Victoria Eisermann: From Model to K-9 Angel
Published 4 March 2015
I started modelling aged 18. I desperately wanted to be a fashion model, but was told by a photographer that I wasn't good enough. He wasn't a particularly nice person. He got me into glamour modelling though, which gave me the chance to travel the world.
My parents weren't particularly happy when I went into glamour modelling in all honesty. I was a bit of a wild child and whatever my parents thought at that time, I wouldn't have cared, although I do care now. My dad died in a fire eight years ago but I'm still close to my mum and hopefully she is proud of what I'm doing now.
I was a Page 3 model in The Sun and was also in The Daily Star, various calendars and Playboy magazine. I started getting offers for TV commercials which was an honour for me, as I was a glamour model and thought that was all I would ever do. The commercial work gave me a new-found confidence.
I think The Sun's recent decision to end Page 3 was just done to bring a few more readers in. They would lose so many readers as, with all due respect, it is a working man's paper. I look back at my Page 3 shot with pride and I don't think that is anything to be ashamed of.
Commercials took me to places like Prague, where I shot an advert for Birds Eye. I was also in one of the 'not everything in black-and-white makes sense' Guinness commercials in which a very old man marries a young model. The advert was filmed at a church in Blackheath in London.
I had a blast making commercials, working with the most amazing people and directors and getting paid an incredible amount of money too. I was getting a lot of work in Europe as well, where they tend to be a little saucier. I would be the bubbly blonde but I was happy to be typecast as it meant I didn't have to do much work.
I had a small speaking part in Eyes Wide Shut, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Unfortunately, I wasn't in the final film. My scene was with Harvey Keitel, but he walked away from the film and another actor came in and took over. They didn't think that I worked with this new actor so they went with another actress, which was a shame. Still, I spent two days being as scared as I've ever been as I was around Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who of course were married at that time.
It was Kubrick's last movie. He was an amazing man and I absolutely loved him. Everybody seemed to be quite scared of him but I was bold and bubbly and would say 'what you think of this Stanley?' I think he liked the fact that I didn't bow down to him and was just my natural and out going self. It was just an incredible experience, even though I wasn't in the final version.
The first time I spoke to Tom Cruise was at the entrance to Luton Hoo, where scenes were shot. He said 'I know your face' and I said 'funny that, I know your face too!' He had watched my audition video. He played a doctor in the film, so during rehearsals, he would make jokes about mammary glands. I didn't know what he meant at the time, but everybody else was laughing.
I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for a children's charity. I stayed in an orphanage in Africa and they would sing and dance all day - they can teach us something in this country, I can tell you. I made it to the summit, although I was swearing all the way up, particularly in the last couple of hours as it was cold and dark and I was thinking 'what the bloody hell am I doing?' When I was in the clouds looking down, it was worth it. I wouldn't mind having a go at it again for K-9 Angels.
I co-founded K-9 Angels in 2011 with Pola, a singer songwriter, and Anneka Svenska, a TV presenter. I had read a Facebook plea about a dog living in a Romanian forest, alone in a box. A woman, who we now know very well, had asked for a small sum of money to rescue the dog. I was aware that it could be a scam but I took a chance and sent 40 Euros. It turned out that she was a genuine person with a heart of gold who saves Romanian dogs.
This woman, Madalina, collected this dog and took it back to her apartment. She had 10 dogs there and needed to re-home her, so we used Facebook, called the dog Angel, and put out an appeal. We were inundated with people who wanted to help! We knew that we had a platform to help these dogs. We are not famous, but we are known to a degree, and we thought 'why not use our contacts for good?' Angel is now living at a ranch in America and is very well loved.
K-9 Angels grew from there. We didn't know what we were doing and it was a big learning curve but three years on we've rehomed 650 dogs, spayed 2500 dogs and built a shelter in Romania. Anneka left us last year but Pola and I are full steam ahead.
Every time I go to Romania it only makes the fire within me burn brighter. I've seen dogs eating other dogs because they don't have food, dog catchers treating dogs in the most horrendous ways, and a vet who spays dogs for three Euros and leaves their wounds open. We see different problems in different countries. In the UK, we have 100,000 dogs currently in shelter and yet people still breed prolifically, which I'd like to see changed.
K-9 Angels is a very hands-on charity. We have a team of six ladies so I don't deal with the adoptions anymore as it takes up time. I now focus on the spaying.
Big Brother was something I should have done in my 20s when I was a complete head case, but I did it in my 40s instead. I did it for one reason only and that was to promote K-9 Angels. I went in to the house with that in mind and I didn't come across as a fun person, which I think I am. If you want to be taken seriously, you can't be a silly, mad blonde who jumps around. I had to go in with a purpose. But I didn't gel at all with the kids in their 20s. We were chalk and cheese.
Was it worth it? No, but that was my fault and nobody else's. With Big Brother you go through so many auditions over weeks and months, and then it was all over after four days. I felt disappointed when I came out, because I felt like I'd messed up an opportunity to help my charity. For a while, I was really down about it, but you live and you learn.
I also went on Total Wipeout in 2012 even though I could barely swim. There were thousands of people at the audition and I was 40 at that time. As everybody has to have a slogan, I said 'I'm 40 and I'm naughty!' They said 'We've already got a naughty 40, so you can be Vic the Vegan.' I spent the week in Argentina with mad people from all backgrounds who I would never normally meet. It was just the best week, even though I was totally rubbish! I am a bit of a nutcase and tend to jump into things and think 'if it doesn't work out it doesn't matter as I've given it a go'.
I cycled 300 miles in Devon and Cornwall last year, raising £4200 for K-9 Angels. I'm not a cyclist and to be honest I'm not a sporty person. My partner decided that we should do it, and he didn't tell me about the hills! We rode about 50 miles a day, which doesn't sound a lot but it is when you're not a cyclist! It was an incredible experience - just the two of us with a map, getting lost in the sun, and is one of the highlights of my life. I also lost ten pounds and got a tan!
Recently, we were at parliament with people like Dame Judi Dench to campaign against the dog meat trade in South East Asia. Dogs are squashed into a truck in their hundreds in Thailand and taken to Vietnam, where they are boiled alive and eaten. The campaign is being led by the Soi Dog Foundation, and many charities and groups are supporting them and pushing for change. We will be going out to Thailand this year to make a documentary. I'm quite sure it's going to break my heart but I want to see everything.
When things become quite political, I sit there, listen and honestly sometimes I don't know what they're talking about. But I'm willing to learn as I know that if you want to make a big difference, this is how you do it.
People do have preconceptions about me and the other girls involved in the charity. When we first started out, some people thought that we were bimbos and that we weren't serious about what we were doing. They thought that we were doing it for ourselves and there was negative feedback. People sometimes have a misconception of me which is wrong and I like to show them that I'm not the woman that they think I am. I think there is a misconception of curvy blonds in general.
Now, people can see the hard work and determination we have shown, and they know it is about the dogs and not about us. We have 40,000 followers now, and there are good reasons for that.
As well as the K-9 Angels, I also write about vegan foods and products. I have been a vegetarian since I was six years old. I was asking questions about what we were eating from a very young age, and refused to eat meat. So my parents started feeding me spinach!
However, it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I went vegan. I heard a PETA talk called 'The dark side of dairy' and was horrified. I immediately cleared my fridge of every dairy product including cheese, chocolate, yoghurt and milk!
Gradually, I've learnt more about the clothes that we wear, the make-up we apply, and the products we use around the house, and discovered that most of us are oblivious to what is actually in these things. Now, I don't use any products that are tested on animals. I don't see why animals should have to suffer for me to clean my house or to look good.
It's not always clear if something is tested on animals, but most products will have a mark to show if they are not tested on animals. I'm not an expert and I'm still learning every day, but when I find something out, I let people know about it through my blog on my website.
I've gone through the products that I use from head to toe, looking at everything - cleansers, toners, moisturisers, nail varnish, fake tan, and household cleaning products too. It doesn't mean that I'm limited – good ethical and organic products are out there - but you just have to look a little harder. Many beauty products have artificial ingredients so I research and write about organic and natural products for women. I have a room full of stuff that I have been sent to test and write about.
The vegan craze is growing and that's helped by the fact that people like Beyonce – even though she wears fur – are bringing it into the mainstream. That makes a difference, because in the past vegans have been dismissed as hippies or as being weird. I want to say that I'm a glamorous woman and just because you're vegan it doesn't mean that you wear Jesus creepers and have purple hair.
I have always lived around London but moved to Billingshurst about a year ago. I didn't know that I would be comfortable living here, but I can't tell you how much I love it here. I get emotional even talking about it. I wake up in the morning and hear the birds, cows and sheep and there are acres of fields to walk with my dogs. I wouldn't swap it for London in a million years.
There is some stuff that I have done that I wish I hadn't, but I'm very proud of the TV commercials, as well as my Playboy shoot. Some stuff I did in my younger years I'm not proud of, and that raises another issue. I'd like to see more advice for young models, as there are people taking advantage of them.
The modelling was an incredible journey for me. If I hadn't done all of that crazy stuff, I don't think I would be so settled now. Some women of my age still try and maintain that party lifestyle in London, but that's not fun. I'm glad I did it when I was young. I would say to everybody, do the crazy stuff and the travelling when you are young!
I'm proud of what I'm doing now. I had the glitz and the glamour of modelling, and dog rescue certainly isn't that, but I'm still doing something that is close to my heart. Modelling is about ego and money, and what I do now is the complete opposite, so I feel like I've done it all.