A Teesside teacher is hoping her dream will come true this weekend as she vies for top spot in a prestigious national modelling competition.

WHEN she found out that she’d reached the final of the 2019 TopModel competition, Teesside teacher Fiona Harrington knew she needed an outfit to make her stand out in the competition. She also knew there was lots of design talent on her doorstep and approached the team behind The Northern School of Art's Body Contour degree course for help in creating a fabulous costume.

Having narrowly lost out last year, the 43-year-old mum of two from Billingham, who teaches full-time at a Middlesbrough secondary school, has her heart set on winning this year’s contest. To further her aim, she contacted the North-East fashion specialists to ask if they had a knock-out design that could help make the difference in the ‘self-style’ round of the event.

Dr Carol Harris, who leads the school’s fashion department at the Hartlepool campus, and her talented team were only too happy to help. “We put our heads together and came up with something we thought would be just right for Fiona and that also shows off all the skills we teach on the programme," she says. “We’re keeping the details under wraps until after Fiona’s worn it in the final, but it looks absolutely stunning on her.”

Fiona is thrilled with the design: “I wanted to showcase the talent there is in the region, which is why I approached the school and I am so happy with what they have created. It’s absolutely perfect and just what I wanted.”

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The Trinity Catholic College business teacher hit the headlines when she made the Top Model final in 2018 with the story behind her bid to get in front of the cameras. “It’s a real story of bouncing back from adversity,” she explains. “When I was 15, I had the chance to model for a top London agency, but didn’t take the offer up after being taunted at school, which as a youngster was difficult to deal with’.

“Then, when I was 42, my husband left and I thought about it again. I also lost three stone in weight and I wanted to have no regrets in life. I thought if I don’t try now, then I will never do it. I went to London and gained an excellent portfolio and a modelling business card from an agency and entered lots of competitions and was successful in being offered fashion show and other modelling opportunities

“Each fashion show I did led to something else and I have been in many fashion shows and photoshoots over the past year, as well as once again gaining a place in the final of TopModel in 2019. Winners from this high-profile competition have ended up in the likes of Vogue and walked at London Fashion week.

“In my normal everyday life I am a teacher, but in my spare time I’ve been networking and gaining more and more modelling work as well as getting on the books of both London and Birmingham agencies. I’m forever telling my students to always go for their dreams, and not to think they can’t achieve what they set their mind to. If I can do it, so can they.”

Fiona has the full support of her children Lauren, 22, and Rees, 18, and her parents, who started her on her journey. “I still remember the night before I was due to go to London and my mam came into the bedroom and said, ‘Please go tomorrow – it will be a fabulous opportunity for you’ and I remember being upset and refusing. From that day, I regretted it and knew one day I needed to put it right so I am so glad I have been able to do that now. They are so proud to have seen me walk the catwalk and they now have my photos from shoots all over their front room.”

The Northern School of Art’s fashion team are all rooting for Fiona, says Dr Harris. "She’s a real inspiration and her attitude and spirit are amazing. Fingers crossed, the outfit will help her towards a win this year – she really deserves it.”

* The over 25s category final of TopModel 2019 takes place in London on Saturday. Part of the competition includes raising funds for the charity Children with Cancer. To make a donation and vote for Fiona visit www.topmodel2019everydayhero.com

* Details of the BA (Hons) Fashion with Body Contour course at The Northern School of Art are available at northernart.ac.uk. Open days at the Hartlepool campus are on this Saturday; Saturday, June 8, and Thursday, July 4.