When people ask Natalie Nunn, Director of leading modelling agency GIANT Management, to describe herself, she usually jokes that she’s a 1950’s housewife trapped in the body of a modern-day career woman! Natalie adores being a mother, wife, cooking dinner, baking birthday cakes and exploring the world with her family, but at the same time loves running a successful business, building corporate success, and producing novel research. And that’s why we love Natalie!
Doting mum and wife, and respected Director of the hugely successful GIANT modelling agency, Natalie knows a thing or two about the juggle. She and her husband have ditched traditional gender roles at home and at work in favour of co-parenting and extreme flexibility to support their dream family setup.
Natalie lifts the lid on flexible working, and urges us all to embrace it too (…if we can!).
You’re a beautiful wife, mum to a 19-month-old boy, director of a modelling agency and doing a PhD in law; how do you balance it all?
It is definitely a juggling act, and I don’t really have weekends anymore, but I think the real key is to work at your best for short bursts of time. I do most of my study using a technique called ‘pomodoro’ wherein you set a timer for 25 minutes and work with as much focus for that time as possible. If you get two or three of those in a day, you’ll be surprised how much study you can get done!
The agency is a bit less structured as I am responding to a range of people, so I try to give the agency immediate attention throughout the day to stop things piling up. I also have an amazing team at the agency who I couldn’t live without and who make my life a whole lot easier.
And I am a mum throughout the whole day! I have been known to give my son an old keyboard so we can ‘reply to emails’ together, and I’m definitely not above a special afternoon viewing of The Wiggles if I have to take a call. You do what you have to do!
Can you tell us about your career journey prior to your current role? We forgot to mention you’re also aqualified humanitarian lawyer!
I grew up with the agency and always knew that someday I would take it over, but until that day arrived I decided to pursue a different passion—international law. My mother is a great believer in education, and so my brother and I were raised to believe that a university degree was mandatory! We were both lucky enough to complete law degrees and arts degrees at Melbourne Uni, and I found a real passion in the law and decided to pursue humanitarian law. This choice took me to the Netherlands for my first role, then to Cambodia, New York and finally back to the Netherlands. It was a crazy and wonderful six years and I made some of my very best friends along the way! When I returned home for a month off in 2014, my mother asked if I would like to take over the agency and so I did. It was sooner than I had anticipated but turned out to be the perfect timing for the business and for me personally as I met my husband eight months after moving back!
What have been your biggest accomplishments to date?
Without doubt my greatest accomplishment is my beautiful son! My husband is an incredible father, and we have been committed to co-parenting to give our little one as much guidance and love from both of us as possible. The way we structure our time has raised a few eyebrows, but I am incredibly proud of how we have made our family and our businesses work to support our dream family setup.
From a professional standpoint, taking over GIANT and restructuring the business was a big achievement. I took a business that had been running successfully for 25 years and gave it an overhaul to fully maximise its potential. The results were amazing! Launching GIANT Jnr was a big step as we redefined the kids modelling world in terms of professionalism and ethics by refusing to charge sign-up fees and focusing only on talent we truly believe in. And launching GIANT Thanks was a personal highlight because I have always been passionate about giving back to the community, and this allowed us to have a charity division dedicated to raising money and doing just that!
Lastly, my PhD is a personal accomplishment. I received the acceptance letter the same day as my 12 week scan, so it felt like ridiculous timing to be embarking on something requiring so much focus and dedication. The progress to date has been a real testament to what can be achieved if you put your mind to it and being invited to be a visiting scholar at Cambridge just a few weeks ago was a personal milestone. To have the research recognised by such a respected institution is a big personal achievement. It also helps that I had a pre-scheduled agency scouting trip in London for the same period, so the juggle shall continue!
What does a typical day (work and family) look like for you?
My husband and I take it in turns to wake up with our son, so that every other day one of us gets to sleep in until 8AM (my 25-year-old self is dying at calling that a sleep-in)! Then each day is structured according to what our work schedules look like. We each try to have half of the day with our son, so if I have a morning of meetings my husband will take our son for the morning while I go to work, and we’ll swap over during nap time. The idea of traditional working hours has evaporated and after a particularly busy week at the agency I often find myself researching late at night or on the weekend. Long story short, each day is organised chaos!
What do you enjoy most about being a working parent?
I love being able to show my son the meaning of hard work, that women and men can be equal in the family and the workplace, and that both Mummy and Daddy can be the boss!
What do you find most challenging about working, studying and having a young family?
Finding time for self-care is really tricky. I have wonderful support from my parents and parents-in-law which allows me time out each week, but I find myself generally using that time to do extra work, so the biggest challenge is feeling OK taking time out.
Your work requires you to travel quite often. How do you manage this with a toddler?
We just pack him up and bring him with us! My husband’s work flexibility has really been crucial to allowing me to keep up travel for work. I’ve had a few week-long conferences/fashion weeks in Europe since our son was born and each time my husband was able to structure his work to allow him to be our full-time nanny for those weeks. That flexibility has been amazing as it allows me to work while the boys go exploring. I remember one evening in Switzerland walking back to meet the boys in a little park on the bank of Lake Geneva, expecting to find them exhausted, only to see my little 11-month-old running around playing soccer with a group of teenagers! They were all encouraging him in French, and encouragement must be a universal language because he was absolutely loving it!
What do you do to stay sane on those crazy days?
I remember reading an interview with a very inspiring new mother just after my son was born. In it the woman said that on days when she is struggling, instead of thinking, ‘Argh, I have to do this’, she says, ‘Wow, I get to do this’. That one little linguistic trick has seen me through some tougher days. Our son was awake every two to three hours for the first 15 months of his life and, believe me, when you’re jetlagged, working and up breastfeeding at 3AM in a foreign country, it is important to keep perspective on how lucky you are to be in such a wonderful position to travel with a healthy baby.
What does ‘me time’ mean for you?
A nap! Or a massage, or dinner with my friends.
What’s one thought you’d like to leave with our incredible circle of working parents?
We are so incredibly lucky to get to be mothers and fathers! Never forget the amazing gift of being a parent, no matter how tired or over-worked you feel.
Favourite time of the day is … nap time!
Instagram sites that inspire you … anything geared at inspiring people to do their best, rather than playing on insecurities.
I’m happiest when … my husband and son are playing and laughing together.
I’m addicted to … green tea.
Favourite wardrobe staple for work … black blazer.
Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend … high-waisted skirt.
My role model is … there are too many to name.
Heels or flats? Flats! Always flats.