Tauranga teen's model ambition

By APN

A Tauranga teenager badly injured in a motorbike accident that killed her best friend has battled back to pursue a dream to become New Zealand's Next Top Model.
Claudia Billinge, 16, is in the top 33 contestants going for the title in this year's competition.
On New Year's Eve 2007, the 13-year-old and her best friend, Daisy Fernandez, were hit by a 15-year-old motorcyclist riding without lights on Ripiro Beach in Northland. Daisy died the next day.
Claudia suffered a broken leg and a shattered pelvis. She underwent extensive surgery to insert plates and screws to fix her pelvis - but has fought back from grief and injury to pursue her dream of modelling.
Daisy's father, Craig Fernandez, said he was ecstatic about Claudia's entry, because his daughter had dreams of modelling. "It's absolutely fantastic she's made it, just fantastic. I know Daisy would've been over the moon."
Mr Fernandez was not surprised that Claudia had done so well already, as she and Daisy had always been interested in anything to do with clothes, fashion, make-up, hair and, of course, modelling.
A TV3 spokeswoman said Claudia was in the top 33. Judges were aware of her past but it was something Claudia did not want to go into in great detail, out of respect for her friend.
Her father, Mark Billinge, said he could not speak about his daughter's involvement with the competition as she had already signed a contract banning her from talking about it.
Claudia, a student at Otumoetai College, has had a long interest in fashion and modelling.
Last year, she entered the Global Connexions Fashion and Art Competition for secondary schools in the Bay of Plenty.


She picked up second place in the Nurtured by Nature category and was highly commended by judges for her design for the Evening Wear category.
She has already completed some modelling jobs. New Zealand's Next Top Model airs Friday at 7.30pm on TV3.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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