fair dinkum

Not since Elle `The Body' Macpherson has a model from Down Under been such a hit as Kylie Bax, Versace's new star. By Tamsin Blanchard. Photographs by Francesca Sorrenti
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Models, ever unpredictable, escape into the limelight from the most far-flung and unlikely places. There is Alek Wek, the face of New York cosmetics company Nars, who has journeyed from Dinka tribesgirl via Hackney to the catwalks of Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan. There's Kate Moss, whose path could have led to the check-out at Croydon Tesco. And there is Kylie Bax, who only two years ago was working on her parents' stud farm somewhere near Auckland in New Zealand. Now, at the pensionable age (by model standards) of 21, she is starring in this spring's Versace advertising campaign alongside another powerful- looking blonde, 19-year-old Amy Wesson from Mississippi.

It's surprising how quickly people adapt to fame and glamour. Bax has an apartment in Manhattan, hangs out with friends Kirsty Hume and Stella Tennant, swooshes from Milan to New York, wears clothes by all her favourite designers - Richard Tyler, Marc Jacobs, and, of course, Gianni Versace - and won't let anybody apart from Madonna's colourist touch a hair on her head. As with all good models, her hair has gone through several colour changes. Since these pictures were taken just over a month ago, her hair has gone from icy platinum to a warm champagne blonde. Very Versace.

And now she won't even look at a photographer if his name isn't Irving Penn, Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel or Richard Avedon. Here, she is photographed by Francesca Sorrenti, mother of hip young photographer Mario, who shot to fame with his photographs of ex-girlfriend Kate Moss.

Many models have plain, unexceptional parents, but beauty and ambition run in the Bax family. Kylie was crowned in a local beauty pageant just 20 years after her mother won it. She has a serious business brain, and calls herself "an artist", not a model. It is said that she turns up at castings for designers dressed in clothes from their collections; and, in the fashion business, flattery will get you everywhere.

The New Zealand agent who spotted her in a shopping mall insists that Bax remains unspoiled. Sure. On the stud farm, she was wined and dined all the time by an Italian count and his close friends, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain. The girl hasn't changed a bit

Opposite: black brocade jumpsuit, by Rifat Ozbek, pounds 478, made to order, (enquiries 0171-408 0625); black footless mesh tights, by Jonathan Aston, pounds 5.99, available from department stores nationwide, (enquiries 0116-286 2388); black ankle socks, by Hue, pounds 5.95, available from Dickins and Jones, Regent Street, London W1 and House of Fraser stores nationwide (enquiries 0171-436 4091); gold leather shoes, from a selection at Blackout II, pounds 20, 51 Endell Street, London WC2 (enquiries 0171-240 5006)

Black one shoulder top, by Ann Demeulemeester, pounds 219, available from Joseph, 77 Fulham Road, London SW3 (enquiries 0171-823 9500); black rayon crepe trousers, by Helmut Lang, pounds 280, available from Browns, as before; leopard print scarf, pounds 15, from Blackout II, as before