Friday 27 April 2018

Emma Waldron's New York state of mind

The former Miss Ireland is moving from modelling to building her own business empire

Modelling, television presenting and business are all in a day's work for Emma Waldron
Modelling, television presenting and business are all in a day's work for Emma Waldron
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

Donald Trump's America apparently doesn't make it easy for new immigrants, but he might make an exception for the beautiful ones.

The country was, after all, built on the success of its shiny new arrivals and, despite the rhetoric of the real estate mogul, Irish people have continued to flock to the Home of the Free.

Model and social media entrepreneur Emma Waldron moved to New York City two years ago and since then has been busy making a name for herself there. The former Miss Ireland and Celbridge native has been establishing herself in the modelling world in the Big Apple, and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in television - she worked for a time with broadcasting legend Larry King. She has also founded a company which puts influencers - social media stars - in touch with the brands they hope to represent.

"In some ways, I can't believe I've been here that long because it has all flown," Emma says. "I actually moved over at a great time, because it was just the beginnings of real diversity in the modelling industry here. There's room for more than one particular size, which was great.

"It is competitive of course, but it's not catty. When you go to a casting and you don't get a job, it's not that you're not pretty or whatever. You might just not have the look that they were going for. There is no ego involved. Every single woman is different. Size should be completely irrelevant. I'm very laid back about it, I eat what I want."

The 27-year-old made her name in 2010 after winning Miss Ireland and going on to represent the country at Miss World, where she was ranked fourth on the back of an incredible swimsuit section, some brilliant violin playing and charming interviews. Her total points eclipsed all previous Irish contestants, even legends in the field like Siobhan McClafferty. "When I look back on it, it was such a special time,' Emma says.

"It was an incredible experience and gave me such a great start in modelling, which I've been building on. Amazon are one of my clients now, I model for them on a show and Ariana Grande's brother, Frankie, is a presenter on the show." (Since we spoke, the show has been cancelled.)

It takes a particular kind of bravery to move away from being a big fish in a small pond. After her Miss World experience, Emma was fast on her way to becoming a household name in Ireland, having signed with Andrea Roche and being appointed as the face of a number of brands.

She had taught in a national school in Celbridge for two years and had blogged too, but the bright lights of show business and, eventually, New York, proved irresistible. She made the leap to move over in 2015 and spent the first few months sleeping on a friend's couch and doing bar work before finding her feet.

"When you arrive, the apartment stuff is quite overwhelming but I was very lucky on that score because for both of my apartments I happened to know someone in the buildings and they gave me a tip that someone was moving out." She's currently based in Hell's Kitchen but will move east to the more salubrious Park Avenue in the autumn.

A chance encounter with Larry King's producer in New York led to her getting a dream gig on a show called Collectors Cafe, which aired on The History Channel. Emma was a roving reporter, moving between the audience, the celebrities who came on to discuss their various objets d'art, and the main set.

"It was an incredible experience. We've talked to Jay Leno about his cars, Katy Perry about her dresses and Lady Gaga was on too. Everyone was really lovely to deal with. There were no big egos.

"I think maybe because Larry King himself is such a legend that people felt that they had to leave any diva behaviour behind. He could have the same type of conversation with Oprah as with someone working in a deli. He can always find the story."

Modelling and presenting are notoriously precarious fields in which to work and, with that in mind, Emma has set her sights on making it in the business world too. She has set up a company which connects social media influencers with the brands they hope to endorse, and is hopeful it will do big things.

"It's helping them to make the most of their following. The data tells us things about people's preferences and things which are trending in New York City. I'm the founder of the company and the CEO so I'm in charge of the design and the project management. I'm in the third round of talks to raise funding. I'm very excited."

Despite the years in America, she has resolutely kept her Irish accent, and has less of a twang that most southside Dublin girls. "I don't really trade on my Irishness", she laughs. "Although maybe in New York you could do that. It's famous for not being a friendly place but I think a lot of it is down to attitude. There's definitely a New York attitude but once you understand it, it's manageable. People have been very kind to me, especially Irish people. Don O'Neill (the Kerry-born designer) wrote a letter for me for my previous visa."

She has fallen in love with an American but is remaining tight-lipped on the details. "It's been amazing, and things are going great but I really don't want to talk too much about it." Wouldn't it be easier for Green Cards and so forth if she just went ahead and married him? "Ha! I'm a modern woman," she laughs. "I don't believe in depending on a man. I want to do things myself!"

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