From Betting Shop to Topshop: the Rise and Rise of Rudie McCree!
My mate Rudie. I met her three years ago, and I knew, from the second she walked in the room, that she’d be a success. She’s absolutely beautiful (obviously!) but there was something more – a determination and a charismatic presence which, combined, are a force to be reckoned with. And I was right – she’s working non-stop with huge brands such as Topshop, ASOS and campaigns for Sleek MakeUp.
Success didn’t come immediately for Rudie and I remember having conversations with her where I said, “Don’t worry! It’ll happen!” Though I did believe that she would be huge, the fact is that it can be really hard to break into this industry…But even harder if you’re not white (check out Cameron Russel’s TED talk if you haven’t seen it – she makes some great points about this).
I popped round Rudie’s flat that she shares with her best friend, Emily Vickers-Willis (who I’ve also previously interviewed for Modeltypeface) to ask Rudie all about her modelling journey so far…
R: Rudie! You don’t have the typical scouting story that goes along the lines of ‘girl who is clueless that she has potential is scouted in Oxford Circus, aged 16.’ How did you become a model?
RM: I wanted to be a model my whole life. I don’t know why – I just always wanted to be the girl in magazines! I thought you had to go into agencies with pictures [you don’t – check out my previous posts here and here on how to get signed WITHOUT paying for pictures! – R] so I’d work all the time in a betting shop to get money for shots. I spent something like 2k on these, aged 16! Looking at the pictures now I’m a professional model, I realise that they were so bad, but I had no idea. I went in to agencies with these pictures and they all just said no.
R: I know you went in with awful shots but I still find that ridiculous – I can see your potential just by looking at you, so I don’t get why you wouldn’t be signed on the spot.
RM: Well, despite the rejection I always believed in myself, so I guess that’s why I carried on trying. I went to the London School of Modelling for a day’s shoot, and there was one lady there who worked as a booker at Elite. She told me that I should come in to the agency.
I was too scared to go in, so I sent in these pictures I’d paid for that I now realise were so cheesy! However, a guy there told me he was interested and that I should come in. So I did…
…And the receptionist wouldn’t let me in! I told her that I had an appointment with someone, but she just wouldn’t budge and said there was no way that I was right for them.
R: God! All this rejection!
RM: I know! And the most frustrating thing is that after all this, I’d get on the train, and I’d always get scouted! Anyway, I emailed the man I was meant to see and he apologised and said to come in again. This time I was actually let in the building(!) but I was rejected. They needed four yeses from four bookers, and I only got three.
R: If that was me, I’d feel awful. Did you cry?
RM: When I walked out, I cried my eyes out! I felt like my world was over. But, as usual when you’re turned away, I’d been given a list of agencies on the AMA, and I saw Bookings as it was top of the list. It was nearby so I thought, ‘why not’?
R: Tell me they said ‘yes!’ right away!
RM: Well, they said they were 90% and that they’d think on it over Christmas (it was the day before the holidays started). So I felt awful and tense all over Christmas! But when they started up again, they told me to come in for Polaroids and that they had castings for me, so I figured I had an agency at last!
R: Hooray! And that’s when I first met you, isn’t it. You came to a party at The Sanctum Hotel – I remember you walking in and I thought, ‘wow! That girl’s got it!”
RM: Yes, it was just after I’d been signed. That was pretty overwhelming – I’d never been anywhere so posh. I’d spent ages deciding what to wear, and I still felt under-dressed! I just felt like I didn’t fit in, and I really wanted to eat all the food that no one seemed to be eating. But neither of those feelings lasted – I enjoyed the food and the party!
R: I ate loads of that food! You stayed round mine after the club cos you had a shoot the next day and I was living centrally, whereas you were living waaaay out of town. I remember us chatting about how you didn’t feel like you were where you wanted to be, or looking like you wanted to look in shots.
R: Well, I was still working in the betting shop, so I could only do certain castings and shoots. It’s not like I could do 5 tests a week and get a knockout book. It was so frustrating – I knew my potential, but I only had limited opportunities.
R: Do you think that the colour of your skin had anything to do with that?
RM: Definitely. All black girls would say the same – we’re all competing for the one spot, whereas white models have a broader range of clients and more chance of getting into shows. I was getting so frustrated in the beginning, because I felt like a lot of the clients I was sent to for castings had used black girls in the past. I wanted to see the clients that hadn’t used a black girl, and change their minds!
R: After observing the industry during all the years I’ve modelled, I think that black models have to be super duper UBER special to make it, whereas a lot of far less spectacular white models can be pretty successful straight away.
RM: I think I agree, yeah. But I don’t dwell on it or talk about it too much, because I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. Instead of complaining, I want to be a strong and successful, and prove how I can be a brilliant model for any brand, regardless of my colour.
R: You were signed in January 2012 – when was your first job?
RM: That April! But it was for Agent Provocateur, so a pretty good first job!
R: Was there a ‘click’ moment for you? Did you do something, or change your mind set, in a way that led to you working all the time?
RM: Hmmm. Well, I was having a quiet week, and I just decided I wanted to do a paid test with Lukasz Suchorab.
Once I got those pictures, and I started getting jobs – ASOS called the next day [just so you know, ASOS are one of THE clients to work for – regular and well paid – R].
From then on, I felt confident with my book and I just decided not to focus on other girls, and instead to feel proud of where I was and how I’d got there. I always think ‘I deserve to be here,’ cos it’s just too easy to feel bad or unworthy.
R: I need to be inspired by that attitude! And now you work all the time! Tell me your big news about Topshop!
RM: Well I do Topshop ecomm, and I’m their number 1 seller!
R: Woohoo! Why is that such a mammoth achievement?
RM: It’s one of the biggest clothing stores, and lots of top models have started from e-commerce – look at Cara Delevingne. I feel like I’m reaching my goals, as I love to be the best and whatever I attempt. Saying that isn’t boastful, because I can quantify my success – I’m selling the most clothes!
R: Why do you think you’re so successful?
RM: I think I’m relatable. I try to be as real as possible in my poses – I never want to look wooden.
R: I have noticed that you never look stiff or cheesy in your shots…give me some tips! Cos sometimes by shot 438920438290 I can look a bit dead behind the eyes…
RM: I always imagine who would buy the outfit, and what they’d like to see. If I’m lagging a bit, I get the team to tell me a story. Who would wear this? They’ll say ‘oh, you’re off to the funfair with your boyfriend,’ and i’ll act it out. I think that comes through in the pictures.
R: I will definitely be using that tip in future shoots – especially as it sets you apart from other models, making you fun to work with. Then you get rebooked!
RM: And I do get rebooked a lot!
R: I’m not surprised! It’s unbelievable how determined you’ve been – working away to get signed at an agency, and then to prove yourself as a hugely successful model. What are you focusing on next?
RM: I want to get to New York!!! That’s been my goal from day one, but to get there, I need great pictures in my book. So I’m off to South Africa on December 30th to spend New Years there! Then I’m there til March, so hopefully I’ll get some great shots in all the amazing locations there.
R: I’m so jealous! You’re gonna be warm while I’m shivering away in London! And your ultimate goal?
RM: Victoria’s Secret! It’s always been my dream. And I know that if I can accomplish that, I can accomplish anything.
R: I don’t doubt you it a second!