Evening Standard Magazine
Erin O'Connor's beautiful life
I am comfortable with my looks. For a model, this is quite an achievement. I work in a weird and wonderful yet cutthroat world and, at first, I probably based a lot of what I thought about myself on what other people told me. But after being criticised (maybe even vilified) and hailed in equal measure over the years, I have learned not to take the negativity to heart or let compliments go to my head; I have a steady relationship with myself. It wasn't always thus.
My schoolmates called me Morticia as I had waist-length hair, pale skin and incredibly long hands. Without trying, everything about me was dramatic, from my still-growing haughty nose to my uncompromising jaw line and 6ft stature. I didn't look like a shrinking violet, but as every angle increased, the shy, worry-prone teenager began to diminish in confidence. As a way of hiding my shyness, I became quite the comedienne and I could get a laugh out of almost anybody at school: the swots, ravers, indies and elite. I didn't belong to any particular tribe, but just took great pleasure and amusement out of making people laugh. I guess the extremities of my over-exaggerated body did the talking for me and I allowed it to throughout my teens. I remember going into the sixth form after one of my earlier modelling make-overs with a new cropped haircut and groomed eyebrows – I quickly graduated to the nickname Spock.
Despite the fact I like to keep my hair short and I wear the odd suit, I feel very feminine physically. There were times as a teenager when, fed up with my gamine appearance, I wished for a cleavage, but I've never succumbed to the pressure of having a boob job. I can't answer for anybody else, but I know cosmetic surgery is not for me. I have been offered it, and have even been told to have it in the past, and I have declined. In Los Angeles particularly, I've encountered people who were baffled by my inner confidence. But I am keen on embracing the ageing process, whatever it may be.
Botox does not interest me – I have no desire to freeze my face for the sake of my own vanity or other people's expectations – and I don't want to be scared of getting older. It shouldn't be a concern, just a natural process and development. After all, it happens to everyone. I have recently become a fan of Snog Marry Avoid? on BBC Three, and it provides good evidence that natural beauty usually ends up looking a lot better (and is far less costly in the long term).
That's not to say some cosmetic treatments don't help. I have recently discovered Rani's Red Carpet Facial. (Rani Mirza is based in Knightsbridge. Two-hour facial, £170; 020 7589 9080.) She knows exactly what I need, whether I am planning a work event or simply a night out. When it comes to products, I like Becca make-up as the colours are subtle and suit my Celtic skin tone. I love Nude's cleansing oil and moisturising fluid. And I really rely on Shu Uemura moisture mask to wake up my face for those early starts.
Of course, there is only so much you can do without changing your lifestyle. I tend to lean towards places with a holistic vibe, like the Six Senses Spa in Phuket, Thailand. I love their philosophy and approach to integrative health, as well as the sun, sea, sand and the complete feeling of tranquillity it offers.
Why go to the gym when you can walk around town? I love walking every day around London, to and from meetings. It's surprising how far you walk when you use the Underground. I have even been on a couple of walking holidays, most recently on the Pembrokeshire coast, and in Aviemore Forest in Scotland. But I also love lounging on the sofa at home, as staying home feels exotic when you travel a lot for work. I am sure my physical flexibility has waned since my ballet days.
One of my mottos concerning food is: 'Never deny yourself anything if you really feel like it.' That way I can be the girl who eats cream buns one day and sticks to celery the next. I am usually pretty pedantic about the quality of my food and I do like buying fresh vegetables and meat at Borough Market every Saturday. There are also some great local shops and restaurants in my neighbourhood in South East London. I love the local Greek and Turkish restaurants and have just discovered a new favourite, an Eritrean restaurant close by. I have one small vice: chocolate orange bars that I take to bed with me at night, along with a cup of aniseed, fennel and liquorice Pukka Detox Tea, as a concession to health.
Looking youthful is not my obsession, but like anyone, I want to feel good in myself: confident and sexy. As a woman in my thirties, I am very keen on looking after my health and wellbeing. And ageing brings one immense benefit: I now care less than ever about what people might think of me.