Abi Grigsby, a model of exquisite beauty, charm, and ethereal grace, has firmly established herself as a tireless trailblazer within the industry. Her journey into modeling began through a unique avenue – beauty pageants. In a remarkable turn of events, Abi’s entry into the modeling realm unfolded with the Top Model of the World Philippines pageant back in 2016, a mere two weeks after receiving the invitation. The urgency arose from the pageant requiring a specific number of participants to proceed. Acting on the director’s invitation, Abi courageously stepped onto the stage and, against all odds, secured the title of second runner-up. This achievement was profoundly surprising, considering her complete lack of prior pageant experience, placing her among the elite Top 5 contestants.
In the subsequent year, Abi’s journey continued with her participation in the “Mutya Ng Pilipinas Australia” (Pearl of Australia) beauty pageant. This pivotal decision not only granted her exposure but also catalyzed her interaction with a plethora of photographers who would become her steadfast collaborators. This unique platform, along with her international competitions, introduced her to an array of modeling agencies and photographers, enriching her network and broadening her horizons. In 2017, Abi’s remarkable odyssey led her to the Miss International Australia pageant, where she achieved the prestigious title of Second Runner Up, concurrently earning the coveted Miss Model of the World Title. Her incredible journey continued as she graced the stage of the Miss Teen Universe Australia pageant in December of the same year, solidifying her reputation as a dynamic force in the industry.
Throughout these remarkable ventures, Abi forged invaluable connections within the creative sphere. Photographers seeking fresh and inspiring subjects found her, while makeup artists recognized her as a canvas for honing their craft. These relationships burgeoned organically, eventually weaving a dynamic network forming the backbone of her success. Abi Grigsby’s trajectory from unexpected pageant entry to a thriving presence in the modeling world is a testament to her unwavering dedication, undeniable talent, and the transformative power of seizing opportunities.
StarCentral magazine recently had the opportunity to connect with Abi to delve into her voyage within the modeling realm, and here’s a glimpse into the conversation:
Can you tell us about your journey into the modeling industry and how you got started with beauty pageants?
My journey in the modelling industry has honestly been a lot of fun, I’ve had the chance to travel quite consistently, meet so many creative people, and form strong friendships. And I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon!
My interest in beauty pageants came from my mother’s Filipino heritage. As a teenager, I started to take an interest in my heritage; I began researching Philippine history and began traveling to the Philippines more consistently with my mum. There, I fully immersed myself in true Philippine culture, and I quickly learned that beauty pageants were one of the country’s biggest cultural traditions. This sparked my interest in joining one, as beauty pageants aren’t really heard of in Australia and are not popular here. After entering my first few pageants, I expanded my network to various photographers and designers in Melbourne. From there, I was quickly able to build up a portfolio, which led to more work in the industry and led me to where I am now!
What was it like competing in the Top Model of the World Philippines pageant on such short notice, and how did it shape your career in modeling?
It certainly felt daunting knowing I was finally in a pageant but with zero experience. I was competing against girls at both a national and international level! But even though I didn’t feel prepared, I was certainly more than ready to walk on that big stage finally. The nerves were unlike anything I’d ever felt, and I haven’t felt anything like that since. I wanted to turn around and go back to the car, but I knew there was no turning back. Once the show was over, I felt relieved and so happy that I finished as Second Runner up. I was competing again 15 other girls, and the winner was a 27-year-old professional model from California. For me to have finished just under her, at 17 years old with no experience on any stage, made me feel like I could keep going and go far one day.
You mentioned gaining exposure in the modeling industry through the “Mutya Ng Pilipinas Australia” pageant. How did this opportunity open doors for you and lead to collaborations with photographers and agencies?
This opportunity leads me to compete in my first international pageant in the Philippines, this at the time being my third pageant ever.
A lot of the creative media and talent in Melbourne I discovered are made up of Filipinos, and a lot of them were, whether active or inactive, in the Mutya Ng Pilipinas pageant here. There were many creatives who attended the pageant as a guest who soon made contact with me after I won the pageant to do collaborations and photoshoots. The work from there on because entirely consistent as my profile began to grow, and I’ve been keeping at it ever since.
Competing overseas and participating in various pageants must have been quite an experience. How did these international competitions impact your modeling career?
These international pageants certainly made an impact on my modelling career; not only did they give me more confidence, but I found myself meeting creatives from all around the world. This allowed me to further my pageantry by being given the chance to be Miss Australia in various international pageants and meet other photographers and designers overseas. I have since been given the opportunity to work with photographers overseas, although I am yet to travel just for that occasion alone.
Winning the Miss Model of the World Title is a remarkable achievement. Can you share your thoughts and emotions when you were announced as the winner?
I was honestly stunned, and I didn’t know how to process it. Although beauty pageants are competitions, I don’t always enter with the sole intent to win. I initially joined the majority of my pageants out of interest, not wanting to put pressure on myself to win. When I was announced the winner of that title, I was happy but honestly confused! It really only hit me the day after the competition.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with numerous creatives in the industry. How have these collaborations influenced your growth as a model?
The collaborations that I have taken part in over the years have really opened my mind up to different ideas as to what a model can be. If you had asked me when I was 16, what I pictured when I thought of a model, I pictured a large studio with a white backdrop, with an entire team to accompany the model – a hair stylist, makeup artist, a photographer, editor, and stylist all in the one room. But funny enough, in the last seven years that I’ve been modelling, I can only think of maybe three photoshoots where that has been the case.
I only realised this recently, but to be referred to as a “model,” or the term “modelling” can mean a variety of things; it’s such a broad field. It doesn’t just mean one thing, and the network that I am a part of, the modelling that I choose to do has leaned more towards a personal creative approach rather than modelling a particular brand or product for someone. Although my work has led me to model for various clothing brands, companies, fashion designers such as milliner designers, and many other projects, I’ve started to appreciate the artistic approach behind what I do. I now have the know-how and connections to express myself and showcase myself in various ways, which I never expected to discover when I first started modelling. With each photo shoot I do, I have the opportunity to portray to others and be whoever I want to be, and looking back at my photos over the years, I see so many different versions of myself.
I feel like I have grown into a different person from who I was when I first started in the industry, and I am only growing into myself more and more each day.
Building a network is crucial in any industry. Could you share some insights on how you nurtured and expanded your network within the modeling world?
Sometimes I look back to where I started and still cannot believe what I’ve achieved over the past few years. It didn’t happen overnight, and it certainly took a lot of networking, contacting, and connecting to get to where I am now.
I grew up on a farm in the countryside, where it took me an hour and a half to get to Melbourne. There was nothing in terms of modelling/pageants where I came from, so I found myself commuting for hours each day to attend auditions, photoshoots, events, and pageants.
But I found that particularly at each pageant, each event, whether a runway show or a concert, there was always the opportunity to meet a fellow creative in the industry, which built that connection to have someone to collaborate with in the future. This started to build stepping stones for me, and I soon found myself collaborating and working with various creatives and fashion brands around Melbourne. I am now very familiar with who a lot of the creatives are in the industry in Melbourne, and I feel like I am a known member of a distinctive community in Melbourne!
As one of the hardest-working models in the industry, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how do you stay motivated and dedicated to your craft?
The main challenge I have faced would be dealing with my own thoughts. This might sound like a cliche, and I know many people can relate, but as a model, it is challenging to battle the negative thoughts I face every day.
As my network expanded, not just in modelling, but in everyday life; my day job, my sporting club, my hometown, and even my social media, more and more people started to know my name and what I do. With what feels like a growing audience, I also think that many people around me are starting to have expectations of what I am to achieve in my career as a model and how I should look and present myself. Usually, when I start a conversation with someone, even with someone who only briefly knows me, the topic they tend to bring up will always be my modelling. Although I understand the interest, I feel continuous pressure always to have something new to talk about, whether it be a recent event, runway, or pageant. But I am also successful outside of my modelling. Earlier this year, I bought my first house by myself at 24!
I feel that the pressure I put on myself to impress those around me all comes from overthinking it rather than enjoying my journey. Each day I am practicing self-care to help reduce my own negative thoughts and working on myself more in my personal life, as well as my modelling life!
Modeling requires adaptability and versatility. How do you approach different types of photo shoots and modeling assignments?
I always approach my shoots with a can-do attitude. It’s currently winter here in Victoria, and the last 3 photo shoots I have done, have been outside in 13-degree weather.
I was aware of what the weather conditions would be before the photo shoots, but I saw this as an opportunity to create something really unique and also to do something I’d never done before. When you think of a photoshoot at the beach, you’d picture it during the daytime, right? Sun beaming down, hair out, standing barefoot in the sand. Not pitch black at 8 pm, tide coming in high, wearing socks and sneakers, hair tied up, and a full face of glam makeup. That’s what I enjoy the most about what I do. I believe it’s totally unique and different from what the usual model would Photoshoot in.
What advice would you give to aspiring models who are just starting their journey in the industry? How can they navigate the competitive world of modeling and establish themselves as successful models, just like you have?
My advice would be, play it safe, play it smart. Don’t be so eager to boost your career that you don’t step back and assess certain situations. I have encountered my fair share of dodgy people in the industry, and while nothing serious ever happened, it did make me wonder how many other people they have tried to play with before or after me. I’m now thankful I’m less naive and know how to spot professionalism before meeting someone.
If this industry is really for you, then let it be – it will be! You have to be so careful and patient with this, so there’s no need to rush yourself. Take it slow, and take the time to enjoy what you create!