PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 July 2015
From childhood tomboy to playing Audrey Hepburn, it's been an amazing few years for Cromer's teenage model Ellie Burton, as Angi Kennedy reports.
Ellie Burton tucks into a plate of fish and chips in the busy Upstairs at No 1 restaurant of Michelin Star chef Galton Blackiston, overlooking the sea at Cromer. Fresh faced and make-up free, the 18-year-old is laughing as she talks about her latest job. But as she shares stories of dodging the paparazzi and mixing with some of the biggest names in the business, it becomes clear this is no ordinary teenager discussing a summer job.
For the past few years, former Aylsham High School student Ellie’s world has been in front of the camera as she develops her reputation across the UK and Europe as a hardworking, adaptable and very photogenic young model. She has already appeared in Vogue three times, been photographed by Rankin and played one of the most beautiful women in the world, Audrey Hepburn! The latter was for the TV commercial for Galaxy, in which the young Audrey is seen alighting from a coach to join a handsome chap in his open-topped car, so that she can enjoy her chocolate bar in style.
Lifting the lid on filming the advert, Ellie reveals it wasn’t as glamorous as the end result portrays: “There were three of us; two got flown to Italy for filming and one had to stay in London - and guess who that one was! I got the big warehouse in Greenwich in January, where I had to climb in and out of the bus and car. It is just my body, not my face - that’s all CGI’d together with original footage of Audrey Hepburn and the others too. It was two days of shooting and I did the stills as well, with the photographer Mary McCartney (Paul and Linda McCartney’s daughter).”
If Ellie talks about her work with the air of a time-served model, it is because she already has six years’ experience in what can be a punishing business. Her mother, Debbie Parry, encouraged her to join the Norwich and London-based Sandra Reynolds model agency when she was 11 to boost her confidence after being bullied at a previous school. Her first shoot, as Ellie explains, was with Matt Keal, who is photographing her today for our magazine shoot on Cromer beach and seafront.
“I did my first shoot at 12, with Matt for Chapelfield for their summer campaign. I thought it was so exciting. I had met the Sandra Reynolds team and they had done some test shots, then two or three weeks later I’d got a letter saying I was going to be on their books.
“I didn’t want to do modelling at first. People kept telling my mum to get me into modelling but I was such a tomboy when I was young - I grew up with three brothers, so I wasn’t used to that sort of thing. In the end I said ‘Yes, fine, let’s do it’ just to stop people mentioning it. I was so nervous that they would reject me when I went for the shoot - but they didn’t, which was lovely.
“After Chapelfield I did the Marks and Spencer shoot and it has developed from there.”
After high school, Ellie and a photographer friend, Camilla Felgate, who had taken pictures of the young model for her portfolio, travelled to London where she was taken on by Profile Model Management, which Sandra Reynolds collaborates with.
“The problem is that I am 5ft 6ins, and the minimum height to be a model is 5ft 8ins, so I knew it was going to hard to crack it,” says Ellie. But although her height might hinder her on the catwalk, she has been in demand for TV and print campaigns - from pictures by international fashion photographer Max Leibenstein, and British portrait and fashion photographer Rankin - which made the cover of his Hunger magazine - to a large production shot in Prague to promote Camay, which is coming out in America and Asia this month and in England next year.
“I also joined a Paris agency and spent three months in Milan, and I have been in Vogue Italia twice and in Vogue China. Last month I did a Garnier commercial in Paris. I’ve had some amazing jobs and I do love it, but sometimes I won’t see daylight for three or four days.
“It doesn’t feel like it is me when I am modelling. I have so much hair and make-up done, and I will be concentrating on putting across a particular look,” says Ellie. “My mum has come with me to the shoots and she’s completely unfazed by it all - she will sit and read a book, while people like Kate Moss walk by. I did a shoot with Georgia May Jagger and the paparazzi were snapping away - at her, not me! It’s so different life here in Cromer.
“I was born in Norfolk and grew up here and went to school here. It is always going to be home and I will always come back here. I have a handful of really good friends here who are always there for me, and of course my family is right here.
“I love the beach - it is the one thing I really miss; the smell of the sea in the air, and the sound and feel of the water. It is a breath of fresh air to me whenever I come home.”