Interview: Charley Speed's Tips for wannabe models - plus get your BNTM Live tickets now!
Charley Speed has been on the books at Models 1 since he was 17, has famously worked alongside Kate Moss in a Calvin Klein campaign and won Male Model of the Year at the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards in 1997 (beating off tough competition from Zoolander, natch!)
He's currently a judge on Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model, and will be appearing at BINTM Live at Excel in London later this month. We caught up with him recently to find out a bit more about his craziest career moments, his favourite BINTM photos, and to get some tips for budding models who're looking to get spotted at BINTM Live...
What were the highlights of this year's BINTM for you?
My overriding feeling this year it that it was just that much bigger and better than last year. It reached another level.
In terms of shoots, my favourite would have to be the falconry shoot, just because it was a genuinely high end, high fashion editorial shoot. It was the first time I saw Jade [the winner] do a fierce, high-end, Italian Vogue type shot, and I thought 'this girl can actually pose' and that was a pivotal moment for me.
I think that's got to be my favourite shot of the whole series. All the shoots were wonderful, and some of them were very challenging, like the underwater shoot, which was incredibly difficult for the girls. But that photo of Jade was my favourite.
Have you ever had to do anything as challenging as that underwater shoot in your career?
I keep going back to this one - when I was really new to modelling and I'd just been discovered and I didn't know what I was doing, I ended up being plonked on the side of the white cliffs of dover, in midwinter, stood in profile to the camera stark naked!
I've also shot on the rocky mountains in just a pair of pants in the snow...you have to do some pretty extreme stuff!
How did you get into modelling in the first place?
I was at college at the time and a very close friend of mine knew I wasn't doing very much, I was a bit directionless, and she just said "I'm going to sort out some modelling work for you" I thought 'great' and then forgot about it.
She sent some pictures in for a modelling competition on a Saturday morning show called Massive, and they called me up and said 'we'd really like to see you...' So I went, and I won the competition. From that, I went to see Models 1 and they weren't pushy at all, but they said I had the right look and I'd benefit more from doing it full time, and quite frankly I wasn't doing much else with my life at the time so I went for it.
It was some of the best education I've had. You travel the world meeting and working with so many people. It's just great life knowledge.
What advice did you give to the girls on BINTM?
I know some of the challenges can be hard and some of the critiques can be tough, but the truth is in the real world, you can be lining up for castings with sometimes hundreds of girls, massive competition, with a huge atmosphere and you're being talked about like you're not even in the room. It's a really subjective, critical industry. I suppose some of the advice I try to pass to the girls is don't go in there with an ego, don't get above your station. Be fun, be creative, be easy to work with so people want to work with you again.
A lot of young models go a bit off the rails. How did you manage to stay sane through all the madness?
I'll be honest, I perhaps burned a few bridges when I was younger, because when you get put on a pedastal very quickly, and you're that young, you start believing your own hype and it can backfire. So I say to the girls 'keep your feet on the ground, and keep your family and friends close'. Engage, network and do all those things you need to do, but don't just ditch all your original friends.
I think what keeps you grounded is the life you had before. Especially if you become very successful, it's great to indulge in it and do the parties and be seen and make all these aquaintances, but it's definitely important to keep your friends and family close. They'll knock you down if you get above your station!
For anyone who thinks they can take the heat, what tips do you have on how to get spotted at BINTM Live?
Wear things that flatter you, but also wear clothes that say something about you, that are an extension of your personality.
Be well-groomed. When we auditioned it was amazing the amount of girls who'd come in wearing ugg boots, without any heels, and they weren't well-groomed. But you're selling yourself as a brand.
I'd also say, if you don't wear heels, practice in them. We've got the live open catwalk at the show, hosted by Charlotte Holmes, and you get a real chance to walk the catwalk yourself - so bring heels with you and strut your stuff if you think you've got what it takes!
There are lots of people there scouting. Our winner for this year was spotted at the live show last year, along with Ufuoma and Imogen, so it really is a great opportunity to get spotted.
How do you cope with those who don't have what it takes?
It's very difficult, but we say time and time again...there are thousands of very tall, very striking looking people, and it's not that you are not, it's just that nowadays more than ever that extra something is even more important. Also personality, creativity...there are so many people to choose from if clients are looking for that something extra. Often I say 'you're a very pretty girl, but that doesn't necessary make you a top model'. That's just how it is.
It is difficult, very difficult but at the same time it's not fair to say 'yeah, come back next year' if you know they've not got it in them. What perhaps we will say is there are some smaller, more commercial, agencies out there that perhaps will take on some of the more clasically 'pretty' girls, and perhaps they'll have some luck with them, but we're looking for a top model, it's as simple as that.
The US version of Next Top Model has attempted to be more diverse, with a petite season, and the inclusion of plus size models on some cycles. Is this something you can see happening in the UK?
I'd like to think so. I'd like to think the industry is changing slowly but surely. It's dragging its heels a little bit. We need to talk to the 'real girls' out there! There's huge scope for more diverse shapes on the runway...but unfortunately I only have so much say! My personal opinion is I would love to see it. But until the designers start booking girls like that for their shows, it's not going to happen. It's not down to us - there's only so much we can change. It comes down to who they want wearing their clothes.
So you need to have a word with Julien (Macdonald) then?
Yes exactly! [laughs] Come on Jules, sort it out!
Charley will be opening Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model Live and doing Q&A's with Grace Woodward on the open catwalk. We'll also be there with OSOYOU, spotting the most stylish members of the crowd for our own special catwalk show!
We have a very limited supply of FREE tickets for BINTM Live! To claim your 2 free tickets for Friday 28th October (with seats for the 2pm catwalk show) visit the booking page online and enter the code CATQUEEN1. These tickets are strictly limited so book now to avoid disappointment!