Dear 16-Year-Old Me: Model Thalia Heffernan

"You’ll have to kiss a few frogs, and your heart will be broken more than once but it will be worth it in the end"

In our regular slot ‘Dear 16-year-old Me’, we chat to some of our favourite people of note about what they’d say to their teenage self.

They get open and honest about what their teens were like and share the advice they’d give for the future.

This week, we’re chatting to model and activist Thalia Heffernan. 

Thalia has been modelling since she was a teen and took part in Dancing With The Stars in 2017. Now she works as an activist for animal rights acting as an ambassador for DSPCA.

“Dear Thalia

As a teen you were painfully insecure. I wish I could sit down with myself then and tell myself to relax a little and enjoy being a teenager instead of rushing to grow up all of the time.

The best part of being a teen was experiencing everything for the first time. The first kiss, the first disco, the first fights, the first makeups, all of it. I think being a teenager can feel like the hardest thing in the world but those hard things are the things you look back on so fondly ten years on.

The hardest part about being a teen was the emotional changes. I remember really struggling mentally with hormones, school, work and then the introduction of boys (I went to an all girls school so they came pretty late in life). I think it’s crazy to assume anyone had an easy run of it and there’s some consolation in that, that every teenager is trying their best.

School for you was a rollercoaster. I think I struggled to know who I was in school and in work and fought with that a lot. I was in a strict all girls school which had its challenges, and I definitely wouldn’t consider myself particularly academic either so you know how that goes. Keeping up was hard and while I was there I pretty much hated it, but as I was told so often as a teen and always turned my nose at, trust me ‘you’ll miss it one day’

When you grow up it will all be fine. You’ll have to kiss a few frogs, and your heart will be broken more than once but it will be worth it in the end. You’ll be hurt by life but the ups outweigh the downs tenfold and you’ll experience things you only ever dreamed of. All those odd and unpaid shoots you went on? They paid off. When you grow up you’ll be proud of yourself.

What has changed…. Mum and dad split, but they’re happier now and you have a goddaughter and two nephews. We’re all healthy and safe, and in the ‘2020’s there’s a lot to be said of that. You finally got the dogs you always wanted, and you actually work with the DSPCA and other charity’s to help fight for what you believe is right. You now talk to teens in Instagram DM’s who are struggling and help them find their light. You still have your ‘chubby cheeks’ but they help pay the mortgage. The thing that’s changed the most is that your learning everyday to love yourself more, flaws and all.

What has not changed is that Alison is still your best friend from school, you still have good and bad days and your still your daddy’s little girl. You’ve changed so much but your bones are the same. All the hard work you put in, the tough hours in school the early starts for shoots, the family dinners you didn’t want to go to- they all made for strong bonds in your adult life. We still have our birthmarks and our scar on our lip from when we fell as a kid still goes purple when we’re cold, but now you look at it with fondness instead of irritation.

I wish you knew at 16 that life gets hard, but you’ll get through. There’s been times I feared I wouldn’t, but know you do. There’ll be losses that feel like the end of the world, but they’re not and the lessons you learn from them make you stronger. I wish at 16 I knew that everyone is in their own battle everyday, and that you’re not alone. I wish I knew that I’d be typing this interview from my bed in my home with my dogs by my side and my partner making me my morning coffee, as he does everyday. I wish I could tell myself things will be beautiful.

My biggest piece of advice to my teen self would be: Worry less. Smile with all your teeth and cheeks and don’t worry what you think yiu look like to other people. Love every inch of yourself and tell those who disagree to do one. In the end

You’re the only one who you have to thank for how far you’ve come and you wouldn’t be here without those ‘lanky legs’ or frizzy hair you loathed so much.

If I could tell you anything, it’s that looks don’t last forever. Make memories, work hard, enjoy your ability to run and dance and sing and don’t take those teenage years too seriously. You’re a beautiful work in progress.


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