In the flesh Jennifer Hawkins radiates something special. Something you can’t quite put your finger on but you know that whatever the “x-factor” is, she’s got it. It’s easy to see why the former Newcastle cheerleader captured the attention of the judges when she won the 2004 Miss Universe contest, catapulting her to worldwide fame. Since then, Hawkins has taken the win and turned it into a multi-million dollar empire. She is not only the face of Myer, one of the biggest department stores in Australia, fronted campaigns for Mount Franklin and Loveable Lingerie, but she has also launched her own companies Cozi (swimwear) and J.Bronze (tanning and bronzing products) while also managing to have time to partner with her equally genetically blessed husband Jake Wall to create J.Group, a property development company which boasts successful investments in Sydney’s lucrative housing market.
Hawkins was in town earlier this month to take to the runway with fellow Myer ambassadors Kris Smith and Kate Peck to showcase the new AW15 collections. “I love that they are always mixing it up and keeping it fresh”, Hawkins says of why she likes working with the company. “Everything’s really relevant and new when it comes to fashion. Also as the face of the brand, you are representing the brand as a whole. As a department store, it brings the customers much more than just fashion, so it’s really nice to be a voice for that. I feel very blessed to have this job.”
While there are certain stereotypes that come with being a beauty queen, Hawkins has certain proven she is more than just a pretty face. Sure she has an unbelievable body (one she has used to great success starring in campaigns for Cozi and J.Bronze), but Hawkins has proven herself to be an astute businesswoman, not usually a term you associate with a former Miss Universe winner. On the topic of fashion and the latest trends, she is more than across them (the 70’s are big this season), but it’s when she talks about her own projects, you can really feel her passion come to the fore.
Starting your own business does come with an element of risk, even if you are Miss Universe with Donald Trump as your mentor. “Risk verse passion”, says Hawkins, is one of the biggest challenges you face when beginning a project. “You can have as much passion as you like, but you really have to weigh up what the risks are because if you go too far you can bust. You need to have amazing people around you who have level heads and you need to learn from them. Have fun, but really get down and dirty with it when it comes to business. That’s why I love working with big, amazing companies like Myer. They inspire you to be a better person and to grow your own businesses as well.”
Hawkins is very pragmatic when discussing specifically how she overcame the difficulties she faced starting her own brands. “When I launched Cozi there were certain challenges but if you have an end goal and take baby steps that’s the biggest thing. Same with J Bronze. It’s about taking little steps, growing it really organically and really listening to the customers. It’s also about bringing out products you are really passionate about. You just make it happen. If anything goes wrong you go right, what’s the next thing? You’ve got to be flexible.”
With her flawless bod and brain for business, Hawkins is a role model for women and men around the world. So who does she look to for inspiration? “I’m inspired by people who think outside the box. They have an idea, they follow through with it and make it happen. Such as mothers that are working hard with their own business who have kids but they are making their dreams happen. Everybody inspires you in a way, whether it be my siblings, my mum and dad, or people that are well known like Heidi Klum. You’ve got to be inspired every day.”
In her time in the spotlight, Hawkins has had her fair share of positive and negative press, but you get the sense, she doesn’t let the negativity get to her. “Don’t sweat the small things because they end up being really big in your mind, whereas that’s more you over-analysing what’s going to happen in the future or what’s happened in the past. Just be present”, she wisely advises.
What can we expect from Hawkins in 2015? “I’m launching more sku’s for J.Bronze and I’ve just started on Cozi for next summer”, she says. “You keep a lot of things behind the scenes. It’s a daily job, responding to emails, etc. If you enjoy it though doesn’t seem like work.”
So finally, what advice does Hawkins have for people who want to follow in her footsteps? “Don’t have vague goals otherwise you’ll get vague results”, she advises. “Have clear goals and don’t step too far into an area you don’t know about. Make sure you hire people who are experts in their particular fields, work hard and be really passionate.”
Video by Thom Whilton and Jacob Medina