she entered the world of work, Ellie had jobs in call centres and retail companies but, having been scouted when she was 15, a career in modelling had always been on her mind — she just didn’t think it was a feasible career path living in Cardiff.
Ellie said: “Jobs like modelling… you don’t think they’re real living in Cardiff. If you want to be a fashion stylist or a model or an actor, you just don’t think it could happen.”
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After doing freelance model work for photographers and brands in Cardiff, Ellie and her boyfriend moved to London in the hopes of continuing in the industry. That didn’t happen right away for Ellie, who worked as a hairdresser’s assistant for six months before being signed to the J’adore modelling agency in 2018.
Ellie’s first big client was Asos and she has since worked for brands such as Charlotte Tilbury, Boohoo, Jack Wills, JD and New Look. She has shot several campaigns and featured on billboards around the world.
The financial change for Ellie was something she had to learn to adjust to. She said: “In my first year with modelling, it was crazy going from being an assistant hairdresser to making over £100,000 in the first year. It’s a bit of a difference and learning to manage money was crazy.”
Since working as a model in places such as London, LA and South Africa, she has noticed how her background on a council estate in west Cardiff has shaped the person she is and the way she works. Surrounded by other models who mostly come from more privileged and affluent lifestyles, Ellie believes that her background has only made her a better model and person in general.
She says: “When you’re on set, you can normally tell what type of background people have come from because they’re used to living that privileged life. Coming from where I have come from, I am hungry for what I want so I’m always the person who is early to set.
“What has also got me far is genuinely being nice to work with. Because I’ve done hairdressing, I’ve been on the other side of working with clients. I want to be easy to work with but there are models that are used to getting the princess treatment. And obviously, I’m just so scared of it being taken away so do definitely think [being from Cardiff] has made like my character.”
Ellie enjoys both aspects of her job, as a model and as an influencer on social media. For aspiring models, Ellie has shared her tips and advice to get into the modelling industry and how to make your mark:
- Always be authentic
- Always be kind and try your best to be positive
- Keep going and don’t give up
- Make sure you look after your mental health
- Treat your body like an athlete
Meet your agents and build a friendship with them
Treat your social media accounts like a CV, don’t post anything a modelling agency would frown upon
Beware of scams. Check the photographer/agents credentials, take family/friends to set with you to make you feel more safe and you should never have to pay for an agency to represent you or meet with you
Ellie loves her job as a model. She said: “I’m so grateful that I can do this full time and I love my job and that I get to be creative and make other people’s visions come to life, as well as playing dress-up every day and that not one day is the same on set.”