Top Model win­ner’s ca­reer look­ing good

Win­nipeg­ger rubs shoul­ders with fash­ion icons in NYC

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ali­son Mayes

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.”

PHIL HOSSACK / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

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.

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