Modelling and moving across the world with Kirstin Gribbin

Working in a competitive industry like modelling can be isolating, awkward and cruel at times. Pressure can easily build up from feeling compared to somebody else if Alexa Chung feels it, we all feel it! But on the flip side, you meet a lot of incredible women who are beautiful in more ways than one.

Kirstin was one of the first people I interviewed for this blog way-back-when, and somebody I knew I’d love to write about again. We talked about modelling, what it’s like moving across the world to Canada, her degree and what she misses most about Scotland.

What agencies are you with?

I am with Superior Model Management in Glasgow, Scotland and ICON Model Management in Toronto, Canada 😊

How long have you been working in the modelling industry, and what was your first shoot like?

Okay… Wow, I have been modelling for 9 years now 😱 My first shoot was with a photographer who was studying at Glasgow School of Art. It was all about wild hair, sick lighting and vampy vibes.

Photography - Daina Renton @dianarenton
MUA - Laura McMakeUp @mcmakeup86
Styling - Daina Renton, Kirstin Gribbin
Photography – Daina Renton @dianarenton
MUA – Laura McMakeUp @mcmakeup86
Styling – Daina Renton, Kirstin Gribbin

What is joining a modelling agency like, could you describe the process you went through to become a main board model? 

(Models generally start out as a ‘new face’, and do a lot of ‘testing’ – simple shoots which show their features and range of expression, and a lot of TFP projects. If an agency is confident their new face is versatile and reliable, the models status within the agency will change to ‘main board’, where they receive more complex opportunities and a higher rate of pay.)

I think it’s important to go and experience a shoot first before approaching an agency. Most agencies give their signed models test shoots with trusted photographers, but I wanted to get a feeling for it and try to gain some experience before. Even through friends of friends who are studying photography, or networking through Instagram, whatever. You will find someone to do TFP (time for print, no money changes hands but all involved can use the end images) and it’s a great experience! 

When you join a modelling agency, they will look over your book (your images) and speak with you about your experience. They’ll ask what you want to achieve in your time with the agency and then give you advice based on what they see. But remember, you are only human! You need to keep reminding yourself of this in the industry. 

For me I had to work my ass off. I met every photographer I could, every make-up artist. I wanted to reach a standard that I was confident with before showing any agency, across various types of shoots – commercial, fashion, print etc. I just wanted to gain enough experience so I could prove to my agency at the time that I was worth signing as a main board model.

It paid off and when I signed with another agency, they saw all my work and said to me ‘Wow… you have done a lot’. They were impressed and signed me for their main board there and then. It was a very exciting day when I found out I was going to become a main board model. 

What do you enjoy most about working in the fashion industry?

Oh God, so much. Meeting creatives, getting dressed up, fashion, having photos for life… The list goes on. For me the most important thing is meeting people who are interested in what I’m interested in – fashion, beauty and creating in general.

Photography - Matt Brown @mattsphotosuk
MUA - Paulina Seimbor @paulina_siembor
Photography – Matt Brown @mattsphotosuk
MUA – Paulina Seimbor @paulina_siembor

I think that teamwork is the most important aspect of a shoot. You carry this skill for the rest of your life, to uni/work/etc. 

Of all the projects you’ve been involved in so far, which one was the most fun for you?

Mmmm… A Nick Knight/Mastered Shoot in London. I’ve just been selected for my first ever Toronto Fashion Week too so that is super exciting, and I loved shooting the music video for Idlewild – Every Little Means Trust with Jay Baruchel (This is the End, Knocked Up, How to Train Your Dragon). 

What are the most challenging conditions you had to shoot in, and how did you overcome them?

Um.. I would say my shoot with Mastered was very challenging for me. One of the shots we were doing, expected me to go completely naked! I was very nervous because I had never gone full nude before in a shoot.

Everyone was amazing and made me feel super comfortable, rearranging the team on set so it was only me and Jodie Mann, the photographer. I’ve shot with Jodie a lot in the past and she is a very close friend of mine, so I already had a great working relationship with her.

Before you know it, I stopped being nervous! I was pulling poses like I have never done before and it was beautifully done. Nick Knight came up to me at the end of the shoot and said I was a great mover, which made my whole career as a model! He’s shot with some of the biggest names – women like Lady Gaga, Karlie Kloss, Kate Moss.

Images from Transfigured – shot in London by Jodie Mann photography, mentored by Nick Knight and inspired by powerful females of the early 1900’s.

What are some of the differences between the fashion industry in Scotland and Canada?

I would say here in Toronto it is quite difficult but that goes without saying – it’s a city after all. Any city is difficult, from Japan to London, you will find this every city. You have to prepared for anything that comes your way, especially rejection.

For me I was starting fresh again and had to meet entirely new people and make connections, which I am still pursuing this at this time. Ohhh bonnie Scotland, I miss it actually. It was very easy going and everyone wants to shoot! There is so much creativity in Scotland that I would say it’s a must to go and check it out! 

Who are some of your favourite models and where did you first see them?

Karlie Kloss on the cover of the Vogue September Issue 2012. I am in this issue as well, a very small picture right at the back, but that is me! She’s a fantastic model and she is working alongside some of the biggest makeup brands in the world just now! Inspiring… I think so!

Alexa Chung. She is just beautiful. I saw her in a magazine one day and I knew I just wanted to be her; she has amazing style and she was dating Alex Turner, which made her even more cooler for me 🤣

Ashley Graham – This woman inspires me. Yes, she is a curvy model but she does not let that stop her. She is sexy, fierce and inspirational. She made me realise we are all just human, especially as a woman. Our body changes… We get stretch marks, we are not perfect. If you are great at what you do, you can go far in life. Don’t stop for anyone!

Photography - Matt Brown @mattsphotosuk
Styling - Kirstin Gribbin
Headpiece - Kitch Me Vintage
Photography – Matt Brown @mattsphotosuk
Styling – Kirstin Gribbin
Headpiece – Kitch Me Vintage

What’s your favourite song to have playing on set?

Got to love some R’n’b and hip hop. I want to feel powerful and sexy on shoots so I always put on songs that makes me feel that way. Some of favourites are Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande, Partition by Beyonce and Get Right by J.Lo.

If you could pick your own dream team to shoot with, who would be the photographer, MUA and stylist?

Very hard question. There are soo many amazing talented people in the world. I’ve always wanted to be in a princess or a proper fairy tale shoot.

I would love everything to be amazing and tell a story. I do a lot of dark styled shoots and I love doing the opposite to challenge myself and show others that I can do this! 

So in that case my dream team would have to be Tim Walker as photographer and Val Garland as MUA. I’ve styled myself a lot for shoots so either myself or a stylist recommended by the photographer.

Photography - Jodie Mann @jodiemannphotography
MUA - Glam Candy UK @glamcandyuk
Photography – Jodie Mann @jodiemannphotography
MUA – Glam Candy UK @glamcandyuk

What inspired you to make the move overseas, and what was one thing you didn’t realise would change after moving?

It’s a long and personal story. Basically I wanted to expand my horizons since I was travelling a lot that year so I applied for the visa in July 2017.

I waited 6 months and found out I was accepted, so I had a year to pack up, save and move to this large country by myself. It was scary but it’s been the best decision I’ve made.

One thing I didn’t realise would change was my attitude to learning and developing myself. I’ve learned so much here about myself and know what I want in life. But Canada is not my future home unfortunately, I want to see more, do more, travel more. And… I miss home!

You lived in Birmingham recently too. What has been your favourite city to live in and what did you enjoy most about it?

Hah! Tricky 😋 I would definitely say Toronto to live in. In my experience Toronto is fun, easy and safe. There is lots to do with a lot of quirky shops, summer events and DOGS!!!! There are dogs everywhere I swear! 😋

Although the weather… The winters are brutal and summers are magical. I love Glasgow more though, its home.

You also have a degree in engineering. What was your experience like studying the subject at university?

Yes! I have a Bachelors of Engineering Honours degree in Product Design Engineering from Strathclyde University. Engineering was just combining my two loves – art and maths. 

It was a great course and I learned how much thought and development goes into designing one product, from cars to chairs. It wasn’t easy but I did it and that’s what makes me proud!

What do you think could be done to get more women interested in studying engineering?

If you love problem solving, deep thinking and getting practical – it is the right degree for you ladies! 

Do you have any activities or sports you enjoy doing to keep fit, and how did you get into them?

Is eating a sport??? 🤣 I looooooveeeee food! I go to the gym as much as I can. I love to walk places and go hiking too, which I got into because of modelling actually. I wanted to keep myself fit and healthy for any shoot that comes my way.

You never know what’s next, I could be booked for a swimsuit commercial tomorrow or the next week! You have to prepare yourself for anything in that sense. The most important thing for me first is to keep to my diet. Going to the gym is great but you need the proper nutrition to keep yourself full of energy. 

How do you take care of your skin, and what skincare product or routine gives you the best results?

Skincare is huge for me. Since I’m getting older now as well I’m even more cautious about my skin. First and foremost, I drink a lot of water. Your skin is your bodies biggest organ and you need to treat it right. I always drink at least 2 litres a day for the best results, even three days before a shoot ladies…. And Gents! Drink drink drink! (Water that is 🤣)

Photography - Aaron Neil @aaronneil_photo
Photography – Aaron Neil @aaronneil_photo

My mum has a wellness business, she taught me everything about health and what is best for my body. It’s a company called Herbalife and I use only their skincare products – they are incredible.

First thing in the morning I cleanse my face, then I use a spray toner to get all the extra dirt out of my face. After that I use an anti-wrinkle cream, at this age I hear I don’t need it blah blah but I would prefer to start early to prep my skin, then I use a final moisturiser.

Do you have any advice for anybody considering the move to Canada, how should they prepare?

Okay, there it a lot of things to consider before you move abroad. And I wanted to be fully prepared! I’ll give you my three most important tips.

1. Book in advance!!

I booked my Airbnb’s 6 months before! This was cheaper than staying at a hotel or renting an apartment, and it saved me from panicking once I got there. I could relax/settle in (a.k.a freak out in my room that I moved half way round the world by myself 🤣) and take in the sights before the real planning begins. Airbnb rentals are usually great and they can be easier to afford, since most rentals let you pay half when you book and the rest closer to the time.

2. Get your CV ready.

In Canada they actually have a different layout to the UK, believe it not! I would research what kind of jobs want to do and start planning! You want to have a good idea or a goal/path in mind.

3. Join a Group/Activity to get yourself meeting people!

When I first moved here, again it was a really scary experience… And it’s especially hard when you don’t know anyone. That’s one of the great things about modelling – there’s so many opportunities to network and meet people who do the same as myself! I also joined a Facebook group that my cousin recommended Called Brits In Toronto which has a lot of people in similar situations to myself, moving over from the UK. This helped me a lot and I got to meet some awesome people from there 😊

Photography - Filippo Nativo @filinat
MUA - Kayo Ishikawa @makeup.kayo
Photography – Filippo Nativo @filinat
MUA – Kayo Ishikawa @makeup.kayo

What do you miss most about Scotland?

Everything. Family, friends, highlands, Glasgow, the water and the fresh air. I’m coming back in January for a visit hopefully so holla at me! 😁

If there’s anyone reading this who is looking for a new start, I hope it brings you some inspiration to go for it.

If you have any questions, want to see my work or would like to organise a shoot together, please contact me on my Instagram @kirstingribbin 😁

Kirstin’s Superior Model Management Profile

Kirstin’s ICON Model Management Profile


Cover image: Photography – Matt Brown @mattsphotosuk

MUA – Alba Sofia @_albasofia

Hair – Leona Gillon @leona.provence.hair

Headpiece – Kitsch Me Vintage