A glamorous tradie who spent five years studying graphic design gave up everything to become a construction site caulker and is now raking in six figures.
Camila Bernal has now spent seven years on the tools and earns a generous salary from her own company – and hasn’t looked back since, even being hired for her skills at The Block.
Speaking to FEMAIL, the 31-year-old said it was a magical twist of fate that led her to get into the business.
“I was working in the hospitality industry at the time and a friend asked me if I wanted to get into caulking — and I jumped at the opportunity,” she said.
Camila, who is originally from Columbia but now lives in Melbourne, said that while the job is challenging, it is “very rewarding.”
Last year she was approached by producers of Channel Nine’s TV show The Block to become a caulker alongside the contestants in the final week – and she says it’s a ‘dream come true’.
Camila Bernal (pictured) decided to trade the business world for the construction site and became a caulker in 2016
The fun-loving 31-year-old tradie told FEMAIL that she loves her new career and hasn’t looked back
‘Caulking is about the finishing touch and the end product; I’ve really fallen in love with my job and I’m a real perfectionist when it comes to my job,” she said
Because of her background, Camila’s eye for design sets her apart from others in the industry.
‘Caulking is about the finishing touch and the end product; I’ve really fallen in love with my job and I’m a real perfectionist when it comes to my job,” she said.
While the switch to trading may seem like a drastic change, Camila said it “made sense” to her as she “lost the passion for graphic design” along the way.
Like any job, caulking has its own set of challenges.
Camila usually starts her day at the construction site at 7 am and sometimes has to spend hours on her knees to do the job correctly and perfectly.
Camila usually starts her day at the construction site at 7am and sometimes has to spend hours on her knees to complete the job correctly and perfectly
Outside of work, Camila is an adventurous woman who enjoys traveling, extreme sports, being in nature and camping (pictured in Paris)
But this has seriously affected her scoliosis – curvature of the spine – and caused extreme back pain.
Camila wasn’t officially diagnosed with the condition until 2021, but doctors say she’s lived with it for years, probably since childhood.
“I have to make sure I take care of my health; I stretch, exercise, take vitamins, give massages, run baths and do all the right things because the pain can be excruciating,” she said.
Last week, after spending eight hours on all fours, Camila said her back pain was almost unbearable, rating the feeling as “20 out of 10.”
“We suffer a lot and I have to make sure I take good care of my body. I’ve been on the strongest painkillers at times,” she said.
Camila considers herself “lucky” because she runs her own business and can work when she needs to – instead of having an employer tell her which jobs to work on.
Doctors say the only way to ease the pain is to quit her job, but she doesn’t consider this an option.
“I have learned to live with the condition. I will never stop in a million years,” she said.
Although she has to cope with the physical challenges, Camila adds that the work is “very rewarding.”
“I love seeing my clients’ reactions when they see the final product for the first time – it’s like the icing on the cake – it’s the best feeling,” she said.
And her only advice for women who want to follow in her footsteps is ‘do it’
Last year she even got a call from producers of Channel Nine’s TV show The Block saying it was a “dream come true” to get recognition for her work.
Unfortunately, when she started Camila, she fell victim to discrimination because she was a woman and originally from a different country.
‘I didn’t speak much English – which was a challenge in itself – so the language barrier frustrated some. And it was also difficult being a woman on the construction site,” she said.
“If you’re the only woman out of 30 men working, they treat you differently.
She also received nasty comments about her heritage that made her feel uncomfortable – such as the association between Columbia and illegal drugs.
However, in recent years she has seen a shift in this behavior with women in the construction industry being celebrated rather than laughed at.
“For me, working in construction is now a privilege and workers want more women on the construction site,” she said.
And her only advice for women who want to follow in her footsteps is “do it.”
“Don’t think about it – if it’s your dream and your passion, act on it.”