Top Model winner’s career looking good
Winnipegger rubs shoulders with fashion icons in NYC
LIKE every fashion model, Meaghan Waller is acutely aware of her flaws. “I have very long arms,” says the Oak Park High School grad. “I was told I had ‘monkey arms’ growing up.
“And my calves and my thighs are small, and then I have big, knobby knees.”
Imperfect though she may be, the stunning 22-year-old has become one of the most successful models ever to strut out of Manitoba since she beat more than 5,000 hopefuls to be named Canada’s Next Top Model (CNTM) in 2009.
While the winners who preceded her on the first two seasons of the nowcancelled TV reality series found little success in real-world modelling, the leggy Waller has proven she can walk the walk — in high heels.
A year ago the Charleswood product, whose full surname is De WarrenneWaller, moved to New York, where she is represented by DNA Model Management. She now owns an apartment in Brooklyn.
She’s been visiting her family for the past two weeks and starred in a fashion show on Wednesday at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
The blue-eyed, single Waller, who stands just under five-foot-10, has worked for months at a time in Beijing, Milan and Tokyo. She has just returned from about three months in Australia, where she was chosen to walk in 13 of the 16 runway shows in Sydney Fashion Week.
“For one of the shows in Sydney,” she recalls, “we had hair extensions added to our ponytails that probably weighed close to 10 pounds. I opened the show, and they put a headdress on me that probably weighed an additional 10 pounds. I don’t know how I made it down the runway and back.”
Aware that she could be stigmatized as a pretender for her CNTM win, Waller doesn’t advertise it. “I don’t tend to tell very many people that I did (the series), unless they ask or find out.”
In New York, her regular clients include department stores: Bloomingdale’s, for which she models about once a week, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys. Those more commercial print jobs, she says, pay better than edgy high fashion. They’re her bread and butter, but she also does editorial work for clients such as vogue.com, Elle and Marie Claire.
She spends about one week per month modelling for world-famous designer Donna Karan. “I’m in her studio with her while she’s designing…. I work with her to the point that I’ve been to her house for dinner.”
Other icons she’s met include Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. In January, she was taken into the office of Vogue to model a London designer’s line in front of editor Anna Wintour, the dragon lady who inspired Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.
“It was the scariest few minutes of my life,” she says. “I had butterflies in my stomach. In the end, she was very nice.”
Waller says she’s often told she moves in a unique way. “Every photographer I’ve ever worked with says I move in a way that nobody else moves. I bend in the weirdest ways. I’m like a human pretzel.”
The former retail clerk and University of Manitoba student, who had never modelled before CNTM — and had braces on her teeth until the producers asked her to get them removed — is this month’s cover girl for Brides magazine.
“She has everything,” says Brandon Hall, her agent at Toronto’s Sutherland Models. “She’s got a great personality, she’s got the height, the bone structure, the body — she’s just the right package for the industry.”
Her “mother agent,” the one who oversees all her career moves, is Liz Crawford at Winnipeg’s Swish Model Management.
Her glamorous career has led her to meet celebrities such as actor Leonardo Dicaprio, the band LMFAO and will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. She is constantly recognized in public in Canada. She gets admiring emails from fans of CNTM who have downloaded the series in countries as far away as Russia, Indonesia and the Philippines. “It boggles my mind,” she says.
Starting to model at age 19 sometimes makes her feel a bit old, she admits. “There are days when I walk into a casting for a fashion week and everyone is 15 years old…. But they look like confused little puppy dogs, and I have a solid head on my shoulders.”
She has come a long way since being thrust into a career she never saw coming. “Three years ago, I had very low confidence,” she says. “I just feel more comfortable doing it now, which I think you can see in my pictures or when I’m walking down the runway.
“I love working in a creative industry…. I keep reminding myself that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. School will always be there, and I can always go back to it. But modelling only lasts so long.”
Above, Meaghan Waller walks the runway at the WAG’S The Collection: A Fashion Show Wednesday; right, acting as the muse for makeup artist Alice Lane’s photo spread at Vogue.com.