Heartbreak and Homesickness: I interview the beautiful Emily Vickers-Willis on being a SURVIVOR!
I’m not remotely embarrassed to say this: Emily is one of those girls that I can’t help sometimes feeling a bit jealous of. Whenever I see her, she has an enormous grin on her face, is surrounded by a group of girlfriends, and her stomach is always completely flat despite the fact that she’s probably eating a donut. A BAG of donuts, in fact. She always seems to be working and her popular Instagram is full of beautiful pictures like this…
It was probably raining and i’d just eaten too much cake when this was posted…
…But, just like anyone out there, Emily’s had her lows and tough moments – especially since coming over from her home in Australia to model.
I suppose you can relate that to how models are often seen by the public: surely these beautiful women have it all? Aren’t they all thin, rich and get loads of designer free clothes all the time?! In fact, films like Girl Model show that many models are young, vulnerable and have been on a fairly rough journey . Also, FYI, we hardly ever get free clothes.
I caught up with Emily to find out what it’s like to move away from home, alone, to try to establish yourself in a foreign country.
I was really surprised by what I found out….
R: Being a London-based model from London, I’ve never really had to establish myself in another country like you have. How on Earth did you manage to do it?
E: Well, I really screwed up.
R: Wow – I wasn’t expecting that! We were at another agency together before and I was just aware of you working all the time!
E: Well, the day I walked into the agency [who we won’t name here – R ] I booked a job for Debenhams, and I literally worked every single day from that moment. But it took me three months to even send in photos before that, as I was so scared of rejection. London, overall, was just so scary to me.
R: I had no idea! What did you do in those three months?
E: I worked in a bar. I always like to have a job like that alongside modelling anyway, as I like to remind myself of what real work is!
R: Very noble! And actually it’s true…Sometimes, I get knackered and then I’m like, ‘all I’m actually doing is putting on outfits!’ Not exactly going down t’mines!’
E: So true! So anyway, I met a guy who also worked at the bar, and I fell in love. And that’s where I made my mistake, because I just made friends with his friends. And to be fair, I felt like I made really, really good friends through him – but when we later broke up, I didn’t hear from them. Their loyalty was to him, and I felt so, so down and lonely.
R: Oh god – that sounds awful, especially when your parents and family are on the other side of the world.
E: Exactly. I was 19 and I’d never had to live away from home. I had to start borrowing money from my parents to get by, because the 5000 Australian dollars I’d earned from months of work in a bar in Oz just vanished. It was worth about 2.5k here and, once you’ve paid a deposit, rent, travel, food…it vanished.
R: You must have been feeling so on the edge! But once you started working for the agency, surely it was OK?
E: Well…I was earning a lot, but I didn’t get my first payment until 8 months in. And that was for a grand, when I was owed much more.
R: I’d love to sound surprised, but many models at this agency experienced what you did. [it’s why you should always join an agency on the AMA people!] I think I know the answer, but why didn’t you fight to get the money you’d earned?!
E: I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was working so well, which was better than not working. I was living with my then boyfriend and he was having to pay my share of the rent (which I have now paid him back for). My Dad, who’s an accountant, said that before I had this experience, he had never thought that a business could get away with not paying.
R: It sounds like you just had no control over anything. What was the turning point for you?
E: I suppose it was this terrible, awful week I had. My boyfriend and I had broken up, and, after living together in that state for a while, I moved out and lived on my own. I’d been horribly stressed, I wasn’t eating, I was weak and depressed and I felt so low. I fell over and banged my head, blacked out, and had a huge bruise on my face. That was it. I just called up my booker and said. “I can’t work this week,” and hid myself away. It was awful. But after that low point, I took control.
R: Tell me how you did that!
E: Well, I’d already moved agencies to Bookings, which was an amazing step. I’d gone to Australia for four months and told my agency there that they could either find me a new agency or I wouldn’t go back to London – I just couldn’t handle the stress of not getting paid. So I joined Bookings, where I get a lot of work. However I’m still paying off debts to my parents from where they lent me money, so I’m not loaded. But I get a cheque every month for whatever’s in, which is just such a relief!
R: What about your living situation?
I still felt so low and raw from the pain of the break up. I was talking about it with one girl, Rudie, who was also living with her ex. We both chatted about how unhealthy it was…And from there we just decided to live together. We’re now flatmates and it has been the best! I’ve changed for the better. I’m more confident, I’m far more social, and I do more for myself.
R: I love coming round your flat! You and Rudie are best friends and it’s lovely to see a group of Bookings girls forming a great friendship – and it must be a great contrast to where you were a couple of years ago.
E: Definitely! I still get homesick though. It can be really hard not seeing my family for months at a time.
R: I bet! What advice would you give to any models about homesickness who are going to travel?
E: Well, if I’m having a down day, I like to curl up and Skype home. But, at the same time, I wouldn’t recommend that for every time you’re homesick. When I first moved to London I’d Skype my friends every single day. But it stopped me from making friends in London, making me feel even more isolated.
I wouldn’t recommend calling home every time you’re blue, because if you’re feeling ridiculously down and homesick, and you’re crying down the phone or computer screen, your parents are always going to say ‘come home.’ And it’s sooooo tempting to do it – but it’s just too easy! But there are still things I want to achieve here, and I’ve got so many friends I can turn to here. So I decide: do I need to speak to my mum, or do I need to be cheered up by being silly with Rudie and my girlfriends?
R: Finally – I’ve started Modeltypeface to give advice for new faces and other models. What did you think when you saw the blog?
E: I was really pleased – I only used to get my advice from overhearing snippets from other model’s conversations. Like, there were a lot of girls talking about not getting paid at that other agency, so I kept my own notes on jobs and fees. I was so scared to rock the boat, so I didn’t ask any bookers or other models for help.
R: Well, I do think that bookers are there to give us guidance, but mainly to book us jobs. I guess they can’t be sorting out our rent and break ups all the time.
E: I don’t really think that it’s a booker’s job, too. I wonder if there should be a ‘legal guardian’ in agencies to do that sort of work? It could take the pressure of bookers but really help a lot of clueless and vulnerable models.
R: Oooooh! I think you’re onto something!