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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Betts

The little engine called Zippora who did

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

"The story 'The Little Engine That Could" is used to teach children the value of optimism and hard work. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." - Wikipedia

When was the last time you kept forging through something when all you wanted to do was rock in a foetal ball and tell everyone to flock off? Maybe you wanted to lie back in your bed and never wake up because it really all felt/feels just too bl00dy hard? When was the last time you believed in something and never gave up despite everyone telling you otherwise?

This story is about never quitting, how unwavering belief is a game and life changer and then there's the power of the RIPPLE EFFECT: how one movement can impact and drastically change the worlds of many people. And there's a splash of FULL CIRCLE thrown in for good measure .

You'd have to be as deafblind as Helen Keller front row at Fashion Week if you don't know the story, 'The Little Engine That Could' about a puffing train pulling another train up the mountain chanting, “I think I can…” This story is arguably NZ’s greatest The Little Engine That Could model story starring UNIQUE MODEL’S ZIPPORA SEVEN.

If you don’t know (most people don't), ZIPPY was pulled up the modeling-mountain by a determined admittedly slightly overweight model agent puffing ‘I know I can...’.



That’s right. ZIPPORA’S first 18 months or so were under my batwings. I successfully launched her modeling career and set her up for the world. And it was bl00dy hard work…for all of us.

I’ll never forget the moment I lay eyes on ZIPPORA at a Freeman’s Bay Fair. ZIPPORA was teensy but stood out as much as Ronald McDonald she was grinning sweetly up at.

I bribed my then 8yr old-son Izaac, to go talk to Ronald so I had an excuse to get in for a better look. On my way over, Ange Bevan, a kind soul who sports as sharp-an eye as I do, called out to me. A hug and quick chat later, Ange said, “Look at that girl, she’s beautiful,” pointing to Zippora. "I was just on my way to her..." and off I went to scout her.

She was even more teensy than I thought, nowhere near model height, standing at about 5’3” tall. Damn it. The idea she could model was made more difficult because she was shy.

She was tricky for me to talk to, what with her being so little and soft-natured. I tried to make myself smaller, less, somehow. My bra alone was bigger than her head. And for those who know me, trying to make myself small is like asking for Hawaiian surf to be more like the waves that lap at Takapuna Beach.

ZIPPORA’S mum, Ursula, brought Zippy in. I knew I had my work cut out for me in Zippora’s height and shyness, but I believed in her. For me, failure was not an option. Not trying is failure. I saw this as my opportunity to showcase the stuff I was made of.

My usual promotional strategy wouldn’t work so I had to tailor something pretty special for her. I started training Zippora in posing and walking while I sought out the perfect platform to launch her to the world.

“You’ll never do it, Amanda. She’s beautiful but…she’s too shy. She’s little…” I was always given reasons as to why Zippora and I couldn’t, which just made me more determined that we could.

The tale weaves deeper because JASPER, ZIPPY’s brother was scouted by my old agency, 62 MODELS. JASPER was gorgeous too, but wasn’t ours to represent until he came in to RED11 one day to pick up his younger sister. Within a few weeks, JASPER joined RED11 too.

I did my own photographic digital session on ZIPPY & JASPER using the pictures to launch them. And launch them I did! Zippy’s first campaign shoot came from someone who has a similar aesthetic to me, one of New Zealand’s photographer and stylist greats, KAREN INDERBITZEN-WALLER booked ZIPPY for her first campaign, Kate Sylvester’s WOLF campaign.

Her first major magazine shoot came in from someone who believed in me enough to convince him to not just shoot ZIPPORA for a one page piece for PAVEMENT MAGAZINE's 13th Year Teen issue, but to gun for a bigger editorial and cover (MODEL SPEAK: editorial is when there's several pages in a row in a magazine of the same model/s in different clothes). This was a really big deal, because the more quality covers and pictures a model has in her portfolio, the better her chances of getting better work. It’s like your CV: the more evidence-based credentials you have, the more quality work you'll be offered. We all want that.

Photographer, STEVE TILLEY’S beautiful shoot was a game-changer.

I scored FIVE covers for ZIPPY in her first year modeling, no mean feat.

The real shift from 'I think I can' to 'I know I can', their ‘international game-changer’, came when they were booked for FRENCH VOGUE shooting in New York by world-renowned photographer, BRUCE WEBER, a legend who’s shot supermodels for every VOGUE there is. I accompanied them on that trip. I'd never been to New York and as I was sitting on a train from Manhattan, it hit me to how limitless possibilities really are if you create a vision, be brave, go against the grain, work hard, stay disciplined, keep going (especially at the hills)… But most of all, I realised ANY success is not possible without one simple thing: BELIEF.

ZIPPORA & JASPER have since modelled in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, London, New York and more with ZIPPORA basing herself out of New York.

It’s amazing to think back on my work and how much of a RIPPLE EFFECT me being a model agent created. And remember how I was talking about FULL CIRCLE? Well, how’s this: ZIPPORA’S mum, URSULA came to work at RED11 for a while where I taught her the ropes of booking (MODEL SPEAK: model agent). Like me, she also worked at CLYNE. Now she’s just started up her own agency with her business partner ANDREA, UNIQUE MODELS and representation for my son, IZAAC.

AMANDA BRANSGROVE and I have joined forces and are scouting models & talent: #The2AmandaBs & #AB2scouts. We’ve placed people with UNIQUE (We're always on the hunt for the next big thing so if you think you have what it takes, get in touch with me!).

UNIQUE represents TERUMI. Within two weeks of him being signed to UNIQUE, they booked him on three jobs! Talk about moving someone FAST!

UNIQUE also represents our RUBY. This is new face going places with an overseas agency heavyweight already taking her on.

There’s more scouts so watch this space.


BELIEVE. Through each of us doing what we love and being brave enough to believe – whether it be in ourselves, someone else or the possibilities that can be, we’re capable of great things together if we work and play to each other’s strengths

AT LEAST TRY. Through being inspired to try things out for ourselves despite knowing we’ll be busting out some blood, sweat and tears (and it’s gonna hurt…all tough games do) as we struggle up some big a$$ hills, when you get to the top of the hill, the view is SPECTACULAR!

KEEP GOING. As Nike says (besides JUST DO IT): ‘Hills are really just rewards in disguise

Thanks for joining me! If you pick up any info you think could be useful to someone, share it.

Until next time,

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