In an industry synonymous for having the shelf life of a banana, Carolyn Donovan has beaten the odds and remained in demand as a model for more than two decades.

The recognisable face of many Australian and international campaigns for the likes of Palmolive, Colgate and Tourism Australia, she is also a writer, freelance journalist and author of three books. Above all that, Carolyn is a mum of teenagers and a wife to Andrew, her ‘Fijian Warrior Plumber,’ who she met while renovating her first house – but, as she says, “That’s a whole other story.”

Carolyn will also be a regular contributor for Spheres.

1. How & when did you meet Jesus?

A chance meeting saw me go from an awkward teenager, with no iota of confidence, one week – to being dressed in beautiful clothing and flown across the other side of the world for a job, the next. 

For the next few years I would spend hours in airports, on my own. Stand in front of breathtaking landmarks, on my own. Sleep in stunning hotels, on my own. I felt guilty for feeling so empty, but it was like living with a gaping hole in my life that nothing seemed to fill – no matter how hard I tried. And I tried. 

My search saw me slipping into the back of just about every meditation meeting room, ashram, temple and cathedral I could find. I studied books on spirituality, searching for some illusive peace. 

One day I walked into a church. And it was like I had just come home. 

When the preacher invited the congregation to raise their hand if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into their life, I think I put up both hands. I would have put my feet up too if that helped.

2. What is the hardest thing about being a believer in your line of work?

For a while I wasn’t too sure if I could do this Christian thing. I was comparing myself to what I thought I needed to do/say/wear and I was falling short. Then Bobbie Houston started a series on the Proverbs 31 woman: she was an entrepreneur, a property developer and a fashion designer! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Okay, now this I could relate to.

Every time I open the Bible there is someone’s life I can learn from, regardless of the season I am in. 

3. What is your biggest achievement so far in your career?

There have been some incredible jobs in locations where I just wanted to pinch myself the whole time, but looking back, I would have to say, investing my earnings in things that multiplied and grew, when all my friends were spending their money on things like fabulous shoes, has been a good highlight. It didn’t seem very glamorous at the time but it’s been worth it. 

4. What would you say to encourage other young believers who are wanting to do what you are doing?

Anchor yourself in Truth. Surround yourself with good people. And then go for it. Bring who you are and what you know into the marketplace. The world needs you.

5. How have you taken your family on the journey? What has been some of the struggles of being a mum and being so enveloped by the pressures of work, deadlines, travel etc.

How much space have we got for this answer? I could take you on a long journey of some epic failings, as well as proud mothering moments so precious my eyes well up just thinking about them. 

I think it was Jamie Oliver who once said, “You are only as happy as your unhappiest child.” Like any parent, every waking moment is spent with your children’s health, happiness, safety and wellbeing hovering somewhere close to the front of your mind. I was a single mum on my own for a few years and would have my young son with me as much as possible when it was just the two of us, but when I married Andrew and our family started expanding, the dynamics of combining work and family changed again. Regardless of whether you work in a nine to five job, or one with a crazy non-routine – or even if you don’t work at all – you are always thinking about the effect it is having on your family. Most people would think I am a calm and relaxed positive thinker, but my default setting is manic list-writing, plan for anything to go wrong, worrier. 

Lisa Bevere puts it so perfectly when she says, “Your children either inherit your fears, or God’s promises.” You’d think I’d get it by now: most of the things I worry about never happen anyway. (But just in case, I’ll add it to the list!)

6. What is one nonnegotiable for you in your work life? What is one thing (from the many) you find noteworthy of not compromising?

‘Seek first the kingdom of God…’* is something I live by. Because I am faced with a myriad of choices and directions I can take, this verse un-complicates my life. Rather than consult a tedious list of do’s and dont’s I simply ask myself, ‘Does this line up?’

*Matthew 6:33