Erin O'Connor: You Ask The Questions

What do you look like when you get up in the morning? And, as a budding author, would you ever write a novel lifting the lid on the fashion industry?
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The Independent Online

Erin O'Connor, 26, grew up near Walsall on the outskirts of Birmingham. In 1996, she was spotted by a modelling scout while shopping in Birmingham. Within a few months she was working with Richard Avedon on a Versace campaign. Hailed as the queen of "ugly chic" for her prominent nose and boyish haircut, she has gone on to be one of Britain's most successful models. She has worked on campaigns for Chanel, Givenchy, Versace, Valentino, Armani and Donna Karan. She lives in New York.

You have had many nicknames in the press: "the giraffe", "Morticia", "the nose". Which epithet do you prefer?
Julia Staples, Bangor

I'd say "the nose". I didn't always love my nose but I'm at peace with it now. I'm appreciative of what my nose has given me - if that doesn't sound too bonkers.

What has been your most surreal experience on a shoot?
Kirsty Davis, St Albans

Playing the role of a man and a woman on the same shoot who happened to be in love with each other. It was an ad for Moschino. The man was a matador and the woman was a flamenco dancer. I did the woman first, because that was the easier one. And then they trimmed my hair, stuck it to my face, gave me sideburns and then a moustache. And not only did I look the part, I felt the part. I think I made a very sexy matador.

Can models save the planet/furry animals? Should they try?
Jane Rush, Croydon

No. And no. Moving on...

Do you see yourself as a businesswoman, a salesperson, a clotheshorse, a muse or none of the above?
Lola McNally, Dundee

A bit of all of them. You do have to be a businesswoman in this industry. You have to learn how to take care of your own emotions, accounts and future. But essentially, my job is to model clothes for people to buy - that's it. People sometimes take that to mean that I'm selling my body. Well, I'm not. I'm modelling clothes. It's totally different. I'm not sure if I'm really a muse in the strictest sense of the word. A muse is normally seen as a silent contributor, but what I do is a joint effort.

What do you look like when you get up in the mornings?
Bob Kavanagh, London


You have a reputation for thrift. Why hold back? Surely, you can afford to splash out?
Jamie Brown, Birmingham

I haven't always been financially secure and I do believe that you can find real gems thrifting. I found an amazing black silk couture dress recently in New York. I enjoy searching for things of value. I haven't always had this and to waste my money would be shameful. I don't fly first class.

What's the best insult you've ever heard on the circuit?
Joanna Swift, London

One of my favourites was when a designer said to me, "Oh, you look so fantastic, you've lost so much weight." I said, "Actually, I've been really ill." He said, "Oh well, it doesn't matter - best to be thin." I remember thinking, "Oh my God. Those are your words, not mine."

Who is the most stylish woman in history?
Katy Simon, Peterborough

This is tough. Boudicca, because she was always naked. I just think nothing and no one could add to that. Personally, I'm not mad about being nude. I'm much freer with my body now than I was before I became a model. But then, who is particularly free with their body when they're a teenager?

Would you consider going out with a shorter man?
Jim McGinty, Dublin

Well, I'm not really in a position to be biased, being over six foot myself. One of my first boyfriends was the same height as me and by the end of the relationship, I had outgrown him, which I thought was very funny. However, although it's not really the point, there is something really nice about going out with a taller man.

I understand you do a bit of creative writing on the side. Would you ever write a novel lifting the lid on the fashion industry?
Yvonne Lefevre, Colchester

I do a bit of creative writing. I have done for years, just for my own pleasure. But I wouldn't write anything to lift the lid on the fashion industry - it would be biting the hand that feeds me. I am writing a book on my childhood. It feels like a safer bet because I was a child for longer than I have been a model.

Do you ever get sick of being Erin O'Connor?
Marcus Larkin, Bolton

Only when I'm insulted. It's always interesting when people come up to you and think they know you. They say things like, "God, you look so different in real life!", which is always a little tricky. It's a weird and wonderful thing to be appreciated.

What are the benefits of growing
up in Walsall?
Margaret Smith, by e-mail

Well, one was the arboretum. It's an amazing park in what is otherwise a rather industrial town. As a child, I used to go to see the illuminations there every year. I grew up in Brownhills which is six miles from Walsall. So, it was our weekly day trip to go to Walsall, on Saturdays, on the bus.

I've heard that you can switch your beauty on and off. Is this true?
Helen Mitten, by e-mail

What a terrifying question, but, yes, I think I can. I treat it as the armour that I'm obliged to have for the work that I do in the industry that I'm in. And I am aware of when it's needed. Obviously, you're masked in make-up, but it's about bringing it to life, hopefully. I'm sure it's the same for office workers who get into work on Monday, exhausted, and still have to perform.

You studied ballet for many years. Do you ever wish you could have been a dancer? Did it help you with modelling?
Beth Samuels, by e-mail

As a child, I wanted to be a ballerina. I thought it was the most wonderful thing that a girl could become. It was almost like becoming a woman. In my early teens, it got to the stage where I was doing five or six evenings a week. Part of me wanted to go down to the youth club after school like everyone else; to be normal and smoke in the toilets. But in the end it was glandular fever that ended my ballet career. I really do think that ballet helped me with modelling. I started out in life with bow-legs, which were fixed through endless hours of ballet training. It corrected me, basically. And when I started modelling, heels were a breeze. It gave me a break from pointes.

What's the last great novel you read?
Jake Palmer, Glasgow

Actually, I'm too busy reading and rewriting my own book at the moment to read anything else. I've twiddled with every chapter at least twice. However, the book I always return to is Wuthering Heights. It's odd that I hated it so much when I did it at school. It's amazing what you can get from a book when you go back to it. It makes such a difference where you are personally when you read something. Heathcliff! Heathcliff!

Erin O'Connor is signed to ICM Models