WHEN 22-year-old Somerset glamour model Poppy Rivers has her photos splashed across the pages of The Sun, some people might think she’s had everything her own way in life.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Once Poppy covered herself in wet mud and walked home in an attempt to avoid school, where she said she was bullied badly.
She said: “I don’t recall a day past the age of 14 when I enjoyed being there.
“I told my parents how I’d ‘fallen over’ purely because the thought of going to school filled me with dread and made me physically sick.
“I had pretty low self-esteem to begin with but, when the bullying began, it became unbearable.”
At school near her home in Burnham, Poppy had a small nucleus of friends in whom she confided and told about her dream to become a model.
The news ended up being the talk of the playground, causing her further problems.
She said: “It caused me a great deal of distress and upset, but, strangely, spurred me on to prove them all wrong.
“I used to spend hours flicking through inspiring images online and practising my posing in the mirror – actually, it became a bit of an obsession.
“I started off by taking some self-shot photos with my phone or a webcam, and posting them on model forums and websites to gauge people’s reactions.”
Poppy and her dad sent emails to Katie Froud at Alba Model Information to gain advice on how to become a professional model.
Armed with a little camera, she produced her first photo shoot on Burnham and Berrow beach in a bid to impress some of the country’s leading model agencies.
She said: “At the time, I thought they were absolutely amazing, and I felt so professional and grown-up, though, of course, they were completely amateur.
“I had my website, which also encouraged bullying – I remember receiving email upon email from some of my peers from school calling me fat, ugly, useless and jealous.”
Poppy signed up with her first professional modelling agency at 15, but had to wait until 2008 for her big break in the industry.
She started to make a name for herself, and on her 18th birthday she was sent for her first topless shoot, which she said was scary and exciting in equal measure.
Poppy went for a test shoot with The Sun and, a month later, her picture was published on page three of the national daily paper.
She said: “Never in a million years did I think they’d like my pictures or take me on – I thought it was a joke.
“Page Three of The Sun is the pinnacle of any glamour girl’s career and I never expected to last five minutes, let alone five years.”
Now, Poppy is a regular member of The Sun’s Page Three girl group and says she absolutely loves it.
She said: “We’re a very close, tight-knit little family. It’s nothing at all like many people imagine it to be – it’s such good fun and everyone’s so friendly.
“I’m lucky enough to get to travel regularly for shoots and stay in amazing villas in beautiful locations – Ibiza is probably one of my favourite places I’ve visited.
“While modelling can be hard work, it’s not like work at all.
“I really have an awful lot to thank my parents for, especially my Dad as, without him, I’d probably still be dreaming of becoming a model one day.
“They’ve always supported and encouraged me to follow my dream, and I’m so grateful to them for all their help.”
Poppy admitted she is not really one for celebrity, so the next step in her career is working on a beauty blog, learning about being a make-up artist.
She is, however, considering bringing out another calendar in 2015.
She never forgets her childhood memories of Burnham.
She said: “I absolutely love coming back to Somerset as often as I’m able – it’s so calm and relaxing, and nothing at all like London.