EMILY Meuleman was going to become a professional dancer - until the click of a camera catapulted her onto the world stage as a model.
The 19-year-old ballet dancer from East London is rapidly becoming one of SA's hottest exports after a stint on the ramp at London Fashion Week.
Instead of taking the traditional route of leaving school and going to university, she is travelling the world, earning money and carving out a career.
Meuleman was 16 and in Grade 10 when she got an unexpected opportunity to pose for a shoot for Marie Claire magazine.
This set off a chain of events that saw the brunette being signed up with Boss Models in Cape Town and Elite models in London.
She took a well-deserved break at home in East London this week after her first appearance on the ramp at London Fashion Week and shoots for international magazines.
"It was crazy, it was absolute madness. I have never experienced anything like that. You're working 18 hours a day and you have, like, 20 castings a day.
"But when you get on the ramp it's just an amazing feeling," she said.
In addition to modelling for London-based designers Kristian Aadnevik, Lucas Nascimento and KTZ, within a week of arriving she was appearing in shoots for niche magazines Dazed & Confused and Wonderland.
Boss Models manager Hans Stauch said Meuleman had inner strength and ambition. "She has grabbed the challenge with both hands," he said, adding that her future career was being carefully mapped out.
Meuleman had her heart set on becoming a professional ballet dancer and switched to home schooling to give her the freedom to train. She barely has time for dancing now, but has not looked back.
"I never thought I'd be travelling the world. I'm seeing things I never thought I would see. As a person I've got so much more confidence from it and I take a more positive outlook on life," she said.
She said she intended to make herself and everyone else proud and become the "Next Big Thing" - if that's where her hard work and talent lead her.