'Agencies were embarrassed at my size' - Thalia
Top model Thalia Heffernan (23) has spoken about America's harsh fashion industry and how "brutal" it can be working abroad.
"I remember being in New York when I had just finished my Leaving Certificate and I went into an agency where I had to put a swimsuit on," she said.
"They all came into a room and I took the robe off and they were literally just pointing at parts of my body, saying, 'Well, that needs to change'.
"I spent three months going to the gym, paying for a personal trainer and just trying not to eat. And you're actually rewarded for that behaviour.
"I was told they were too embarrassed to show me to clients; I was a size six. I remember coming home and just being alien to affection, alien to normality."
Thalia was an early starter in the industry and was hailed as one of Ireland's top models when she was still only in her teens.
However, she said that when she travelled abroad she found it "really difficult".
"In Ireland, we're very lucky, the modelling industry isn't all that superficial," she said.
"But abroad, you're dealing with agents who have girls on their books who are supermodels.
"And if you're not willing to be of that calibre, regardless of what it takes, they don't want to put their time in. It's brutal."
The Dancing With The Stars contestant said she is now happier than ever, thanks to finding her feet and learning self-acceptance.
She has also taken the big step of moving to Birmingham to live with her boyfriend of 14 months, professional dancer Ryan McShane.
Her Dublin agent, Rebecca Morgan, has told her there has been lots of interest in her from agencies in Britain, but Thalia had to think long and hard about her decision.
"I think because of my past experiences I've been like, 'No, no, I'm fine. I've got the dog and I'm settled'," she said.
"But I knew I wasn't happy. I was on very turbulent ground."
Thalia said she was "tearing my hair out" over what to do before finally deciding it was the right move for her.
"We've been looking forward to having some sort of stability together for a long time," she said.
"This is one of the first times where it feels like I'm confident in my decision - the results can only be good."