Amanda Betts spent 30 or so years navigating the fashion industry as a model before co-founding Red11 Models, one of New Zealand’s most successful modelling agencies. After doing the unimaginable – walking away from the company she built from the ground up – back in 2013, Betts made the decision to use her industry experience to bring about positive change in the life of teenagers and founded Bridge The Gap Project.
Tell us about Bridge The Gap Project and how the idea came to fruition.
They say our most inspiring and creative work comes from our darkest places, through surviving adversity. Why did I have such a harrowing, gruelling childhood? I left home & school with two years’ high school education notched on my belt, $20 in my pocket and the clothes on my back. While everyone has their story, I have many stories…
After a lifeline of hope in the form a modelling course gifted to me by my grandmother, a woman able to see beyond my bad behaviour and wildcat ways, and picking up a $5000 TV commercial before I’d completed the course, it was obvious the fashion industry offered a sleuth of opportunity.
I spent over 30 years weaving my way throughout the fashion industry until I co-built NZ’s powerful model agency, Red11 Models playing a major part in changing 1000’s of lives through developing and managing models and talent. It was 2013 when I got a call way bigger than me. In my quest to discover a way to weave what ‘happened’ to me with my industry knowledge in a way for the good of many, the Bridge The Gap Project was born.
Through the Bridge The Gap Project, you primarily work with teenagers, which sounds challenging as everyone knows how tough those teenage years can be. Can you explain how you’ve mastered the art of connecting and communicating with teens?
Connecting with teens is as natural to me as breathing. I love them! I see past behaviour to help people look for and understand their triggers, their ‘Why?’ Because once you know your ‘why’, you can figure out your ‘what’ and ‘how’. One of the shifts into this new-world thinking is our focus is no longer just from the outside-in. What I do is help people both from the outside-in and inside-out at the same time in a very real way. It’s a gift, one I’ve invested a lot in to. Allow teens opportunities to stand toe-to-toe and negotiate with you, empower them, be honest, give them space to tell the truth, respect their space, and stop the madness of rescuing them. There’s only one way to figure out that to fall from great heights hurts if you don’t put safety measures in place… And just because they’ve inhabited the planet a fraction of the time you have, doesn’t mean they can’t be your teachers while they’re your students, and vice versa.
Tell us about some of Bridge The Gap’s success stories.
So many unbelievable success stories already, only made possible through the support, belief and willingness of parents, caregivers and social workers, as well as my own team who champion me to go out there and do what I do best. One of the top highlights is I worked with a young person in her lead up to parole after being in lockdown for some time. I was given complete freedom to work in an intuitive way tailored especially for her. When she got out, I cried harder than when one of my models was flown around the world by Karl Lagerfeld for various Chanel shows.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty is everywhere: from nature to a beautifully-sculpted pottery piece, maturity to beautifully-sculpted young cheekbones. It’s in people who take risks and do it anyway. Beauty is in ‘being’, resilience, willingness to change and evolve. It’s in surrendering and handing yourself over. And beauty is right now, getting my makeup done, feeling beautiful from the inside-out and outside-in because someone who loves what they do shares their gift of making you feel beautiful, with you.