WHEN she was still a teenager, Kayleigh Dunne became homeless.
She would often wander the streets all night if she hadn’t been able to find a safe place to sleep, falling asleep in the daytime.
She is proud to say she never begged and even managed to support herself with a cleaning job.
“I would drop my rucksack off in the morning at this place that supported homeless people then go and clean these huge houses in Winchester all day,” says the 26-year-old.
Eventually, at 18, she managed to get a place in a hostel in Winchester and it was while she was there that she entered a Miss England competition.
She didn’t reach the final, but it gave Kayleigh a taste for modelling, and a different lifestyle. Her life began to change direction.
Having her hair and make-up done and getting dressed up for a glamorous photo shoot stood in stark contrast to the everyday reality of her world. For a few hours she was experiencing a different lifestyle and creating a lasting image of this ideal version of herself.
She fell in love with being in front of the camera and became one of a growing number of people who sign up to websites offering their services as unpaid models, in exchange for photos for portfolios, the glamour, fun, escapism and the chance to be a model.
Kayleigh found that she was in demand – her picture has been in magazines, on advertising posters and flyers, in catalogues, on poker chips, playing cards, on fashion websites.
Most of her work is as a rockabilly or pin-up model, often sporting a retro look, evoking 1940s and 1950s sophistication and style, but with a modern edge – Kayleigh has several tattoos and often shows them off in photo shoots.
She has also diversified into performing with fire, and has previously taken to the stage as a burlesque dancer.
As well as an impressive cuttings folder, Kayleigh has also gained herself a fanbase – there are more than 1,000 followers of her fan page on Facebook. Her admirers often send her gifts and there is a section of her website to direct them to some items she has her eye on.
But despite her success, modelling is still a hobby rather than a job for Kayleigh and there is a contrast between her glamorous image and her day-to-day life, as an unemployed single mother to a two-year-old.
“I just do it for fun, because I enjoy it,” she says of her modelling.
“Some of the photo shoots I’ve done to get photos for my portfolio, others for the exposure.”
Kayleigh is now diversifying with a new project that aims to help other women feel more gorgeous and also to give her a regular income stream.
Photo by Jerry Griffin
She is in the process of setting up her own toiletries and cosmetics business, creating everything from body scrubs to nail varnish.
She is a huge fan of learning, constantly taking adult education courses, and her new venture will take advantage of some of her qualifications, including a recent diploma in biochemistry. She is also a qualified make-up artist and has studied everything from teaching English as a foreign language to making toiletries!
“I am like a jumping bean, always pushing myself to do a million things at a million miles an hour and there’s no one to slow me down,” she laughs.
“I wanted to create a range of cosmetics that didn’t make women feel like they have to look any better than they do without make-up. I just want to add a touch of sparkle to their beauty routine, that is natural, animal friendly and oozes glamour – the kind of glamour that gives us that spring in our step when we walk down the street, because we don’t just look beautiful but we feel beautiful too.
“I want to help make other women feel good about themselves and glamorous in a healthy way. I am very creative and have lots of interests so this is a way to bring some of those interests together,” she adds.
Kayleigh’s life has moved on since her days of rough sleeping, but it has left her feeling grateful for her opportunities in life and for what she has and with passion and energy to succeed.
“To me, life is about learning,” she says.
“I like to cram in as many things as I can. I feel so appreciative of everything I have in my life.”