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‘Jess and Ashley Hart: Sophia Mundi Steiner School alumnae’: the model sisters on carving out a career in NYC


Article taken from ‘Daily Life’ Written by Erin O’Dwyer on

“Getting Jess Hart on the phone is not easy. When I finally track her down after days of trying, she’s shopping – wandering around a Los Angeles homewares store, buying things for her new West Coast house. “Most of the time I’m in New York, but I like it out here,” the 28-year-old supermodel says dreamily.

Her younger sister, model Ashley Hart, lives in LA. But today she’s in Mexico, celebrating her 26th birthday with her new fiancé, fellow model Buck Palmer. “I love going shopping with Jess; she’s a big spender when she wants to be,” laughs Ash when we connect, much more easily, via Skype.

Until recently, both sisters lived in New York. But with their home bases now on opposite sides of the US and their schedules frequently putting them on opposite sides of the world, their catch-ups are irregular and precious. “When we’re together, we’re inseparable,” says Ash. “We go eat, get coffee, walk [Jess’s dog] Floyd around New York. Whoever wakes up first will wake the other one with a cup of tea and the boyfriends are put aside for the day.”

The sisters came together in New York to shoot our cover image and to raise awareness for home-grown charity Pink Hope. The charity educates women about their personal risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and aims to raise awareness through its annual Bright Pink Lipstick Day on September 26. Jess’s new cosmetics range Luma, which also launches next month, has designed a hot-pink lipstick for the day. All proceeds from the sale of the lipstick go to Pink Hope. Both women say they’re honoured to support the charity.

“It seems like there are so many people being diagnosed with cancer these days that it’s not even surprising any more, which is even more terrible,” says Jess. “Awareness can lead to cures, it’s just one little step at a time.”

Fashion was the furthest thing from the sisters’ minds when they were growing up in suburban Melbourne. They attended Sophia Mundi Steiner School, where their mother, a single parent, was a teacher. “It couldn’t be more chalk and cheese,” says Ash. “We were not fashionable and not model-y. We were both really big tomboys. I got called mate until I was 13 and Jess was always in tracksuits.”

Adds Jess, “If my bottoms matched my top, I would be happy.”

The story of Jess’s rise is the stuff of dreams for many teenage girls. In 2000, when she was 14, her aunt dragged her to the local shopping centre and entered her in the Dolly magazine model competition, which she won. She left school at 15, moved to Japan, then Paris and London, and finally New York. She has become a Victoria’s Secret angel, a catwalk regular, the face of Portmans and appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. In 2007, when named the new face of Guess, she told an American interviewer: “I’ll stay here for a few years, or as long as I can hold out in this business. I want to make enough money to come back to Australia and buy a house.”

It’s an ambition Jess has long surpassed. For the past four years, she had been dating wealthy Greek shipping heir Stavros Niarchos III – known for his previous romances with Mary-Kate Olsen and Paris Hilton. Her cosmetics line is about building something that she believes in, for herself.

“In our industry we can’t control anything,” she says. “We don’t know what is happening next month, let alone next week, so it’s really nice to have something that I’m creatively controlling and where every decision comes down to me and what I want.”

It wasn’t long before all that glamour and wealth lured little sister Ashley. “I got into it because I saw how much money Jess was making,” Ash admits.

She’s gone on to make her name as a pin-up girl for the fit and healthy. She’s a regular fitness-magazine cover girl, the face of Coles fashion label Mix, and holds a lucrative contract with vitamin group Suisse. This week, she walks in her sister’s footsteps as ambassador for Melbourne Spring Fashion Week.

“Australian fashion is smart and cool,” says Ash, who travels home with empty suitcases to pick up local fashion, such as favourite Shakuhachi. “People are always saying, ‘Where did you get that?’ In Australia, how we dress reflects who we are. People go out with a happy, floaty look, but there’s always an edge to it, like a blazer or a heel.”

A kundalini yoga devotee with an interest in spirituality, Ash says modelling has taught her to look more deeply at the world.

“When I was younger, I was always wanting to be skinnier,” she says. “I was always the sporty one and Jess was always legs 11. I looked at the coat-hanger runway models and I thought, ‘I’m not that.’ I had moments of not accepting that, but now I love that I’m athletic and muscly. Through modelling I’ve grown into a deeper acceptance and love of myself. It’s been a really nice way to get to know who I am at a deeper level and allow that part of me to shine.”

If there’s rivalry between the sisters, it doesn’t show. Jess has given Ash guidance and support and Ash describes Jess as her idol. “Jess says I’m the most beautiful girl in the world but she’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen, so it makes me think I am just as beautiful and that’s a very nice reflection,” says Ash. “Naked in front of the mirror we are very similar, we just have different curves in different places.”

But even supermodels bare grudges against their bodies. Jess once hoped to have the trademark gap between her front teeth closed. But when a dentist told her the procedure would be major, she learned to live with it. It helped, she says, going to a Steiner school, “where no-one picked on you for your looks. If I had been in a mainstream classroom it might have become an issue.”

Ultimately, it’s the values inherited from their mother that have helped them stay sane in a notoriously fickle industry.

“The ‘take me as I am or leave me alone’ attitude has helped both of us,” says Jess. “It’s hard in the beginning in this industry – you don’t really know what you’re meant to do so you try to do, or act, or be, certain things. What sets us apart is none of that. We were brought up to be individuals.”

Adds Ash: “There’s nothing more beautiful than when a woman is accepting of her own body. We both shine in our own ways.”

Luma by Jess Hart Bright Pink Lipstick is available for pre-order at, and from Priceline stores nationally from September 3.

Bright Pink Lipstick Day is September 26. Melbourne Spring Fashion Week runs until September 7.

Lead-in image: James Houston.

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