beth bernich: beauty and brains
As both a model and university student, Beth Bernich has refused to be labelled. She talks about her diverse modelling career, the importance of self-confidence and her ambitions to improve the lives of stroke patients through neurological rehabilitation.
As a somewhat less-than-stunning brunette and quintessential bookworm, I am daunted by the striking girl sitting opposite me. Not only am I approaching this girl about her modelling pursuits, but her intellectual achievements as well. Extremely soft-spoken and incredibly polite, it would be easy to overlook the views and thoughts of someone who is so easy to look at. However, I soon realise that this is an intelligent girl with a strong mind and quiet determination that could easily put my 10 years seniority to shame.
Having already graduated with a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) at the age of 23, Beth is also studying a Bachelor of Health Science. Determined to succeed in her chosen profession she is proud to share that she has been offered a position in the Occupational Therapy Masters Degree before she has even completed Health Science Degree, not taking my bait to gloat she meekly but matter-of-factly states ‘it is a fantastic opportunity.’
Whilst she values her education above all, Beth is quick to jump to the defence of her chosen hobby. ‘Modelling has given me skills that I can use in other areas. It definitely makes me feel more confident.’ Quietly explaining that by working in front of large crowds of people she has learnt how she can much better cope in daunting situations, she smiles shyly: ‘It has helped improve my public speaking.’
Amazed at the amount she has achieved in her 23 years, I suggest her days must be quite overwhelming at times. ‘I try not to fit too much into one day,’ she says. But between her part-time job in retail, modelling and full-time university study, her life is anything but boring,
‘I could be studying human physiology in the morning and have photos taken in the afternoon.’ A typical week for Beth might see her studying for exams – ‘I currently have a medicine exam coming up,’ – with a few shifts at her retail job. She makes time for rehearsals and fittings for fashion shows and explains: ‘Turning up to any modelling events, castings or fittings you have to be prepared as they can easily turn into a surprise photoshoot.’
Beth’s modelling work steers away from commerciality with most of her work contributing to charity or other international causes. She recently modelled at Africom, a charity fashion show to raise funds for the African Chamber of Commerce in celebration of Africa Day in Australia.
‘It was a fantastic event to work with girls of all different cultures and create an amazing show’, she says.
Beth has also appeared at the opening of the 2012 Miss China – Australia International Tourism Pageant, an event that aims to strengthen ties between China and Australia.
Many girls Beth’s age would jump at the opportunity for a modelling career, however her ambitions are far more humble, hoping to work with those who have suffered stroke or other brain damage. She modestly explains that while it is a sensible way to combine her degrees, she simply just enjoys the work. ‘It is rewarding helping people who really need it.’
When our conversation shifts to discuss the stereotypes that society casts on beauty, I cannot help but ask her opinion on the quip ‘you can’t have brains and beauty’. Beth suggests that while she does not suggest that she possesses both, she feels it is important that all girls ‘try things outside of their comfort zone and re-evaluate’. A student of positive asset search, she explains that modelling as a means of improving self-esteem ‘is a powerful tool’ and is firm in her belief that ‘girls should explore all of their strengths and talents’.
Beth’s modesty combined with her noble career pursuits are a stark contrast to the superficiality that saturates the lives of many of her generation.
‘While I am not a supermodel and not yet an occupational therapist, I am as determined as one could be to make the most out of my life.’
The 2012 Miss China – Australia International Tourism Pageant commences on the 24th July 2012.
By Haylee Slater
Image: © All rights reserved – Andrew Barre Photography