IT'S ALL black and white, really, if Elizabeth Charleston's business card is anything to go by.
Flip it over and the small but vivid reverse white inscription on a pitch black background reads:
``To avoid criticism
That is not to say Charleston lacks creativity or doesn't have a humorous bone in her body.
On the contrary, actually, as the affable 37-year-old reveals an effervescent personality oozing with confidence during the course of a late-night interview.
Fast forward to tomorrow night, Charleston will be back at her home north of Morrinsville in Waikato at the conclusion of week-long Horse of the Year Show in Hastings.
``I'll lock my doors, draw the curtains and try to get over the rough patch,'' says the former international model who lives only 27 steps away in a little cottage from the farmstead of her parents, Jocelyn and Don Charleston.
They are small but measured steps for someone who strutted her stuff on the catwalks of Milan and New York since breaking into the cut-throat market as a 15-year-old.
The ``rough patch'' is the stark contrast in personality that comes primarily from a head injury she suffered after a horse-riding accident on Auckland Anniversary Day (January) at Mercer, south of Auckland, in 2005.
``For the next couple of years, my life came to a standstill,'' Charleston says, having no memory of the accident.
``I was an outgoing person so I couldn't drive to see my friends. It was horrible.''
Just six months before, she had landed a role in Shortland Street as a character who was suing the hospital following a botched breast reduction procedure.
But it was the script off the TV studios of Auckland, pertaining to hospital and Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), that spurred her to establish The Head Injury Network for Kiwis (THINK!).
Apathy aside, the lack of understanding added to her frustration of dealing with authorities in finding compassion, let alone help.
``I had to help everyone in New Zealand first,'' says Charleston, whose cause gathered momentum when the Head Injury Society rebranded itself as THINK! in June 1, last year, before appointing her national spokeswoman.
People quite often ask her how she's feeling. ``I'm still breathing six feet above the ground so it's better than
being six feet below it,'' she says, advocating the use of helmets for riders as a fundamental way to avoid serious head injuries, although wearing one still left her with post-concussive syndrome (constant dizziness, loss of balance and sluggish brain activity).
She emphasises it's not just the injured who are victims but also people close to them.
``You start having mood swings. It's frustrating because you're no longer the same person _ just ask my mother _ so it's so far-reaching.''
Consequently it goes a long way to explaining why Charleston, a divorcee, is still single.
``I have no boyfriend. I want to have kids and I know I'm getting older.
``I suppose I'm waiting for the right man who can put up with me.''
Having spent six years in the Western Province of South Africa, she thrived as an equestrian who represented her state in national competitions and also savoured the royal shows in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Fulfilling the roles of manager for New Zealand teams to Australia post-accident, she still has a passion for horses but campaigning for the awareness of head injuries nowadays takes precedence.
Charleston gained a lot of weight after her accident and switched to plus-size modelling but it proved too stressful. In the last eight months, she has lost 25kg and feels much better for it.
Charleston, who engages in journalism and is equally adept in using a camera, lauds HOY Show director Kevin Hansen and wife Sue for the week-long competition here that not only enables people like her family to roll up their sleeves to muck in but also boosts Hawke's Bay's economic climate.
She spent a fair bit of time this week with Sir Mark Todd, who she knows from the time she was a child when her mother was involved with dressage, and dressage queen Jody Harstone.
Charleston took a trip down memory lane with TV presenter Mark Sainsbury, sharing the day when she couldn't get into the Badminton Horse Trials, England, in 1994 so the TVNZ camera came in handy as a pass to see Todd clinch the title.
As vivid as that time may be, quite often things escape her but that's what life's like for Charleston.
Medical personnel often ask her if she can sleep but, frankly, she can't at the clinic ... until she rests her head on a pillow at home that night before it dawns on her that sleep apnoea is an issue.
In her challenges with THINK!, Charleston often finds ``people who love to sit back and be critical".
``Everyone is judging everyone so why not get up to do something about it yourself,'' she says of the inscription on her business card.