“Sleazy photographers made my skin crawl…” Part I of Top Model Louise Adkins’ Interview with Modeltypeface.
I’ve known the beautiful Louise Adkins for 11 years now. We were New Faces at Select together, but that’s where I felt any similarities ended. Picturing Louise in the Select offices all those years ago, I see a really together, straight-talking girl who didn’t take any bull. To me, she always seemed utterly unfazed by the incredible jobs she was booking – Vogues, campaigns and high end editorials. I remember Louise coming back from Toyko and, when quizzed by me on whether it was scary or hard to get around, she replied, “Well, you just deal with it when you’re there, don’t you.”
In comparison, I always felt like an anxious, nervy babbler who kept getting Elle Girl and old lady knitwear catalogues instead of iD, and I was terrified of leaving London. Louise seemed so much more together and grown up. That’s why I love these interviews – I found out so much more about Louise and that maybe she wasn’t really that tough, together model I thought she was!
Hooray for Facebook, which has kept us in contact. Louise has been enormously supportive of my writing and the blog, which means a lot. And I’ve been able to see her get married and now get pregnant with the love of her life! It really proves that us models aren’t revolting bitches to one another, and that actually, you can find yourself a really strong network and friends for life.
The interview is in two parts, because there is so much to cover.
R: Louise! Hello. Despite having no confidence in my appearance, I sort of always knew I’d be a model. Was it similar for you?
L: The first time I ever really thought about being a model was year 6 of primary school. It must have been when Kate Moss first hit the big time, and everyone was telling me I looked like her. To be honest, I probably wasn’t everyone’s immediate idea of what a model looks like: I was the tallest person in my class, lanky and completely un-coordinated. To add insult to injury, my grades were not the greatest. My parents were always told at Parent’s Evening that, “Louise tries her hardest but never quite gets there.” I’ve recently discovered in my late 20s that I have dyslexia, which probably explains a few things.
So despite trying really hard I felt very side lined at school…Basically I was an awkward, lanky and goody two shoes.
My teen years weren’t much kinder to me. Alas, I turned into an even more awkward, lanky, skinny teenager. Those years were tough and the photos are not much better!
R: So how did you make the leap from awkward, lanky Kate Moss-alike to actually modelling?
L: When I was 15, I went to The Clothes Show Live with school and I got scouted by Elite. I was so proud of myself – they gave me a T-shirt with their name on the front that I wore like a badge of honour! As with so much of model scouting, nothing came of it, which my Mum said was probably for the best. She felt I should finish my GCSE’s and, if I wanted to, pursue modelling after exams.
I know you’re meant to send your pictures off to other agencies if you get rejected, but I never had the balls to do it. I just didn’t think I was good enough, so I continued on at school – and it’s probably a good thing as I met my now-husband Phil in the last year of my A-levels!
Phil and I happened to be on the same Art & Design Foundation course at De Montfort Uni, which was fun as we got to see each other all the time. We headed off to The Clothes Show (again!) and went on a mad shopping spree on the last day, when everything’s discounted. Picture me, frazzled and with no make-up, diving in for the bargains.
Well, despite my unglamorous appearance, this was the start of my modelling journey: a lady from Select stopped me and asked if I’d ever thought of modelling? She took some Polaroids and entered me into a competition to win £1000 of travel vouchers. I let her take the pictures and promptly forgot all about it, until they got in contact and wanted to sign me!
Just two weeks after being signed, I got my first job. And what a job! It was a cover try for a magazine called Tank magazine and a shoot in Mauritius for a week!!! So I flew off to Mauritius which was amazing! The Tank magazine front cover was my first modelling published picture and I love it to this day…You might not be able to, but I can definitely see the fear in my eyes.
I can’t remember what my first every job was, but I have a distinct feeling that it was in Homerton, not Mauritius…
R: What a start! Where did it go from there? And did you win those travel vouchers?!
Yes! We went on a pre-Christmas holiday to the Dominion Republic and then Amsterdam. As for modelling, it just snowballed. I got booked for so many editorials around the world, just about managing to scrape a pass for uni. And I moved down to South London with Phil.
R: So you’ve fallen in love and you’ve moved down to London with Phil – but you must have been off around the world? How did you make it work?!
Yeah – I was travelling so much I didn’t get to see him as much as I would like. For the next 5 years I was based in London, but was also spending time in Paris, Milan and I lived in New York for a few months, which I absolutely loved. Phil came out to NYC to visit me for long weekends. Of course it was tough for us to be apart for long periods but we never left it more than 8 weeks before seeing each other and we’re still together today, which must say something.
R: How did you find the travelling?
L: Trotting off to Mauritius for a week is all very well, but living in model apartments is the worst part of being a model. I’ve travelled a lot, and I can safely say that they’re the strangest places in the world.
In Paris I would stay in an apartment that was looked after by this crazy old French lady. If I got there at the start of the season, I’d enjoy a nice single room. However, these soon filled up, and on occassion I’d wind up in the dorm room, on a bunk bed and having to share with 5 or 7 other girls. Obviously that’s fine if you’re 15, but by the time I was 21 I was completely over it.
The craziest thing I remember about that particular apartment was that they did not have a kettle, and if you wanted a hot drink you had to boil water in a pan on the stove. Apparently, a young girl had once tried to warm soup up in the kettle, sand they refused to replace it.
R: I often end up feeling quite maternal towards some of the younger, foreign girls…
L: Me too. I think I spent most of my time in these apartments educating the younger girls of their rights. Most of them were Eastern European girls, trying to learn English and French at the same time. They were so young and impressionable, and many were from impoverished backgrounds, so were saddled with the huge responsibility to earn big money to take home. That pressure meant that many of them thought they just had to do whatever the agency told them to do – no matter whether it made them uncomfortable.
R: I hate to hear that! What sort of pressures did you see them succumbing to?
L: I’d just like to say, first, that I feel privileged to have been part of the modelling world – the places I’ve been and people I’ve met have been amazing.
But there is a flip side this. I’ve met some sleazy photographers who made my skin crawl with the way they looked and and spoke to me – especially in Paris. I am quite strong-willed and know how to stand up for myself – plus I had Phil, my family and Uni back home. These young vulnerable girls did not, so I would tell them to call the agency if they felt uncomfortable. I happen to know that agencies can be very good at getting girls of shoots in the middle of the day – they did it for me when a photographer wanted me to wear just heels and a hat for a main fashion story!
I’d also tell them to not bother going to the casting if it says it’s nude and you’re unhappy with that – then you’re not wasting anyone’s time.
R: It must have been hard, sometimes, to have to stand your ground all the time?
L: Oh my God, so hard. Constantly standing your ground against what feels like a huge industry, with so much expectation heaped on you from the agency can really grind you down, and I spent many evenings on the phone to either Phil or my mum just crying my eyes out and saying I wanted to come home – especially in those first few years of modelling.
Looking back, I don’t think I could have gone so far as a model without Phil. He was always the one to tell me to go for it and grab every opportunity that came my way, and I think he spent 90% of his student loan flying out to visit me wherever I was, just to cheer me up and keep me going.
R: Phil really saw you through a lot, didn’t he! What do you think kept you together through the crying and the travelling? So many guys get jealous or, frankly, a bit bored of never actually seeing their model girlfriend.
L: It’s hard to find a good guy. Loads of men are only interested because you’re a model. Then, if you do find a good man, trying to keep him as it can be really tough with our unpredictable job!
I guess the fact that Phil knew me before modelling counts for a lot. He discovered with me what an unglamorous slog it can be, so he was really supportive and moved to London for me. But now we now live back in Leicester – it got the the point where Phil had had enough of London, plus I wanted more stability. That’s the key to a relationship, I think – knowing when to give and take. I can commute back for castings and shoots easily and it’s great to settle down in the house we bought up here.
In 2010 after being together for 10 years Phil finally proposed to me and we got married in Thailand in March 2011, with our closest family and friends around us. It truly was the best day of my life. Our 6 month honeymoon, where we were travelling around Asia, was the most time we’ve ever spent together…And the best 6 months of my life!
Coming TOMORROW! The second half of Louise’s interview with Modeltypeface: on struggling with her body image under the pressure and scrutiny of her bookers, the best jobs she’s ever done and the VERY EXCITING things that the future holds for her and Phil!
Louise is at Profile Models