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Tour Spotlight: Q&A with The Wiggles' Emma Watkins

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Tour Spotlight: Q&A with The Wiggles' Emma Watkins

Fresh off the back of their sell-out six week North American and Canadian tours, the world’s all-time favourite children’s entertainment group will return to Australian arenas this December. We chat to Emma Watkins, the woman who made Wiggle history as the first female member.

Taking the place of a founding Wiggle meant you had some big shoes to fill, but also to be the first-ever female Wiggle immediately places you as a role model for The Wiggles’ female fans. Did you take on the job conscious of its responsibility?
I knew that it was iconic to be the first female but I did not expect the enormous positive response to having a female Wiggle!

I have received so many lovely messages from parents saying that their child is so excited to have a girl in The Wiggles.

You got the job as Yellow Wiggle while you were studying your Master in Media Arts and Production degree at UTS, how were you offered the job?
Well strangely enough there was no audition! I had been working with The Wiggles the entire time, doing my degree part-time.

I started with The Wiggles as a ballerina-dancing fairy, Fairy Larissa, on the Dorothy the Dinosaur show, which toured Australia and then once Anthony (Field, Blue Wiggle) found out I was studying film, I moved to the Wiggles show to shoot behind the scenes footage, so I was filming new DVDs and content for The Wiggles whilst studying at UTS. This was really helpful because I was getting hands on experience filming almost every day and using that as research for my degree. So I was a Wiggly dancer and was filming videos to put on our Facebook and Twitter, and I was having the time of my life.

Then I was learning bits of acrobatics, instruments and was even able to play Wags the Dog and Dorothy at times.

Then we started what was to be the farewell tour for the original line up of The Wiggles in 2012, and about four months in, Anthony told me about the guys retiring and offered me the position as the first female Wiggle!

I was speechless. But knowing that Simon (Pryce, Red Wiggle) and Lachy (Gillespie, Purple Wiggle) were joining me made me feel so at home because we already knew each other and had toured with each other over the past two years. 

When Anthony first offered you the position, you thought it was a practical joke because of the group’s larrikin tour mentality. What’s the best practical joke they ever pulled on tour?
Yes the boys think they are very funny and I’ve heard lots of stories about past practical jokes!

I think it’s early days for us as the new line up to have a major practical joke yet.

Something small that happens regularly is when we perform a song called "There was a princess long ago" in the show. I am the princess and I live in this tower (which is a tiny step ladder). Anthony always puts me on the spot, when I’m up on that step ladder – he’ll start yodelling or dancing gangnam style, or something silly. I never know what he’ll do.

And when Lachy comes on, dressed as the Prince of course, Anthony often gets Lachy to make up a poem, then and there, about which town we are in. It’s always hilarious because he has no time to prepare it so he very rarely rhymes!

You’ve got your own following now, did you ever foresee you’d have your own Mini-Emma Army?
Absolutely not. But now, every time we come out on stage I just see a sea of bows. So many little girls are dressed like me - and even boys with yellow bow ties.

The amount of effort some of the parents go to, to put together these amazing outfits is unbelievable. They just look like tiny versions of me and they don't really change the size of the bows so they are sometimes bigger than their heads! It’s bowtiful!

The Wiggles have performed more concerts than the Rolling Stones. Are you confident the new lineup will have the same longevity?
I think the amount of concerts The Wiggles have done is nothing short of incredible and to be touring non-stop for 22 years is an amazing achievement.

But in this technological age we are able to connect with our fans on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram almost instantly after the show and, after almost a year in our new line-up, I’ve definitely noticed an increase in our following in a very short amount of time. I think social media is really helpful in this way because people are able to communicate and find out about the new Wiggles in a more accessible way.

I would really like us to be successful and I see how important the music of The Wiggles is to a lot of children all around the world.

Jeff (Fatt, ex-Purple Wiggle) wiggled till he was 60 so that means I have to wiggle for another 37 years… I’m ready for the ride!

Not only do you have a singing and dancing background, but you’re also accomplished in media arts and production. Tell us about the award-winning film you recently created?
I love dance films, it’s a big hobby of mine and I’ve studied film at Sydney Film School and UTS.

The film I made for my Masters degree, which is titled "re-HEAR-se" is based around two people communicating to each other through dance, AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) and mime. The choreography is created by signing in AUSLAN the colours of a Rubik’s cube and by the end all the colours are combined and the choreography sequence is created. It’s only a short film but it was an experiment for me to combine sign language on film - which I’m really interested in - and the film won Best Experimental Film at The Golden Eye Awards!

Actually the lady who judged my section works in Paris and so I’m now pitching the film over in Europe to get it exhibited over there. The film is still in hiding but I’ll let you know when it will be screened again in Australia.

What’s been your career highlight so far?
Apart from being able to perform every day and travelling to some incredible places and meeting so many interesting people, I think the most special part is being able to meet some very special children at the hospitals all around the world. I really look forward to these meet-and-greets because you meet the families that surround these children, and for that very moment of the day, we just sing, dance and laugh and everyone gets to enjoy themselves. It’s a very happy moment - I love meeting the children and listening to them speak and just understanding their world.