In Conversation with Charlotte Wiggins
– Guest feature by Harvey James.
As a model and a writer, I wanted to explore the difference in the female/male experience of modelling. I turned my head and chatted to my girlfriend, Charlotte Wiggins, for some insight. We speak body image, castings and loneliness.
Harvey: I’m interested to know, do you think anything happens at female castings that might seem alien to guys?
Charlotte: Well we both know that castings can be ridiculous…
Harvey: Yeah, true.
Charlotte: Dancing! [laughs] At fashion week I’ve done some castings where all the girls have to walk in their underwear, but there’s not been a single lingerie look or swimwear look in the show, so, something like that is a bit like “Mmm. Do we really need to be doing this?” But then again, I’m sure boys have to take their tops off all the time, too.
Harvey: Yeah, yeah, all the time. Almost every casting really. Do you feel pressure from your agency or perhaps pressure to be in good shape from being surrounded by your model friends?
Charlotte: Well in some sense it’s a part of the job.
Harvey: Do you think it depends on each person’s body shape?
Charlotte: Yeah completely, because we’re not all the same size. But now that I don’t do shows, there’s much less pressure on me.
Harvey: I remember a friend of mine said – and I feel like I can say this because it was about her Japanese agency – that at that agency, she would be weighed on the scales every Monday and if she wasn’t the same weight as stated on her contract, she could be flown home. She said she dreaded every Monday morning. That seems very cut throat from my perspective as a guy. I’ve never experienced any of this, even in Japan. But from what I hear, it’s generally stricter for girls, is that right?
Charlotte: Well I’ve never heard of anyone being weighed, but yeah it definitely is stricter for girls. Like, do you know what measurements you need to be for shows?
Harvey: Oh, right, no I didn’t even know that was a thing.
Charlotte: Yeah, there are some exceptions, but there are standard measurements you should be close to for fashion week. So, getting in “show shape” is different to normal.
Harvey: Yeah I used to do that when I was doing shows, because I knew that I was going to get my top off like twenty times a day, doing that every day for a week you do start to think, “I should be looking better”.
Charlotte: Yeah, your competition is in the room with you. If you’re up for a job outside of fashion week you don’t see what other girls are going for it. For shows, there’s fifty of you in a room and everyone does it, but you look at everyone around you even if you don’t mean to, it’s just a very natural thing. You just want to be the best you can be.
Harvey: So, we both know fashion week can be a pretty testing experience by all accounts, but what about the rest of your career, have you ever had any particularly low moments?
Charlotte: I think loneliness is a big thing in the industry.
Harvey: Totally agree.
Charlotte: Yeah. You are very young when you start out. I remember going to New York on-stay for the first time and sleeping in a model apartment for a long period of time and I knew maybe one person in the city. I was not very confident in making friends nor did I really know how to go about it, and New York, as I’m sure a lot of models know, can be the best city in the world or the most lonely. I just remember thinking, “I just want to be at home right now. I want to be with my friends.” But it makes you grow as a person.
Harvey: It does make you quite independent – I experienced the same. I also didn’t think I was going to make any friends – I just had this idea about what everyone was going to be like, but you find out that everyone is just kind of like you. There are people from completely different backgrounds and different countries, and it’s quite fascinating in that sense. To be quite alone from all that you once knew but surrounded by all these different characters, it can be quite scary but really amazing once you settle into it.
Charlotte: Also if you’re not working as well….
Harvey: Mmm, definitely. Well, that’s a whole other story, that’s more of an existential meltdown. But the isolation doesn’t help with that. Well, thanks for that, I guess I’ll see you around then, Charlotte?
Charlotte: If you’re lucky.