We sit down with our new golden girl, Miss Universe Australia winner Olivia Rogers, to chat about her big win, leaving home, and the pitfalls of fame…
Beautiful, driven, super smart and funny, Olivia Rogers is the total package – however life for the new Miss Universe Australia has been a bit of a rollercoaster. There have been lots of highs – being crowned in June this year is obviously up there, as is her new role as the official ambassador for this year’s People’s Choice Undies Run for bowel cancer, and of course as ambassador for the Adelaide Crows – but there have also been some life-changing lows, and she’s happy to talk about them.
“I would never want anyone to go through what I went through,” she tells me. We’re on location for our fashion shoot at a grand old home in Melbourne’s South Yarra – think picture windows, perfectly manicured gardens and rooms decorated with priceless artworks and antiques. Olivia is sitting in the makeup chair as a team of stylists add the finishing touches. She’s casual in black jeans and a black t-shirt; there are no airs or graces, just a girl from Adelaide who, after years spent battling depression and grappling with the pressures to conform to the stereotypical ‘model’ image, has landed on her feet.
Above: Scanlan Theodore bralette $120; Scanlan Theodore shorts $240; Lovisa necklace $17.99
“I’m much healthier and happier now than I was before,” she says, gesturing to her well-publicised battles. “I’m eating more than ever and just enjoying exercise and life, which is a much better way to be. Mental illness and positive body image are two things that are really important to me, and talking about them is definitely going to be one of the big things
that I speak out about.”
This new platform, made possible thanks to her Miss Universe Australia win, is giving the former speech pathologist a voice, and confidence that she never knew she had. She is quick to admit that ‘fitting in’ has always been a struggle, and that the pressures that come with this fiercely competitive, but utterly addictive industry, are immense. It’s enough to send a softly spoken 25-year-old into meltdown, and it nearly did.
Scouted at the age of 17, modelling was initially a part-time job for Olivia, seeing her through her final year of school at Seymour College and her first year of speech pathology at Flinders University. Then there was the move to Sydney, where agency pressures saw her weight plummet. “It was a horrible time, it’s just absolutely not worth it,” she says, and so she came home, back to her studies and her mum’s place in Beaumont.
Back on home turf Olivia continued working, but this time she did it on her terms, representing herself and being selective with assignments. She also finished her degree, before doing a stint as a qualified speech pathologist in primary schools around Adelaide. “I absolutely loved it,” she says of her time spent working with the kids. “I got to take them from their classrooms and play on iPad’s. I was pretty popular!”
Above: Scanlan Theordore dress $500; Mimco loafers $199
“I worked for a year,” she says. “That was always the plan, I wanted to complete a whole year before moving interstate.” But it was love, not modelling, that eventually swayed her to part ways with SA and move over the border. “Andrew and I met on Tinder,” she laughs.
“I came over to Melbourne for a photoshoot and we started chatting, he then messaged to tell me he was coming to Adelaide to visit his cousin. He started coming over quite regularly after that – everyone thought he must have really liked his cousin!”
The loved-up couple did the long-distance thing for 14 months and, ironically, Olivia had already planned to move to Melbourne to be closer to Andrew well before her pageant win. “I was a late entry into Miss Universe so the move had already been planned, then when I got through to the state finals and moved everyone was confused as I was living in
Victoria but representing South Australia!”
Above: Witchery dress $159.95
Since then it’s been a busy few months – Olivia took the title back in June and has been flitting between television appearances and photoshoots ever since. “I’ve been so busy
that I haven’t even had time to digest is yet,” she says, “I’m literally waking up every day and thinking, did that actually happen!”
If past winners’ experiences are anything to go by the lucrative endorsements, offers and contracts won’t be far off either. “Jen Hawkins and Jesinta Campbell are both huge inspirations to me,” she says of her predecessors. “They’ve both really made the most out of every opportunity since winning, and they both promote really healthy, happy lifestyles” – something Olivia also hopes to achieve.
“I didn’t really know much about Miss Universe before all of this,” she says, “actually, it was never really on my radar because I thought it would just be really superficial and that
I wouldn’t be able to be myself.” Given her past struggles, she was cautious and found out as much as she could before committing. Thanks to new pageant owners (it was previously owned by Donald Trump), there had been a change in tac with a new focus on intelligence and personality over beauty. “It’s not just about being a Barbie doll, it’s about having a brain and a personality – they’re also really accepting of different cultures and different bodies.”
This sits well with Olivia, who hopes to use her new-found fame to reach out to other young girls who might be struggling, just as she was back in Sydney. “I’ve already had some girls say how grateful they are that I have been open about everything,” she says, “which just encourages me to keep going.