Our ‘Success Secrets’ Series is a collection of intimate conversations with some of Australia’s most influential and successful Australian women.

Our intent is to delve deeper than the polished exterior we’re all familiar with, to reveal the hidden doubts, challenges and hurdles these women have overcome to become strong, happy and successful businesswomen.

We’ll save the perfect pictures for Instagram, preferring to share honest, raw, warts and all stories of professional triumph, family balance and the maintainance of personal sanity.

We discuss personal journies and career paths, how they’ve managed to stay committed and dedicated to their personal and professional goals, how they’ve managed to maintain belief in themselves and particularly, how they’ve overcome any doubts, anxiety or stress that may accompany high-pressure professional lives.

In the words of our guests we hope you find solace, encouragement and a reminder that you do have the strength deep inside you to achieve your life’s goals.

Natalie Wakeling, Body Image Ambassador, Model & Owner of Fashion Brand, Embody.Denim


1. What’s your name, how old are you and what’s your family status?
Natalie Wakeling, 38 Married with 3 boys.

2. What’s your professional role and how did you get there?

I am the creator, designer and director of Embody Denim, Australia’s leading designer, plus-size fashion label for women size 14-22. The collection features subtle design additions including special seams, support bands and pocket placement to help enhance the silhouette of curvy women.

I left school at exactly 14.9 months to pursue formal training in photography with a local wedding photographer. I would also do the make up for all the shoots. After moving to Sydney at 17 I joined Napoleon Perdis as a Make-up artist.

A chance make up job with the right photographer that happened to be shooting for a new plus size modelling agency was the turning point in my career.

He took a few snaps and sent them on to Darrianne from BGM Models which in turn set a course of events within Australia that meant for the first time a model over a size 12 was working the editorial and campaign circuit just as much as the straight sized model.

(Natalie was the first model over a size 10 to be featured in a fashion-editorial magazine in Australia. Following this historic shoot, Cosmo Magazine’s offices were overrun with mail from happy readers declaring their delight at finally seeing real women’s bodies represented in the media.)

3. At what point did you decide to have a family, and how did you manage that transition?

I met the love of my life at 18 and was married and pregnant at 20.

The transition was extremely difficult on so many levels. Morning sickness & extreme sleep deprivation whilst trying to walk a runway, fainting on live TV, just to name a few career highlights as a mother/model.

I worked every week so it was a constant juggle getting someone to watch the baby for me.

I learnt very quickly how to manage my time and do hair and makeup in 5 minutes.

Being young I took it in my stride and just got on with the job, however it does give me an eye twitch looking back now…..and I would not recommend this to anyone.

4. What was the hardest part about returning to the work-place, wherever that may be, with the new found pressures of young children?

MOTHERS GUILT!! This is the worst feeling of all. I didn’t take a break nor did I receive maternity leave, so my pressures were very heavy on a financial level as well as on a body image level.

My husband was an apprentice chef and earnt less than our rent, so the pressure to get back to work ASAP and look like a model straight after giving birth was very stressful.

Being very young I relied heavily on my mum to come and stay for a few days every fortnight to help with the chores and to give me a few hours rest. We didn’t earn enough money to afford daycare or a nanny, so learning to juggle a very tight family budget with the time constraints and pressures of a demanding toddler definitely helped me when it became time to start my own business.

5. How did that affect your mindset with regards to work pressures, professional altercations and project management?

I definitely became very driven and focused on getting results, which meant I gave up a lot of playtime and coffee dates with my friends to achieve my goal of starting Embody Denim.

I found it hard to relate to a lot of mums as they did not have the pressures of working and juggling business.

After a horrific 28 hour labour I seriously felt like I could achieve anything! My mindset definitely changed as I pushed myself out of my comfort zone continually and learnt that it was ok to make a mistake.

I had bad days – days where you did not want to get up and do it all over again, but the beauty of having children is that they don’t let you give up (or have a day off).

6. Post-children, how have you maintained your creativity and inspiration within the new climate of physical and mental exhaustion, multi-tasking madness and a distinct lack of personal time.

Exercise, music and wine ..seriously.

For a very long time, about 11 years, I ran off adrenaline and thought I had to do everything myself. I learnt the hard way after a recent health scare that you cannot do it all alone.

Learning to delegate and outsource your life and/or children if need be is sometimes the only way you can get through the ups and downs of business.

If you have to get a cleaner or put your kids in a daycare ( let’s face it – they get fed better there anyway) or have a massage every week then do it! I live by Elle McPherson’s mantra of doing one thing a day that makes you happy. Your family will thank you for this later.

7. Let’s talk belief in oneself. Did you always know you could do this job, or did it take a while to acknowledge to yourself that you were not only capable, but exceptional at it?

I had no degree in fashion design and I can’t really sew a thing. I did however have a burning passion to give women amazing jeans that made them feel invincible.

I have never had a fear of failing something, as long as I knew I could give it my all. I’m very stubborn so the minute I’m told I can’t I make sure I can. My driving passion is what gave me the confidence to do something I had no qualifications in.

Surround yourself with the right people, people that can encourage and guide you through the bad days when you are not feeling confident.

8. When you feel yourself overwhelmed, out of depth or unsupported at work or home, what are the steps you take to talk yourself off the ledge?

I usually call my husband and have a big cry and then call a friend to go drink our body weight in Margaritas. But before you get to this point you probably knew it was coming, so trying to forecast a peak in deadlines and schedules and warn friends and family that you will be unavailable for anything can sometimes lessen the expectations that you have built around yourself.

If I cannot do something in a reasonable amount of time and at a great standard I have learnt to find the person that can do it for me. I must say it has taken me a decade to learn how to do this. OUTSOURCE EVERYTHING.

9. Revelation Time. Can you reveal something about yourself that you still doubt – your Achilles heel?

Ha! I can’t tell you that! Okay I will….I doubt my ability to do it all really, really well.

I doubt my ability to be a good model on photo-shoots. Sometimes I’m waiting for the photographer to turn around and go ”Sprung! You don’t really know what you’re doing, do you??” But most of all I would hate to fail my kids by letting them down as a parent.

10. When you have really messed up – when you have made a massive mistake, be it arriving so late to Mother’s Day Morning Tea you’ve missed the whole event and your daughter is the only one without a mum and a hot chocolate, or when you accidently deleted a client’s entire customer database, or missed the most important meeting of your career, what did you do, and how do you deal with future mistakes?

OMG you did this didn’t you Sarah!!??? (Our lovely guest Natalie knows this writer too well…)

Don’t make excuses, just cop it on the chin and say SORRY!!

Being humble can go a long way. And the next best thing? Maybe book a one way ticket to the moon.

Natalie Wakeling will be hosting our Masterclass ‘How To Start an On-Line Fashion Business‘ this month.

Make sure to sign up to our Style Society for more information.