Though already a recognisable model when she competed on Channel Nine’s The Block in 2017, Elyse Knowles has had to deal with heightened celebrity in the wake of her time on the show. At times that’s felt strange for a self-described tomboy who values peace and privacy above the trappings of success, and it’s no coincidence that she and her partner, Josh Barker, have upped sticks from Melbourne to settle in the idyllic northern NSW town of Byron Bay. “Byron hits everything I believe in,” says TAG Heuer ambassador Knowles – which includes “being around people who care about the world and the environment”. She’s dismissed the urgings of various people to cash in by heading overseas into larger markets, refusing to be someone she isn’t or to aspire to things she doesn’t want. Now that’s our kind of girl.
The oldest of three children, Knowles has never minded getting her hands dirty. Family holidays were fun-filled rather than luxurious, with camping and cooking by fire trumping hotels and restaurants. And why faff about on a Malvern Star when you can ride a motorbike in the great outdoors? “My motto when I was young was, ‘If a boy can do it, I can do it’,” says Knowles, 27. “I gave everything a red-hot crack.” Nothing much has changed. “Dad’s proud that he brought us up to be tough and to know that if you want something, you have to work hard and do it yourself.”
THE WELLBEING WORKOUT
While the truth is her career could tank if she let go of her fit physique, Knowles says her daily sweat sessions are just as much about her mental health. “If I don’t start my day with some form of exercise – whether that’s going for a walk on the beach with the dogs or doing a class – I feel terrible.” Exercise, she says, energises her for a day of meeting people, smiling, laughing and “fake-laughing”. She heeds her body’s cues to rest but also knows how “to amp it up” when a shoot’s approaching. “I’m really into strength sessions at the moment. I do those by myself at home because you really don’t need a lot of gadgets and weights to build muscle. And if I can see muscle, I’m definitely winning.”
HER KIND OF GUY
The daughter of a tradie, Knowles has had just two boyfriends in her life, both tradies. “I like guys who can get things done,” she says. “Some of the calls for help Josh gets are pretty pathetic. I would hate to be in that situation where you’re paying someone to do something that’s so simple.” Yep, that will be troubling reading if you’re a guy who, in the words of David Williamson, “couldn’t hammer a nail into a lump of fresh horse shit”. But there are other qualities besides handiness she values in a man: positivity, kindness, a love of the outdoors, a sense of adventure . . . and self-confidence: “Because if you’re confident you’re going to be happy. I’m not about looks and muscles. It’s not Josh’s job to show his body the whole time. That’s mine.”
Byron’s not generally a place where you develop a taste for battered savs and Krispy Kreme. Sure enough, the quality of Knowles’ diet has gone up a notch since she came to town – you’ll catch her at local farmers’ markets buying up big on fruit and veg. “I still eat meat and fish – I go for balance,” she says. Gluten and dairy, she’s worked out, don’t agree with her and could bloat her for a bikini shoot. Her top nutrition tip: you know you’re eating the right stuff – for you – when you feel energised.
Love it or loathe it, social media’s here to stay. But if you can quit using it “to try to prove your life” – selling the idea that you’re great, your life’s great, everything’s great! – then you’re going to be happier, says Knowles. And instead of filming every damn thing, try experiencing it. “You only have one chance to be you, one mind and one body, so instead of wishing things to be different, work out who you are and who you want to surround yourself with,” she says. “There’s a big world out there apart from yourself. Taking care of other people, making sure they’re okay, giving a helping hand . . . it’s not hard and it’s going to make you feel better.”