This issue, we speak to actress and model Ellie Gill, the winner of our advent calendar giveaway!
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Ellie. I’m originally from Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, and I have a degree in Sociology. I went to the University of Warwick and did four years there. Haven’t used a lot of that degree at all, but then I think a lot of people don’t! After that I went travelling but then went to drama school and did one year in professional acting at Drama Studio London, and I graduated in 2017, which seems ages ago – saying 2017 feels like an absolute mammoth time ago!
But since then, I’ve been acting. Theatre, comedy roles, a lot of improvisation. And then in 2019, in summer, I saw Fig Leaves were looking for some like real women to do their latest campaign so I applied for that. I’d always like been interested in modelling, but had been more focused on my acting at that point. So, I applied to Fig Leaves for this campaign and I ended up getting a getting spot and doing that.
I had the most amazing day working with Fig Leaves and doing a shoot in my underwear, about positivity. And that was exactly what I needed – I was like, if I get good feedback, maybe I’ll do this. I did get some good feedback and I got some great photos and I was like, okay, I’m going to try and pursue this. So I wrote to some agents and got put on a few books. It kind of went from there really, I was really lucky to have my first proper modelling job for Boots. And sort of since then just been doing more modelling and acting together. And they go really hand in hand, a lot.
How’s it being during lockdown?
Oh, well, let’s say that you can’t not like Zoom, can you? [laughs] Oh my god, I think there’s been a lot more modelling work than acting work, because – apart from obviously getting hair and makeup done by someone, which I did a lot of myself – in the end, with modelling you can kind of have that that social distance and you can make it quite a safe set. Whereas with acting, you’re reliant on relationships and being together with people so that died out really.
So, I was able to do a few photo shoots over lockdown. I was very lucky with that. There’s big differences with them but I got a few things. Everything else was sort of over Zoom, you have to really learn how to do great self tapes and lots of modelling self tapes where you need to have full body length all the time. I don’t think I have a big enough space in my house where I can’t get my recycling in and old gin bottles – I think they’re going to think I’m an alcoholic! [laughs]
That’s been quite a challenge, trying to find the space. To do this, these extra demands that are now there because they can’t see you in person. And I think that’s kind of really highlighted, generally, inequality. When I was doing some Equity stuff they were talking about how it highlighted the differences in the accessibility into the industry. You need to be able to have lights and a good phone to record, a tripod and, you know, and space in your house. So I think it’s definitely made it more challenging for people. When you turn up in a room, no one knows what your background is. When you’re recording from home, people know more, it feels more personal and people know more about you. People don’t have the same equipment and so I think it’s highlighted the difficulties that people could have with this new way of being.
I think the same in the acting world as well, although the Zoom castings and zoom interviews have helped people who can’t afford to you travel up and down the country. So it’s like swings and roundabouts really.
Have you witnessed or had, in your own experience, any negative things with the Zoom calls?
Not negative… I think it’s a lot more difficult than being in the room because you don’t get any body language from anybody. And you can’t really have any small talk. Because it’s all everyone sort of expecting something if you log on, they’re like, “okay, go”! You don’t feel like people get to know you as a person. You don’t get to get your personality across as much on Zoom. And Zoom’s draining, I can’t imagine how it is for casting directors or whatever to sit on a Zoom for hours and hours and hours and they probably don’t want to do small talk. It’s hard enough in the room!
But I do feel like it is great to be able to have that time saved from travelling an hour wherever to go for five minutes and then leave again. It’s nice to save the money from that. But then also it just feels less personal. And, you know, you really want to make friends with the people that you’re meeting and you really want to show them you. I don’t feel like you can do that on a 10 minute Zoom call. There’s so many positives and so many… not negatives, just not so great elements, about the way that we’re working really
Talking of getting to know you better… is there anything that people can watch online of yours that’s been recorded?
Oh, good question. I was on Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, on series two episode one, that might still be on All4. The first episode, I filmed that before the first lockdown and then it was aired in April during lockdown – which was kind of weird to watch because it’s everyone’s near each other! So that might still be on there to have a look at. That’s quite fun.
Talk us through the process getting signed with agencies.
When I approached my agent that I signed with, I didn’t really have much of a portfolio. I didn’t have really any idea what I was doing! I just had the pictures from the Fig Leaves and some pictures in my jeans and a top because I saw that’s what you’re meant to do. And I spent ages, taking those pictures of myself, not being able to get ones I liked, trying to get the right lighting, trying to get them of myself on a little timer on my phone!
I think the biggest hurdle I had was not having any other material. Obviously I was lucky enough that this was 2019 so thankfully the pandemic hadn’t started yet so I was able to get some shoots done to get some footage, but had it been this year I would have really struggled.
I have quite a quite a lot of knowledge on how the industry works from being an actor but I found it very different being on the modelling side of things. But I think everyone in the modelling world is just very lovely, really, really nice. And there’s something about being in the curve division that… I don’t know what it’s like for normal models, I know there’s quite a lot of pressure to keep a certain size, and that isn’t really the case – obviously I like to keep my measurements as much as I can but in the cruve division there’s a lot more, you know, we are who we are. We want to show what real women look like, and all the other models I’ve met have been really positive, really lovely, all my agents are just lovely, really supportive. And everyone I’ve worked with has been really delightful and it’s really nice.
I’m not saying it’s not like that on the acting side of things, but I just noticed from all my experiences with modelling it’s been very positive. I think you know when you’re hiring a curved model that they are quite happy in their skin. It’s a very positive message, so I think there’s always that feeling of empowerment, when you’re on set anyway.
Do you think it’s important that we, in the media especially, have those representations of different bodies?
Yeah, definitely. I think it’s important to note that there’s a lot of like skinny shaming and I think that’s unfair. I think the problem was that only smaller size models were being shown so therefore, there was a lot of negativity towards the industry. I think it’s just important to have representation across all body shapes and sizes. Whether that be very small to very big. I think every single size has its place and I think we should be saying to women, you can look like anything. I’m aware that curve is a big thing at the moment is, it’s absolutely great. I don’t ever want slimmer women to feel out of place. There are women who that’s just not their natural body shape and they eat absolutely tonnes every day but they’ve got a fast metabolism and that’s what they look like.
I think we just need to celebrate that everyone looks different. You look great and you are great how you are, and I think especially with the pandemic and the lockdown, everyone sort of feels like they’ve eaten too much, and feels not themselves in a quite a few different ways. I think there’s so much to be said to just be like, this is alright. Yes, it’s been a really shit year, but it’s okay because we’re all in this together, and it doesn’t matter. And you know if you feel a bit heavier and you feel like you want to lose weight, you can lose the weight, no big deal. And you’ll lose it when you lose it, or just be how you are, you know, just think being okay with what’s happened and being okay with how you look and how you feel and try to remember that everyone’s gone through this together. And that’s what gets me through it anyway.
Do you have any tips that you would give to people who maybe don’t feel comfortable in their bodies?
I would remind people that no one feels comfortable all the time. Even the people who have the most confidence aren’t completely confident, everyone’s got an insecurity, so you’re not alone. It’s just a natural thing, but I think just embrace what you’ve been given. It’s beautiful. Of course, you are beautiful. It’s all quirks and great things, and the things you don’t you don’t like, other people are going to love. People see the things you don’t like about yourself and really wish [they] had that and you’ll be like, what? but honestly, they will. No two people are the same.
Especially with the plastic surgery surge at the moment, there’s quite a lot of it on TV. And I think that doesn’t give the right impression, thinking that you need to change things. Just remember that you don’t, just try and love yourself because you’re brilliant. It’s hard, it takes ages, and you won’t always love every single part of yourself, but you’ve got to just be happy, just accept it.
What can you tell me about your personal style?
I like slightly quirky things. I’m not really a plain person. I love patterns, anything pattern I buy it pretty much. And then that becomes really problematic when I have to do a self tape for some photos because they’re like, just bring some plain tops and I’m like, “oh…” [laughs] So I had to invest in some plain clothes.
I like bold patterns, I like a lot of dresses, longer skirts. It’s really hard right now because I feel like I’ve just lived in lounge pants. I miss dressing up, you know, you kind of feel like you dress up to go to the doctors. But I like just kind of making a bit of a statement. I love Doc Martens, I wear them with like everything. I just appreciate a well made item, you know, if I see something good that’s well made, that catches my eye. That’s the kind of thing. I just appreciate a good piece of clothing.