1. Why did you decide to become a psychologist?
When I was about 15 and my parents divorced I saw a psychologist for three years, and every time I'm back in Brazil I still have a catch-up with her. I think having that experience early on in life - that non-judgmental person who allowed me to be myself and feel supported - was very important.
2. Do you think that your clients might look at you, a model, and doubt you could understand their problems?
I haven't heard it but I have asked myself whether clients would think that. But we're only humans. Low self-esteem, sadness, anger and frustration is part of life. For models too, absolutely. Also, there is more to me than Grace the Model.
3. What was your childhood like?
Busy. My parents both worked and travelled a lot. I come from a big city called Porto Alegre which means happy port. I was very close to my siblings and a lady who was our housekeeper. We weren't well off, we had to be careful. From age 14, I was working to help my mum make ends meet. I was social and outgoing, not a very good student. I don't think I felt beautiful, no, no, no. But I understood that there was a way that I was born that I could capitalise on, and it could support me through achieving my dream, which was to go to university.
4. How did you become a model?
I finished school and I wanted to earn money so I could go to America and learn English and get away from the pressure from my family to go to university straight away. I needed to learn about life and myself. A friend who was working for Citroen asked me to be the pretty girl beside the car in a mall. In my first week there, two model agents saw me and asked me to come to New Zealand. I did a little bit of research and thought, let's see what happens.
5. How did you find life in Auckland?
I arrived in November and it rained until February. I didn't speak one word of English. I found the rejection side of the modelling very hard. I was very skinny for the New Zealand market. Or, "your nose is too big" ... You name it. But it was exciting. Auckland was so different to where I come from. I love it. I love the fact that we are very friendly here and it's safe. You can walk by yourself in the afternoon or evening-ish. You can live in a house without gates and security guards. There were a few things that I had to adapt to; in Brazil if we meet someone we don't shake hands, we hug and kiss and it is a little bit closer. In New Zealand there is a bit more distance, but there's nothing wrong with that either, I quite enjoy it.
6. How did you meet Craig?
I met him in my first two weeks here. He was shooting my first ever editorial. It was for Style magazine - remember Style? I was wearing beautiful clothing, tailored jackets and pants and had really big hair. I actually had no idea what I was doing. He'd say "left!" and I'd be reaching for my little dictionary. He was so kind. But I don't think he fell in love with me then. A year later we bumped into each other at an industry party and started seeing each other. I had 10 really happy years with Craig. It wasn't always on a high, because that's impossible. But he had a powerful ability to encourage people to develop into themselves. He was a kind and generous person.
7. Was his depression an issue from the beginning?
No. I guess everybody experiences depression, or profound sadness, at some point in their lives, right? I don't know if he covered it up, I'm not sure. That's why it's so important that people feeling this way try communicating with their loved ones. Tell them what doesn't feel right. Ask for help. Because it's very easy for other people not to see the obvious.
8. How did you pull yourself out of the grief from his death?
I don't think you're ever able to pull yourself out of it. It's impossible to get over it. But I have learned how to make room in my heart and live with the pain. I do remember when the first initial shock minimised, when I was able to function a little bit more like a human. Because at the beginning I lost sense of a lot of things such as if I had eaten or had a shower that day. After that I went back to the basics. I would write in my diary: take the dog for a walk, eat lunch, have a nap, do some washing. I learned how to tell people, "I'm really angry today, so just be aware". But I embraced the support of friends; that was crucial because when you are in a massive storm of pain it's an easy approach to withdraw.
9. Does such a traumatic experience help you as a psychologist?
Absolutely. Before I thought I knew what pain felt like. I had no idea.
10. How do you advise your clients to manage depression (outside of medication)?
Self-care and self-compassion. There is nothing else in the world more precious and valuable than yourself. Yeah, work and family and kids are extremely important but if you are the anchor of this boat you don't want the anchor to get rusty. For me self-care means mindfulness, yoga, meditation, the little things like sitting down and really enjoying a cup of tea, catching up with friends, eating my greens.
11. After Craig died did you consider moving back to Brazil?
I did, it was my first thought. But if there was one thing I knew from studying grief and loss it was to sit still for a while and not make any big rational decisions because you're not able to. Being a model and a student I didn't have a lot of structure in my life. My home, my nest - that was the safety. So I just decided I was going to stay at least a year and complete my studies. And then I realised that this is my home and I have developed an amazing Kiwi family. Craig did play a big part in that. But most important, I had developed my own sense of self here.
12. Was there a time when you felt ready to start dating again?
Yes. All of a sudden I met someone who accepted me with an open heart and filled my life with joy. I was looking for a manual of instructions about that. When is the right time? What am I supposed to do here, is this acceptable? And then I realised there isn't a manual, it's life.