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Inspiration -

Setting Sail With Katie Gleeson

Tell us about yourself.

Hey there! My name’s Katie and I’m a 20 year old model, photographer and creative. I was born in Cronulla and moved to the beautiful Noosa Heads with my family when I was 12. Now I live between Sydney and the South Coast of NSW creating and doing things I love. Mum and dad raised me to be super outdoorsy so I love things like camping, surfing, diving… pretty much anything that involves being out in the fresh air. I also love animals and have been studying animal and marine conservation for the past two years which is pretty cool! I’ve found studying science whilst doing creative work to be really rewarding as it allows me to combine both of my interests, even though they’re vastly different. 


How long have you been modelling for and what made you start?

 My first modelling job I ever did was for one of those girly magazines that you’d beg your mum to buy when you were food shopping. I remember 11 year old me turning up to the studio and being so overwhelmed (in a good way!). Four years later my mum secretly submitted modelling photos to a big agency and didn’t tell me about the meeting until we were actually at the office! I never thought I would be chosen but I signed with them on the spot, however didn’t really start properly modelling until I graduated high school and was scouted by a Sydney agency in 2019. I moved to Sydney and started working with iconic brands such as Hugo Boss, Cotton On, Camilla and Tigerlily, and of course Billabong!


What do you do when you’re not modelling?

I spend a lot of time down the coast with my friends surfing, going on roadies and to my friends gigs (covid safe of course!). A majority of my friends are super talented musicians so being able to go and support them is one of my favourite things to do - they also encouraged me to pick up playing bass which I’ve been loving. I’m a huge foodie, so most of the time you’ll find my in the kitchen baking up a cake or something to give my friends. Mum and dad are both really creative people so I love painting, drawing, working with clay, and now photography. One of the reasons I love the fashion industry is for the artistic aspect behind every shoot, however as a model you’re not usually booked to give your creative input. I bought a film camera, started organising shoots and posting it on my page @kodakbykatie, and now I work with other creatives and models to create images which incorporate everyones creative flair. Being able to say I work from both sides of the lens is pretty cool too!



What would be your dream shoot destination for a Billabong campaign?

Oooooooooooh this is a tease! I’d have to say my dream location would be somewhere along the northern coastline of Western Australia near Ningaloo Reef. As much as I love travelling overseas, nothing beats the beauty of home soil and I feel like the contrast of red sand to aqua waters would look incredible. There’s also some amazing marine life over there like whale sharks that I am dying to see up close.


Where has been your favourite travel destination and where is next on the list (when we can eventually travel again)? 

110% Japan. My friends must be sick of hearing me talk about it by now but it’s worth all the hype! The people are so generous, the food is incredible and the culture is out of this world. I’d have to say that a South Island road trip of New Zealand is next on the list as its the first place we’ll be able to travel, however if there were no restrictions I’d be over to Croatia or Italy in a heartbeat. There’s just something about the Mediterranean which I’ve always been drawn to.


Any advice for budding models out there? 

Take every comment as a grain of salt. It’s a tough industry and like any job, there will always be times where you get rejected. I used to let every ‘failed’ casting get under my skin, make me think that there was something ‘wrong’ with me or that the people didn’t like me. It wasn’t until I realised that every ‘failure’ was just one more foot in the door and sometimes I ended up being booked for the same brand a few weeks, months are even years later! Just because you don’t get booked, doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It just means that they could be saving you for something even better!  You just have to keep persevering, working hard and believing in yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t sit right with you. You’re human and you’re allowed to feel. 


If you could give advice to your younger self what would it be?

Worry less about what others think of you and just do what makes you happy! Don’t let the opinions of other people determine how you value yourself! Tell your family and friends that you love them & most importantly, look after and love yourself. Don’t be afraid to use your voice! You got this! 


P.S. if you could stop spending all your pocket money on lollies at the corner shop and save some for future Katie that would be great!



If you had a whole weekend off, how would you typically spend it? 

I’m very much a homebody so a weekend off usually includes sleeping in, yoga, a good cup of coffee and playing music while tinkering around the house. I mostly always bake a cake (carrot cake, lemon meringue pie or chocolate cake to be precise) and go for a drive in the fresh air. Just taking time to unwind and listen to my body is all I need sometimes after a week of work. A swim in the ocean never goes astray as well!


What are your plans for the future? 

I don’t like to dwell on the future too much, however the current plan is to travel and make a living out modelling and photography. The biggest thing I tell my friends when it comes to career advice is to not focus so much on the money, but to find your passions and follow that. Being creative is my passion and it fuels my ‘spark’, so if I can make a living out of it I’ll be living the dream. Another huge goal of mine is to travel and work on different marine conservation projects around the globe. I’d love to locate myself at a research station on the Great Barrier Reef and focus on manta ray, shark and cetacean studies. Travelling to British Columbia and studying the behavioural activities of orcas (killer whales) is also up there on the bucket list! I’d also like to write a book, start a brand, open a cafe… the possibilities are endless!


What is one thing people might be surprised to find out about you? 

I’ve been teaching myself Japanese since I was 13! On our first trip to Japan in 2013 we travelled to a lot of remote places when we were there where use of the English language wasn’t as common. I took the role of ‘family translator’ very seriously and found that I really loved learning another language, so I continued with it when we got home. On my second trip there, I met a little old lady in a ramen shop and had a whole conversation with her! It’s safe to say she made us the best ramen I’ve ever had in my life and I’ll never forget the way her face lit up when I started speaking to her. It’s the little encounters like that which encourage me to keep at it. 


Lastly, your favourite Billabong item in your wardrobe? 

Ooooh pressure! I’d have to say the Melody Bucket Hat, it’s super windy at the moment and its the only thing that can control my hair when I go outside haha!