Michelle Leslie

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Michelle Leslie
Born (1981-04-13) 13 April 1981 (age 33)[1]
Adelaide, South Australia
Nationality Australian
Other names Michelle Lee
Occupation Model

Michelle Leslie (born 13 April 1981), who also works under the name Michelle Lee, is an Australian model. Leslie is best known for her 2005 arrest, conviction and three-month imprisonment (time served) for possessing two ecstasy tablets in Bali, Indonesia. Prior to this she was a model for Antz Pantz and Crystelle lingerie.

In Australia, the case received national media coverage at the time of the Schappelle Corby and "Bali Nine" trials, two other high-profile cases of Australians convicted on drugs charges in Bali.

Early career[edit]

Leslie was born in Adelaide, South Australia to Albert and Violeta Leslie.[2] Albert Leslie, her father, was later known both as a former Olympian and as assistant coach to the Adelaide 36ers basketball team.[3] A self-confessed tomboy when young, Michelle Leslie was educated at Sacred Heart College in Adelaide, and became interested in modelling only after her father gave her a course at a modelling school as a 15th birthday present.[3][4] She enjoyed it enough to undertake a second course, and shortly thereafter left school in order to pursue a full-time modelling career.[4] She soon emerged as one of the "most prominent catwalk and catalogue models" in the state,[5] working for stores such as David Jones and Harris Scarfe.[6][7]

In 2000 she appeared as one of the 20 finalists in the first series of the Australian Search for a Supermodel reality show, and was first runner-up in the 2000 Miss World Australia pageant held in Darwin.[2][3] She was "catapulted on to the international catwalk" when her appearance, the product of her Filipina and Australian background, became in demand. As a result she gained work within Asia, appearing under the name "Michelle Lee".[3] Off the catwalks she gained prominence as one of the two models involved in a 2004 Antz Pantz advertising campaign and, prior to this, as the face of the Crystelle lingerie brand.[8]

Arrest and trial[edit]

On 21 August 2005 two pills were discovered by police in Michelle Leslie's handbag during her visit to an open-air dance party at GWK park on the Indonesian island of Bali.[9] Police suspected the pills to be illegal substances and she was arrested, with forensic tests subsequently finding the pills to be the drug ecstasy. Urine tests conducted at the time of her arrest showed no evidence of the use of the drug, although a later blood test found traces of amphetamines.[9][10] Her arrest was the third arrest of an Australian in Bali on drugs charges in twelve months following the Schapelle Corby and Bali Nine cases.[11] This prompted Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, to warn Australians about the dangers of drug possession while travelling in Asia,[9] and led the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, to comment that Australians caught with drugs "can't expect the Government to bail them out."[12]

According to Indonesian police, Leslie claimed that the pills were given to her by a friend, "Mia". Mia was later revealed to be Nameera Azmaan, who was also a model based in Singapore and working out of the Chic Management Agency. Azmaan denied having given the ecstasy to Ms Leslie.[13][14] At the time of arrest, Leslie was in the company of Azmaan and, allegedly, one of the sons of the then Coordinating Minister for the Economy Aburizal Bakrie and two unidentified men.[15]

On 14 October 2005 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Leslie could possibly be released within weeks as a report from a Sydney doctor had been provided to prosecutors stating that she was addicted to prescription medication. Under Indonesian law this would allow her to be tried as a "user" and benefit from a reduced sentence. The maximum sentence for a user is three months' imprisonment, whereas the maximum penalty for possession is 15 years.

Leslie's trial began on 28 October 2005 in the Denpasar District Court and concluded on 18 November with her being found guilty of using a prohibited substance. She was sentenced to three months in jail but, due to the three months already spent in custody, was freed from Kerobokan prison at about 1 pm on 19 November. Indonesian immigration officials announced that she would be deported from the country due to her guilty conviction. She flew out of Bali to Singapore where she spent time with friends and family before returning to Sydney, Australia on the morning of 22 November.

Alleged conversion to Islam[edit]

During her incarceration, Leslie began wearing Islamic dress and announced through a spokesman that she had converted to the Islamic faith some eighteen months prior to her arrest, although some in the media had suggested otherwise—arguing that her conversion was much more recent and an attempt to win favour in court.[16] However, the nature of her belief remains unclear. In an interview after her release, she stated that she did not "really know what makes you or not makes you a Muslim", and that she was "not a practising Muslim".[17] Years later, her religious beliefs continued to spark commentary, with accusations that she was an "on-again, off-again Muslim model"[18] and that she had "introduced the world to disposable Islam".[19]

The change in dress that coincided with her announcement led to further debate, with Leslie choosing to don a burqa on one occasion when she appeared in court, and opting to wear Islamic dress, such as traditional Muslim hijab, until she was released.[16][20] Strong criticism emerged upon her release when she was seen wearing tight-fitting clothes without the hijab on her departure from the prison.[20] Once she had returned to Australia, the President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ameer Ali, joined the debate by recommending that she refrain from returning to her former career as "a model for lingerie and underwear", as such behaviour was "not allowed in Islam".[21] In explaining her reasons for adopting the dress, Leslie stated in an interview for 60 Minutes, that the reason she started wearing the hijab while incarcerated was because she was afraid of being sexually assaulted, and to protect herself when she faced the "media scrum".[17] Her decision to wear traditional Islamic dress for protection has since been raised as a defence of sharia law, as it has been suggested that she demonstrated how the "requirement for Muslim women to cover themselves was meant to protect them".[22]

Recent activities[edit]

Upon her return to Australia, Michelle Leslie left the Chic Management agency and signed with agent Max Markson.[23] Shortly thereafter she travelled to Cambodia to help raise money for the charity Krousar Thmey, meeting with King Norodom Sihamoni and spending time in local orphanages, before returning home to once again appear on the catwalk.[23][24] Arriving in time for Australian Fashion Week, her return to the catwalk was in April 2006, modelling swimwear for designer Michael Azzollini.[25]

Although she did have a few modelling jobs after returning to Australia, her career took a different turn when, in 2007, she launched a range of clothing for dogs. Working with friend (and current owner of the business) Traci Griffith, "Miyow & Barkley" had early success when their first range of clothing and accessories sold out shortly after being launched.[26][27]

More recently, Leslie has been working with fiancé[28] Adam Zammit to promote events through Peer Group Media.[29]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Her date of birth appears in a photograph of her charge sheets, reproduced in Freedom road, The Age, 26 November 2005, p. 8.
  2. ^ a b "Supreme Model Revealed". The Advertiser. 22 November 2000. p. 51. 
  3. ^ a b c d Bockmann, Michelle Wiese (23 August 2005). "Exotic features made Leslie the ant's pants". The Australian. p. 3. 
  4. ^ a b Craig, Marina (12 November 2000). "Were they really model children, too?". Sunday Mail. p. 114. 
  5. ^ "Young, Diverse and Taking South Australia to the Top". The Advertiser. 19 February 2000. p. 5. 
  6. ^ "Search on for models". The Advertiser. 19 March 2000. p. 42. 
  7. ^ Craig, Marina (2 March 2003). "Homecoming for Michelle". The Advertiser. p. 5. 
  8. ^ Devlin, Rebekah; Rowe, Elizabeth; Caruso, Carla; Jellicoe, Naomi (28 December 2004). "Billboard beauty wants a TV career". The Advertiser. p. 22. 
  9. ^ a b c "Aussie model could face jail". Sydney Morning Herald. 22 August 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  10. ^ Forbes, Mark (1 September 2005). "Traces of ecstasy 'found in model's blood'". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  11. ^ Ham, Paul (28 August 2005). "Model faces 15 years in jail for having two ecstasy tablets". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  12. ^ Grattan, Michelle; Forbes, Mark (24 August 2005). "We won't bail you out, Howard warns users". The Age. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  13. ^ "'Mia' denies planting Leslie pills". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 November 2005. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  14. ^ "Leslie media deal sparks outrage". Ninemsn News. 21 November 2005. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  15. ^ McMahon, Neil (6 November 2005). "Leslie 'was with son of Indonesian minister'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 April 2009. 
  16. ^ a b "Model's lawyers apologise to Muslims". The Age. 30 August 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  17. ^ a b Hayes, Liz (4 June 2006). "The price of freedom (transcript)". 60 Minutes. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  18. ^ Lunn, Stephen (16 April 2007). "Hardly Homer as clever Kevin tunes into pop culture". The Australian. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  19. ^ "Best wishes". The Age. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  20. ^ a b "Bumper pay day looms for Leslie". Sydney Morning Herald. 21 November 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  21. ^ "Leslie told to change or renounce Islam". The Age. 21 November 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  22. ^ Pathoni, Ahmad (8 April 2009). "In Indonesia's Aceh, some discontent over Islamic law". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 1 May 2009. 
  23. ^ a b "Model Leslie visits Cambodian orphanage". The Age. 18 April 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  24. ^ "The king and I: Michelle Leslie". The Sydney Morning Herald. 10 April 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  25. ^ Huntington, Patty (19 April 2006). "Model prisoner back on catwalk". The Age. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  26. ^ Moran, Jonathon (15 April 2007). "Michelle Leslie's dogged saviour". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  27. ^ Moran, Jonathon (12 August 2007). "Leslie splits with partner". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 29 April 2009. 
  28. ^ "Bali bailout babe Michelle Leslie gets her engagement ring". The Daily Telegraph. 20 August 2009. 
  29. ^ Devlin, Rebekah; Vlach, Anna; Noonan, Amy (12 September 2008). "Model Michelle makes mark". The Advertiser. p. 33. 

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