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 useÂ her industry experienceÂ to bring about positive change in the life of teenagers andÂ 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 yearsâ 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 storiesâŠ
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 Iâd 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 NZâs powerful model agency, Red11 Models playing a major part in changing 1000âs 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 âhappenedâ 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 thoseÂ teenageÂ years can be. Can you explain how youâve 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 âWhy?â Because once you know your âwhyâ, you can figure out your âwhatâ and âhowâ. 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. Itâs a gift, one Iâve 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. Thereâs only one way to figure out that to fall from great heights hurts if you donât put safety measures in placeâŠ Â And just because theyâve inhabited the planet a fraction of the time you have, doesnât mean they canât be your teachers while theyâre your students, and vice versa.
Tell us about some of Bridge The Gapâs 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. Itâs in people who take risks and do it anyway. Beauty is in âbeingâ, resilience, willingness to change and evolve. Itâs 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.