ALTHOUGH a deeply divisive figure, Donald Trump is one of Jennifer Hawkins’s sources of inspiration.
She met him as the winner of his Miss Universe pageant in 2004, back when The Apprentice was on air, the Iraq war was underway, and the billionaire appeared on the cover of Esquire with the prophetic cover line, “How I’d Run The Country (Better)”.
“He inspired me to keep going and follow my heart,” she says.
“He’s really passionate and really driven. He’s like, ‘What’s next?’ He prompts you to think, ‘All right, what is next?’”
What’s next for Trump is a presidential election campaign.
What’s next for Hawkins, Australia’s ultimate girl-next-door, is less clear.
She has the face of an angel, but the mind of an entrepreneur.
She no longer sees herself as a model, but rather as an ambassador, a businesswoman and a television host.
At 32 years old, Hawkins has several thriving businesses and an expansive property and share portfolio, and is building a future that doesn’t rely so heavily on a face that will, inevitably, change with age.
She is coy about her plans, but those close to her are more upfront; the next big role for Jennifer Hawkins will be very different from those that have come before, and is likely to involve the pitter-patter of tiny feet.
But more on that shortly.
Miss Universe was good to Hawkins.
Not only did she win a $250,000 pearl-encrusted crown, get to travel the world and live rent-free in a New York apartment, but she benefited from the foresight of Trump’s pageant bosses, who knew the popular Australian would need a hand with her career when her year-long global victory lap was over.
About nine months into her 12-month Miss Universe contract, they set about hiring a manager for Hawkins.
Sean Anderson, who had recently left global giant IMG to set up his own talent business, 22 Management, applied for the job.
Anderson remembers being invited to New York: “I met the Trump people, and Jen came into that meeting at the end.”
Anderson has been with her ever since.
He set up her early television jobs, and has gone on to broker her deals with retailer Myer.
More personally, he has witnessed her evolution from ingénue to self-assured woman with the courage of her convictions.
“I have observed a greater confidence, a very clear understanding of what she needs in her life, and what she doesn’t need,” he says.
“She has probably become more private. I think, in the early days, she was very much trying to please everyone.
“Now, I think she has her priorities very much in order.
“She is living on the far northern beaches [of Sydney], which is a much quieter existence, which I think suits her.
“It’s the closest thing she has found to [her hometown of] Newcastle.”
Hawkins has been accused of being … well, boring, because she isn’t a regular in social pages or on the red carpet.
She does her job and then goes home.
She is not trying to be elusive, or mysterious; it’s just that spending a night at home with husband,Jake Wall, 33, or having a barbecue with her family, is simply what she prefers to do.
“There aren’t any secrets to it,” she says.
During an interview, Hawkins can be reserved, and a little hesitant.
Almost as if she is still not, after more than 10 years, quite at ease with her celebrity status.
“I am comfortable in the industry and my position in it,” she says.
“You might think I’m not telling the truth when I say this, but talking about myself in interviews can be awkward.
“I am not used to that when it comes to my normal life.”
She is most at ease when discussing her family, a Newcastle-based tribe including two older brothers and a sister.
“I love hanging out with them; they’re grounded,” she says.
“They’re not into dramas. I don’t like bitchiness or backstabbing; I don’t like anyone talking about people behind their backs.
“I don’t like being around that.”
Her older sister is a stay-at-home mum, one of her brothers works at a Toyota dealership and the other is a council landscaper.
As the baby of the family, the former Miss Universe says, “I am a bit more sooky [than the others]. I am really attached to family time. I need it.
“I need to have a time where I get real love, and real attention.
“It feels like they have my back all the time. If I have a down day, I can call my brothers or my sister.
“They will say, ‘Don’t worry about that, what about this?’ And they tell me a story about my niece or nephew, they keep it in the moment.”
All this begs the question: is motherhood, and forming their own little tribe, around the corner for Hawkins and her husband of three years?
“Obviously, I would just love a family with Jake, yes,” she says, but the timing “is something we want to keep very private”.
Anderson is more direct: “I have no doubt family is around the corner for her.”
There’s a proud tradition, pioneered by Elle “The Body” Macpherson in the 1980s, of Australian models with business nous.
Macpherson was one of the first in the industry to seek partnerships with the businesses she fronted, and is now rumoured to be worth $45 million.
Hawkins seems to have used Macpherson as a blueprint.
She signed with Myer in 2007 and is now one of the company’s major shareholders, thanks to that deal.
She has been with the retailer for so long that she is soldered onto its brand and has travelled the breadth of the country in its service — most recently to the salt lake Hutt Lagoon in regional Western Australia for an advertising campaign, where she was also photographed by Sunday Style.
“Myer means a lot to me,” she says.
Through the building company she owns with her husband, Hawkins has also amassed an impressive portfolio of high-end properties.
Then there are her other businesses — Cozi swimwear and J Bronze self-tan — and her endorsements for products such as Range Rover, Mount Franklin Lightly Sparkling water and Colgate.
Some put her worth at more than $10 million.
Anderson can see Macpherson in Hawkins, having seen both in action.
“[ Jen] is very passionate about her career and her work,” he says.
“She’s a perfectionist, which, I will be honest, does drive me crazy at times.
“You wake up and there will be 10 emails from Jen already, which she banged off on the treadmill.”
The similarity between Macpherson and Hawkins doesn’t just come down to good financial planning.
Both have an entrepreneurial streak.
Like Macpherson, Hawkins relishes the challenge of the commercial world, and likes taking risks.
“If you have people you trust around you, you can make mistakes, you can float ideas and not feel silly, you can ask as many questions as you want,” she says.
“No one’s perfect — and I am not saying I am, either — but I take risks, calculated risks. And I want to have fun with life, and grow each business and enjoy the process.
“Things pay off sometimes; sometimes they don’t.
“But I think it’s nice to be excited about new projects and new ventures. Life can be really exciting if you just grab it in both hands.”
She might seem to have the Midas touch, but not every Hawkins venture has met with success.
Her shoe range, JLH by Jennifer Hawkins, didn’t.
She began it in 2010, and it was launched with much fanfare.
“That was a business I had the best intentions for,” she says.
“I jumped in, I gave it 100 per cent, and I think there’s a point where, going back and forth to manufacturing companies, and then when [the shoes] weren’t correct …
“The shoe industry was very hard, and it was very hard at that time in Australia.
“We were breaking even with JLH, and it was at the time where I enjoyed doing it.
“But then I had to [make] sacrifices when it came to price point and fabrics, and the way I wanted JLH to look … When I had to sacrifice that, I went, ‘OK, I had fun doing it, it was a great opportunity, I’ve learnt a lot.’
“But I had to let it go. And that’s all right. It happens. I was devastated at the time, for sure, but I learnt so much.”
Her latest venture, together with Wall, is tequila brand Sesión.
Wall has been a long-time fan of the Mexican spirit, and during their travels the couple noticed that, in Latin America, good-quality tequila was sipped like scotch, not slammed in shots, as was the culture in Australia.
They wondered whether there was an opportunity here for a premium tequila.
“It was a really fun and interesting and energetic idea,” she says.
“It’s a risk — you jump off, then it’s like, whoa, is this going to work? And so we took the risk and went to Mexico.
“I think I just enjoy that process; if there’s an obstacle, you want to jump it and fix it, and work with the team, and grow the brand.”
Despite her busy portfolio, Hawkins will make motherhood fit in, whenever it happens.
“If you really want something, you make it work at the best time for you.”
While she and Wall own several businesses together, Hawkins says they are careful not to mix love and work.
“The only time we really cross over with business is when we have a weekly meeting with whoever can make it. But we keep [work] separate, which keeps it nice. That helps the relationship.”
Still, when she talks about her inspirations — Trump, Macpherson, American model-turned- entrepreneur Kathy Ireland among them — one person stands ahead of the rest.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without Jake,” she says.
“He’s been so important to me as a person, first and foremost. But, on a secondary level, he has really helped me with certain facets of the business world.
“I really love how he pushes me to go out of my comfort zone. He’s good at saying, ‘Just go for it.’
“We’re like a little team; no one can hurt me when I am with him. I really feel at ease with life when I am with him, it doesn’t matter where it is. When he’s there, it feels … calm.”
Source: The Daily Telegraph, UK, 8/13/2016