As well as gracing the pages of some of the world’s most popular fashion titles, Cara G McIlroy is a TV host, qualified holistic nutritionist and mother of 3. Here we chat to the bubbly Aussie beauty about her career highlights, top health hacks and the rollercoaster of motherhood.
Your exotic features helped launch your career as a model. What is your ethnicity?
I’m Australian with a mixture of Swiss, Singaporean, German, Irish, Thai and Arabic descent.
You have 3 daughters. What are their names and ages?
India Wilde (7); Freija Rain (6); Noa Storm (2).
What is the best thing about being a mum?
It’s a feeling more than a thing. It’s the feeling you feel deep in your soul. Being a mum has made me re-evaluate what is important to me. Before, I would work so hard, juggling every job. I wanted to be better in my career and make money, but now my focus is being happy and healthy. I want to be a good example for my girls, so I try to focus on the things I’m passionate about and do my best to role-model values I think are important, like being kind and empathetic.
What is the most challenging part of motherhood?
The guilt. I have mum guilt about everything! Managing the relationships within the family is also really tricky.
You’ve been pregnant and birthed 3 times. Was each experience similar or different?
My first labour was 43 hours, 4 in active labour. I felt like I’d been hit by a train. She was taken to ICU straight after birth so I wasn’t able to do skin-to-skin, which wasn’t great. My second birth was a slightly better. It was a 28-hour labour and 1.5 hours of active labour, so much faster. But I had a terrible tear which needed multiple surgeries to heal, so it took a long time to recover. During my recovery I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) which has taken my health on a rollercoaster ride until this day. My third labour was quick. 8 hours and only 30 minutes of active labour. I recovered much faster the third time. All 3 were natural births, not that it matters. You gotta do what you gotta do.
You are a professional model, TV presenter and creative content creator. How do you juggle work and life with 3 children?
I always wanted to be a mother and becoming one changed my life more than I ever imagined. My girls have taught me so much about the world and how to see things through the eyes of a child again. It’s a beautiful thing. But balance? I still don’t know what that is! Ha.
Since covid, most of my modelling jobs have transformed into Instagram ones, which has positive and negative aspects, like any job or change. I loved going to work in the studio and meeting different people every day. With mainstream modelling you basically just do the jobs your agency gives you (to some degree). I just showed up, did my thing and went home. But that also meant being away from the kids a lot; especially when I was working on TV. Sometimes I would work for days, weeks and months without a day off.
Now most brands ask me to create campaigns for them. On Instagram, you become the creative director, makeup artist, photographer and model, while finding time to shoot in-between between parenting. It’s a lot more more work than traditional shooting, but I get to be creative and work with brands I care about, which I love. Most importantly, it gives me flexibility to be at home with my kids, and I will take that any day.
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Modelling wise, I would say filming the ‘Girl Panic’ music video for Duran Duran in London because it was just such a surreal moment. On that shoot I worked with all the supermodels I’d idolised since I was a kid (Naomi Campbell, Helena Christenson, Cindy Crawford). I also loved this job because they gave me so much time off. When I wasn’t working, I used every spare second to explore Europe – hiking through the alps alone; stopping at little mountain villages eating cheese. It was so magical.
Being a judge on Asia’s Next Top Model was also an awesome experience. But honestly speaking, it was never the right fit for me. I’m too soft! I don’t feel in my element telling young girls how to model. Some girls who do modelling live and breath it. They are super into fashion, makeup and the whole sha-bang. I’ve never been like that. It has always just been a job for me. The aspects that originally attracted me to modelling were the freedom to travel; meeting new people; and having the opportunity to do fun, amazing things. The fame and celebrity side of things have always made me uncomfortable.
My favourite project...and I say that because I wasn’t paid...was the opportunity to work with Elephant Nature Park (an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre) helping rescued elephants that had been mistreated in Thailand. I was given the opportunity to work with the charity Save Elephant Foundation as a volunteer because of my modelling career and I will forever be grateful for experiences like that.
You live on the coast and embrace a healthy lifestyle. What are your top tips for maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul?
Wellness has been a part of my life since childhood. To me, being healthy means living a well-balanced life – eating foods that are wholesome and make you feel good from the inside out, and treating yourself well. Fresh air, open space, and nature are such high priorities for me and the ocean holds the key to my sanity. I’m like Moanna! The beach is my happy place. Health has become an even bigger part of my life now than it was before I had kids, because I know I have to take care of myself to take care of my kids. I want to have the energy to enjoy life with them.
You are a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). Do you have any general nutritional advice for exhausted, run-down mama’s?
Make sure your iron counts are up and that you are eating enough. This is especially important for breastfeeding mamas. Breastfeeding takes so much from a woman’s body so you need to replace what is being taken or you’ll feel exhausted. I also love adaptogens and CBD, but that’s not for everyone.
How do you stay in shape?
I’ve always loved mixed martial arts like boxing to get into shape. Ido Portal (a technique that blends martial arts, dance, yoga and gymnastics) was my fave back in the day, but it’s difficult to find qualified trainers. It involves a lot of animal movements which sounds strange, but I was super into it. I also love yin yoga and recently took up running.
Do you have a favourite skincare brand or product that you can’t live without?
It’s really hard to name one in particular, but I really love oils. I use oil on my skin every day and night in winter, and every night in summer. I also can’t live without sunscreen and am loving Juice Beauty sunscreen at the moment.
You are an animal rights advocate and support environmental awareness causes. What steps do you and your family take to live a more sustainable lifestyle?
I am vegetarian and my kids eat very little meat. We clean the beaches, keep our use of plastics to a minimum and practice recycling in our family. Teaching my kids about all these issues is of huge importance as it’s their generation that will be making serious changes to save our planet. If I can teach them to love our planet, there is hope.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Remain true to yourself and don’t give up!
What message do you want to pass onto your daughters as they grow into women?
To respect everything’s role on this planet and have empathy is so important. To protect our planet fiercely and with compassion. To treat everyone equally despite their ethic, religious, political, economic views and differences. To stand up and be proud of your differences. And to remember they are beautiful just as they are and don’t need anyone to tell them so.
To check out Cara’s insta visit https://www.instagram.com/caragmcilroy/