herald

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Supermodel? How Georgia Salpa made it big

IT'S hard to believe that Georgia Salpa was a once demure model "hurt and disgusted" by the attention brought by her first photo shoot. The beautiful glamour girl who looks set to take the UK by storm has changed a lot from the young woman who took grave offence to the reaction to her now infamous Fas poster campaign.

Comments, mainly about her breasts, were not welcomed.

The unkind play on her name by some cynics who dubbed her Georgia Slapa must have been even less so.

Just six years ago, Georgia's model agent told the Herald that her girl was shocked at the "crude and unnecessary (comments) and would rather not talk about that advertising campaign ever again".

What a difference a few years make.

Now Georgia is live in your living room every evening dressed in a skimpy bikini all-the-while her bulging bank account is getting bigger.

The 27-year-old is now tipped to make €1m from Celebrity Big Brother, making her the highest-paid Irish model ever.

Her climb up the showbiz ladder has been a slow and steady one. Far from being an overnight success, the creation of Georgia Salpa's sex-bomb image has been over 10 years in the making.

So just how did a shy half-Greek girl go from the fresh-faced Fas girl in a tight, pink sweater to competing with Playboy bunnies and former rugby stars on a reality show watched by millions?

"I couldn't believe it when I heard there was a website with people logging on asking 'who is that girl' and there has been 9,000 hits," said a shocked Georgia shortly after her bus poster campaign for Fas.

"It is really odd when you go out to get the bus and it arrives with your picture on the side and people are looking at you."

Originally from Killiney, the Kim Kardashian-lookalike was someone who was always going to stand out, given her exotic dark looks and slim but buxom figure.

Her artist mum Marie Butler met her father while holidaying in Greece during the 1980s. In a plot straight out of Shirley Valentine, she fell head over heels for him and they ended up getting married and living in Athens, where she had Georgia.

When things didn't work out, she came back to Ireland when Georgia was four years old and divorced her husband.

She went on to marry a man named Paddy and have three more children. Her eldest child enjoyed a privileged childhood in the upmarket southside enclave and describes it as being very happy, saying she always had a keen interest in fashion and art.

And though it may be hard to believe given her sexy image, she insists she was very introverted as a teenager and something of an ugly duckling.



lazy

"I used to have really bad skin and when I was younger, I had a lazy eye. I had to wear a patch and pink-rimmed glasses. I was so shy. I wouldn't kiss anyone," she said.

Clearly used to working from an early age, the student at Pembroke School in Ballsbridge had a part-time job in Dunnes Stores and worked in Vera Moda on Grafton Street.

But her big break wasn't long coming after an ex-boyfriend unknowingly entered her into a competition for the FHM High Street Honey in 2002 after sneakily sending in a picture of her in a bikini.

She didn't win the contest televised on Sky One but had the honour of being the first-ever Irish finalist at the age of 18. Her modelling career almost began four years prior to that when she was spotted on the street by a talent scout for Select Model Management. She temporarily moved to London to stay with her father but didn't enjoy it. She was being asked to model things like underwear at the age of 14 and said she was "so young. I was more into hanging out with my friends and stuff."

Something of a free spirit, she has always loved travelling, so took an extended gap year after doing her Leaving Cert and travelled the world with two school pals. She spent two years travelling to 35 different countries including India, Australia, the US and Malaysia and said they did everything "off the beaten track".

When she settled back home, she started modelling full-time but was only really "discovered" by the State agency's Director of Corporate Affairs Greg Craig after he spotted her potential and cast her in the Fas ad campaign. Dressed down in jeans and a pink jumper, few could have expected the furore her shapely image would spark when it was plastered over bus stops and newspapers as the face of the Fas Opportunities exhibition.



chagrin

Such was the enthusiastic reaction to the campaign, admittedly much of it from male admirers of the beautiful model, that Fas ran it for four years.

"When those [ads] came out it was so weird. Because it wasn't a sexy thing, it wasn't in underwear -- you know, provocative," Georgia herself remembers.

"But there were all these forums on internet sites, all these radio stations calling. But no one knew me by my name, they knew me as the Fas girl. So they'd be like, 'We have the Fas girl on the radio'."

She became a regular photocall girl, picking up high-profile jobs modelling lingerie with stores like Brown Thomas in Dublin. Little surprise, given her 32DD bust and her 23-inch waist, that most of her jobs involved her wearing very little.

"Everyone finds what they are good at and that's my niche," she said. "Some of them are hilarious but I don't mind. I enjoy them. I have fun. I don't take myself too seriously."

And of course there has been the constant speculation about whether her boobs are real -- with her always insisting that she's 100pc natural.

Described by fellow model and best pal Michele McGrath as a "really sweet girl with a down-to-earth personality", she has always set herself apart from the other Irish models working the scene by steering clear of the usual VIP nightclubs.

Until recently, she was always far more likely to spend her weekends watching DVDs with friends or seeing family than falling around Grafton Street in a barely-there mini skirt.

She had a long-term relationship with DJ Barry O'Brien, lasting more than two years. She previously described him as "my best friend" and the "best guy in the world."

But everything changed in Georgia's world in April 2011 when she started filming for TV3 show Celebrity Salon. In her first ever TV gig, she was thrust onto the reality show with veterans like Abi Titmuss, Aisyleene Horgan-Wallace and of course, Calum Best.

From the outset, the chemistry between them was obvious, with Best confessing he had a massive crush on the buxom beauty. Their fellow contestants began teasing them about a possible romance but she repeatedly pointed out that she had a boyfriend.

Shortly after the show ended its TV run in June, it was clear that she and Calum were dating -- but both insisted that nothing ever happened while she was still with Barry.



wraps

However while her previous relationship with the DJ was kept well under wraps, her romance with Calum was anything but. Her friends and family were said to be less than impressed with the relationship and warned her off him from the start.

He wasted little time in whisking her off to high-profile events in London and he also arranged a magazine deal where they exclusively talked about their new relationship -- even prompting some industry insiders to brand it a 'showmance'. She spent last summer jetting to various sunny destinations with the lothario son of George Best as 'Calpa' became a firm fixture on the social scene.

It all came tumbling down in September though after he was pictured looking cosy with Newcastle beauty Donna Air while on a night out in London. Georgia promptly called it quits saying there was no way she wanted to be made to look like a "fool".

In October she hit the headlines for the wrong reasons after suddenly decided to pull out of a charity climb to Kilimanjaro with a group of fellow models. At the time, she said her fitness levels just weren't good enough and she didn't think it was fair.

Two months later she again raised eyebrows after pulling out of Christmas panto Sleeping Beauty. Producers said they were "shocked and disappointed" at the move -- and Georgia said she hated letting people down but she had no choice.

Georgia has made a massive impact from the start on Celebrity Big Brother, being billed as the "Irish Jordan" and catching the eye of TOWIE star Kirk Norcross. She described Ireland as "too reserved", raising eyebrows over here.

Yet there's no doubt she is going to go down a storm over there. As her agent Andrea Roche once described her, "she's the girl next door with the body to die for."

And this is one girl who certainly knows how to use her ample charms.

mfinn@herald.ie

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