At the age of just 15, the Waikato farm girl won a Girlfriend Model Search competition. The tennis and soccer enthusiast had never been interested in modelling, expecting just to finish school, go to university and do what everyone else did.
But her prize saw her jet off to Australia, Asia, Italy and New York.
“It’s all a blur now, I was constantly travelling,” she says.
“I liked Milan probably the best, I loved the culture and lifestyle and the language. I had to pick up some of the language. I had an exclusive contract there with Gucci and travelled through Italy a lot. I loved Europe, it was something I had never encountered before.
“It was like its own country in itself.”
She sometimes modelled in extreme conditions, listing a t-shirt shoot in icy Queenstown and comparing it to a two-week campaign in hot conditions in Morocco. “I have also done a lot of modelling in the Pacific,” she says.
Half Rarotongan, Tia has been coming back to the island all her life and attended Avatea school when she was about seven.
Woods does less modelling these days, “I prefer to just do a bit in the casual New Zealand market”, and is also a model agent for Clyne. “I manage the models, mentor them and get them ready for travel,” she says, although her own experience was hitting the ground running. “For me it happened very quickly and I was in New York at 16.” She says homesickness was something shared by many models, “but we were kept really busy”.
“It definitely has its glamour side, but people don’t realise, you still have to work really hard, work out and look after yourself.”
Woods and her partner will spend some time on the island, relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery, before returning to Auckland in the New Year.