The supermodel you wouldn't recognise
Monday 09 August 2010
She is one of the country's most ubiquitous models. Her image adorns billboards, magazines and television screens – she has five TV commercials running at the moment. She appears in adverts for companies from Dolce & Gabana to Domestos and her credits include shoots with Kate Moss and Mario Testino.
You wouldn't recognise Nina Taylor if you saw her in the street, though. She is a hands, feet and legs model, known in the industry as Kate Moss's hand double. Her mitts are insured for £2m, so forget rock climbing. Even opening a can or chopping a carrot are cardinal sins that invalidate her cover. Shaving her legs is similarly prohibited.
"It is hard to find someone who understands my situation every time I want to open a can – it is difficult to convince them to do it for me without their thinking I'm a prima donna," she said.
"But this could mean losing a lot of money to me, it is not worth the risk." A chipped nail could mean that Taylor, 29, misses out on a day's work. Break a finger and it could be curtains. Given that she earns up to £5,000 a day, each vegetable takes on a sudden menace.
Taylor, who is signed to the Hired Hands agency, got into body part modelling 10 years ago on her cousin's suggestion. "She just kept complimenting my hands. I ignored her at first but the idea grew on me."
She is one of only a few women in the country who does body part modelling exclusively – it allows her to be a "big fish in a small pond". Because her face is never in shot, Taylor can work for rival brands where more famous models cannot. "That's how I can be pictured cleaning a toilet one day and stand in for Scarlett Johansson another," she says.
"I can work with the best people in the business: I have done shoots with Mario Testino and John Swannell. I do not think I would have got to do that as a general model; I'm just not model material." Recently, she has worked for Harper's Bazaar, and you will see her in television adverts for Activia, Herbal Essences, Douwe Egbert's and Rimmel London. "On a magazine shoot, I could be modelling £5m of jewellery and, relatively speaking, earn next-to-nothing. But on an advert, I can earn thousands shooting a scene where I am cleaning a toilet." For a shampoo ad, she spent hours elevated in a harness so her hand would appear to come down from the top of the shot.
"Working with Kate Moss, we did an ad for Rimmel, they needed a leg shot and she didn't have time to do it. The public does not know that it was my leg and that I stood in for her and made sure the job got done, but the photographer and the people paying my wages will.
"It is a silent satisfaction, driving down the road and seeing my work on a huge billboard, or sitting at home when one of my ads appears on television: my hands are everywhere, you'd just never know it."
The discipline has its critics. "People think it is really easy and, while it is not rocket science, you have to be very precise," she said. "It is not just putting your hand in the shot, it is a case of millimetres because you are focusing on such a small part of the hand."
And her anonymity can work against her. Ms Taylor claims that she knows of a rival model who has masqueraded as her. "You can get away with it if you are sufficiently brash and naughty," she said.
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