Sharing Lunch With…The Mainstreeter Interview with OOE Model Amanda Nimmo

Mainstreeter Staff

A decade of glamour From Billings Bridge to Balenciaga!

In this installment of our popular interview feature, we profile one of Old Ottawa East’s most glamorous young adults, Amanda Nimmo, whose decade-long odyssey as an international fashion and runway model was launched, most improbably, while walking along Riverdale Avenue en route to a friend’s house in Old Ottawa South! Back in her Marlowe Crescent family home during the COVID pandemic, Amanda graciously shared her experiences with The Mainstreeter. And, we also spoke to Amanda’s mother, Heather Moxley, about the career of her globetrotting daughter. That story is on page 36 of this issue. Enjoy!

THE MAINSTREETER: First of all, Amanda, congratulations to you on a marvelous career as a fashion model. Now, according to popular mythology in this community, you were “discovered” as a high school student right here in Old Ottawa East. Is that true?

As a teenager, Amanda Nimmo travelled to Paris for one of her first international fashion photo shoots, but not before some classic tourist photos! Supplied Photo

As a teenager, Amanda Nimmo travelled to Paris for one of her first international fashion photo shoots, but not before some classic tourist photos! Supplied Photo

NIMMO: I was actually just walking over to my friend’s house who lived in Old Ottawa South. Someone stopped me along Riverdale and basically said he was, I think, a designer or a stylist or something along those lines. He had a friend who was an agent and he wanted to put me in contact with him. Of course, I was extremely hesitant when a man pulled over his car and asked me to model. At that point, I was maybe 15, just about 16, and going to high school at Glebe. But when I walked over to my friend’s house, I told her what had happened, and she actually knew someone who was modelling with that agent. They were in Greece at the time, and I thought I’d love to be in Greece, so I came home, and I talked to my mom about it. She was as shocked as I was because I would definitely describe myself as a bit of a tomboy and not someone who really liked makeup or getting my picture taken or anything along those lines. But we decided to have a meeting, and then it kind of all just snowballed after that.

THE MAINSTREETER: Before we talk about your time on the global stage, can you tell me a little about your life in Old Ottawa East as a teenager? What kinds of things were you doing back then?

NIMMO: I was actually working at Little Critters at Billings Bridge Shopping Centre, and I also rode horses at a couple of farms around Ottawa and the Green Belt. I was never into sports, but I spent a lot of time outside, just hanging around the neighbourhood. My friends were in this neighbourhood too, or Old Ottawa South and the Glebe, so I think between all of our neighbourhoods we spent most of our time in this area – no one had a driver’s license yet. So yeah, in that sense, I definitely was a neighbourhood kid.

THE MAINSTREETER: And your dad, Geoff, is a famous Brantwood Park “hoser”. Would you skate at Brantwood or play hockey or anything like that?

NIMMO: Actually, none of us skated at Brantwood, and my dad doesn’t skate. So, it was kind of a mystery as to why he did the rink hosing. I think he just thought it was a good thing to do and so he did it for many, many, many years. My mom and I would go skating – you know the token one or two times on the canal to get a Beavertail, but no, none of us were big skaters.

THE MAINSTREETER: When you began modelling, Amanda, did you have an agent or a manager here in Ottawa?

NIMMO: I started with one agent in Ottawa, but his agency isn’t up and running anymore. What they would do is act as your mother agent, setting you up with other agencies around the world – kind of like your manager. So when I started, I had a mother agent in Ottawa who set me up with Spot6 in Toronto and Montage in Montreal, and those were my first two real agencies. They were the ones that booked me my first couple of jobs and really got me situated and prepared to move forward with a more international career after starting to work in Toronto and Montreal. They were great, and they’re still great – I’m still with both of them!

THE MAINSTREETER: Is there anything you had done in the past that prepared you for what you experienced as an international runway and fashion model?

NIMMO: Literally nothing! I don’t think I’d even read a fashion magazine before any of this started. I remember people talking about Heidi Klum and I was like: “I don’t know who that is”. I was so beyond in another world. I remember showing up to Balenciaga and not knowing what it was. I had a meeting with Alexander Wang in my first week in New York, the hottest designer at the time, and I had no clue who this person was. Yeah, I was the definition of green. It was all very, very new to me.

THE MAINSTREETER: So, for how many years in total did you model?

NIMMO: I was modelling for about a year and a half during my last years of high school while living at home. But during that time I really only worked direct bookings, which means that I didn’t have to go to lots of castings. I could just travel straight to the job and hop right back into class since I was still in high school full time. I would take a day or week or whatever time was needed in Toronto, Montreal or in the U.S. to shoot the job.

After that, I officially started modelling full time, quite literally, the day after I graduated high school. That would have been in 2011. All told, I guess I modelled full time for about six years, and part-time for another three to four years after that, and you could say I’m still doing it part-time.

On the runway at a Paris Haute Couture fashion show. Supplied Photo

On the runway at a Paris Haute Couture fashion show. Supplied Photo

THE MAINSTREETER: And of all the amazing places that you’ve modelled, countries, cities, what would be a couple of your favourites?

NIMMO: I unintentionally spent a lot of time, and fell quite in love, with New York. But I also spent a lot of time in Paris and London. My favourite chunks of time modelling were when I got to go down to Australia. They have a market similar to Canada, in the sense that it’s a little isolated, but if you take the time to go there, you can stay for a month or two for work, and it’s quite a treat. I think there was a three or four year period where I would go for one month a year and really enjoyed that time. If you’re lucky while you’re over there, you can book a couple of jobs in New Zealand and pop over there. The South Island has become one of my favourite places.

THE MAINSTREETER: What about the day-to-day issues that a model faces in pursuing this career? What was the most challenging aspect for you?

NIMMO: When I think back to moments I now find humorous, most of them are about how absurd our “daily commute” could be. Navigating ridiculous travel schedules, back-to-back jobs and time changes – getting there could often feel like more work than the actual shoot. At times, I’ve hardly slept in days, but when I show up to work I still have to somehow look beautiful and act like I’m happy to be there. I think clients sometimes lost sight of what the whole goal was when they hired you knowing you would have to take back-to-back flights, or a redeye to get there. They hire you because they want you to be the happy, fresh face of their company – and sometimes it just makes you wonder if they’ve really thought it through.

THE MAINSTREETER: From the photographs, you have a look that seems to be Finnish or Russian. Was that the look and the kind of jobs that you tended to be hired for?

NIMMO: I get that question all the time, especially at work when they ask me about my background, always expecting it to be Russian or Scandinavian. But actually, Nimmo is a Scottish name, which doesn’t seem to make sense to everyone based on my appearance. I definitely got typecast as Scandinavian or Russian, booking a lot of the jobs that those girls would also get. In international modelling, you tend to get hired more in the countries that you don’t look like you’re from if that makes any sense. Spain was always a great market for me, and Italy and Paris. And then, of course, Asia was the same too. Whereas, I never worked in Scandinavia or Germany. So, I think, outside of North America, anywhere where you’re considered exotic is usually where you end up working.

THE MAINSTREETER: I understand that when you took on modelling, it was always as something of a pause in your academic career. Are you back in school now?

NIMMO: Yeah, I just finished my third year of undergrad at the University of Toronto. I’m doing a double major in Animal Physiology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, but that’s a bit of a mouthful, so you could just say, biology. I’m also doing summer school this year, which I’ve never done, because why not – I have the time! But yes, April 2021, would be the normal date to graduate. But it depends if I keep on plowing through summer school courses, it could be earlier!

Making the cover of Flare Magazine as an 18-year-old was another highlight of Amanda Nimmo’s modeling portfolio.  Supplied Photo

Making the cover of Flare Magazine as an 18-year-old was another highlight of Amanda Nimmo’s modeling portfolio. Supplied Photo

THE MAINSTREETER: Do you have plans to continue studying, or perhaps a mix of studying and modelling in the future?

NIMMO: Modeling is definitely something I’ve kept in my back pocket, although I don’t think it will be my main focus again. My current plan is to apply to veterinary school either next year or the year after. Of course, that would involve quite a bit more school – another four years. I think that’s one of the most interesting career prospects for what I’m studying and what I’m interested in.

Unfortunately for my family here in Ottawa, I’m considering applying to the University of Pennsylvania. I spent so many years, almost all of my early 20’s, in New York. A lot of my closest friends are there, along with my boyfriend who still lives in Manhattan. So I think I’d like to go back – and interestingly enough, UPenn is the closest vet school to Manhattan. It’s just about an hour’s train ride, so it would be pretty convenient for long-distance and finding a way to live between the two places.

THE MAINSTREETER: Amanda, clearly you did something really unusual, exciting, and exotic in places all over the world for a decade. By contrast, Old Ottawa East is a remarkably quiet place. For you, has this been a good place to be from, the kind of place you might mention to people in Paris, Milan, or New York?

NIMMO: I suppose I always wanted to do something different, and to try something new. And then, after leaving and having a career that couldn’t give me any stability, I became aware and so thankful, of what Ottawa was and what our neighbourhood was, and what an amazing home our whole family made for themselves here. It was always so reassuring to know I could come home for the holidays and have a place like this.

It sounded so ideal when I would tell my friends how, for instance, all the neighbours know each other, and there’s a neighborhood sleigh ride over Christmas, and all the kids go to play at the park, and we make ice rinks there in the winter. I think people just couldn’t wrap their head around that kind of picture because it almost sounds cheesy and made up. After living away, in so many different places, being able to come back to Ottawa, and to this neighbourhood, always made me thankful that it never changed too fast.

In our next issue of The Mainstreeter, we profile another internationally acclaimed Old Ottawa East woman, Wallis Giunta, who discusses her lifelong passion for music and her place today as one of the most talented young mezzo-soprano opera singers in the world.

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