THERE’S no denying it has been a bumpy road for Kayleigh Dunne.
Once a single mother entirely reliant on benefits, today she is celebrating her independence with the launch of her cosmetics business.
Homeless as a teenager, the 26-year-old cleaned houses in Winchester to get by and is now making the move from state-dependent mother-of-one, to businesswoman and entrepreneur.
Producing everything from face scrubs to nail varnish, all from her ‘lab’ at home, she hopes her cosmetics will one day feature in Vogue.
After living on the streets of Southampton from the age of 16, Kayleigh found a place in a Winchester hostel at 18, where she had her first taste of modelling.
She entered a Miss England contest, and despite not reaching the final her career spiralled to success, her face appearing on everything from poker chips to glossy fashion pages.
With an almost full sleeve of tattoos including butterflies, ballerinas, love hearts and leopard print, her shoots are often rockabilly or retro-inspired.
The Winnall resident said the toiletries were inspired from working in the industry, and she wasn’t going to let being on benefits hold her back. “You always see negativity about people on benefits that can’t find work,” she said, “but I have done it without borrowing any money and without family and friends around me.
“I have done it all by myself and taken my own initiative. I scraped and saved my money so that I could do this. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke.”
Not afraid to get her hands dirty, Kayleigh is a one-woman team.
“I do everything myself. I formulate, hand manufacture, label, graphic design, marketing – I do absolutely everything.
“It’s probably time I started hiring people,” she laughed.
Life hasn’t always been so promising for Kayleigh though, who has been in and out of education and has a list of qualifications longer than most.
“It was really hard for me. I went to college to do courses to fall back on so that I would never end up homeless again.
“I’m a qualified body piercer, power boat instructor, fire breather, nail technician and make-up artist. I worked in health and fitness and as a tattoo apprentice for a while.”
The mother-of-one admitted she has never been sure where her career would take her, and now her modelling has taken a back-seat, all has become clear.
“When I look at my qualifications they all revolve around the same thing – looking good, feeling good, fitness, wellbeing and health. So that’s where the idea came from.”
It’s not just her qualifications in health that have led Kayleigh into the cosmetics industry.
For years she has suffered with low self-esteem, and as she was beginning a college course in 2007 anorexia struck.
“I’m still recovering from the mental aspects of it now,” she said.
“I don’t really care about myself. I have a really low opinion of myself. I’m doing this because I feel like it will help people, and my son. I’m not doing this for myself.”
Such is her generosity that a percentage of the profits from her baby care range will be donated to Winchester charity Friends of the Family.
It supports vulnerable families and their children with a mums and toddlers support group, dads’ group and home visits for struggling families with children aged five to 13.
“They really helped me; they do so much for people,” she said.
Kayleigh said she hopes to provide employment opportunities for people like her, and inspire others back into work.
“I want to prove it is possible.”
Kayleigh Dunne Natural Skincare and Cosmetics launched on July 31. For more information go to kayleighdunne.com