Wiggly woman: Emma Watkins' rise to yellow stardom

Wiggly woman: Emma Watkins' rise to yellow stardom

It's like Emma Watkins spent a lifetime training for her role as the Yellow Wiggle, she tells Ewa Kretowicz.

It was either the longest job interview of all time - three years - or kismet.

Emma Watkins never dreamt she would be offered the role of the Yellow Wiggle when she went to work for the group more than three years ago.

New breed: Original Wiggle Anthony (the Blue Wiggle) with Emma (Yellow), Simon (Red) and Lachy (Purple).

New breed: Original Wiggle Anthony (the Blue Wiggle) with Emma (Yellow), Simon (Red) and Lachy (Purple).

Her goals were smaller, to play Wags the Dog and Dorothy the Dinosaur, with a long-term ambition to be the group's choreographer.


When Anthony Field, also known as the Blue Wiggle, offered her the job, Emma says she was speechless.

Emma Watkins of The Wiggles.

Emma Watkins of The Wiggles.

''It's just been a life change. It's been an amazing year.

''I never imagined. Even when I was working for the company as a dancer, I didn't think it was even going to be a feature in the future at all. The Wiggles had understudies in case there were family issues, but it was never a thing.''

It's a hard thing to imagine her silence. Even in an early-morning interview, the 24-year-old is exactly what she seems on stage. Her energy bounces down the phone line and bursts out the other end.

But that's not to say she is all movement and no thought.

Even though she doesn't have a background in early education, like the founding members, who started the group while studying at Macquarie University, she seems to have a natural affinity for kids and is improving her sign language to make it easier for hearing impaired children to enjoy the concerts.

The Wiggles released one fully signed DVD, and Emma hopes that will become more frequent.

Emma steers clear of discussions around her contract and place in the multimillion-dollar Wiggles empire, but she does say she is happy with her artistic input, writing songs for the four albums released by the group each year.

''I'm mainly a dancer, but I've been offered to write songs on albums this year, and that's really cool. I never thought I'd get to do that. It's out of my comfort zone, but I loved having that input. It makes you feel more involved, when you have that creative control.''

On the Furry Tails album, Emma wrote the Giraffe song and another album features her song about goats.

The Wiggles are a slick money-making machine and the founding members are millionaires many times over. The group has franchises in other countries, and has developed Wiggles sections in amusement parks in Australia and the United States. They have been labelled ''the world's biggest preschool band'' and ''your child's first rock band''.

Business Review Weekly named them Australia's top-earning entertainers for four years in a row. They earned $45 million in 2009, and in 2011, during the global financial crisis, they took home $28 million.

To keep the wheels spinning and their young fans happy, Emma is on tour for about nine months of each year. The frantic pace leaves her no time for romance and she has even moved back in with her parents.

The group just returned from a two-month, 38-city North American tour and will spend time in New Zealand and Dubai before the Australian tour kicks off on December 4.

In the midst of all that, writing an album takes a week.

''We write our albums pretty quickly. In about a day, we get together and, within a week, we've done the album. Furry Tails was all about animals, so Anthony said, 'You just choose your favourite animal and write it'.''

Emma says she has always loved goats and giraffes. In fact, she recently adopted a giraffe at Taronga Zoo.

''You try and choose subjects that are exciting to children, and the world is exciting to children.''

The Wiggles catalogue has more than 1400 songs, but for Emma, it wasn't a problem, as she knew so many of them.

''I'm 24 and the wiggles are 23. I grew up with The Wiggles. Some of them I already know and have absorbed. Anthony would start singing one and say, 'Do you know this one?' and I wouldn't have to think about it - it's just ingrained.''

She even appeared in the 1997 Wiggledance! (Live in Concert) video with her sister.

''In one of the shows filmed in Sydney, my mum had taken my sister and I there and, when they cut away to the audience, you can see all the children in the audience, and in one … my sister and I are dancing.''

According to Emma, it's one of a number of spooky things that led to her perfect fit as the Yellow Wiggle.

''My school uniform in primary school was yellow, North Ryde Public School. When I did ballet, you wear a particular ribbon depending on your height and I was always yellow. Both sports houses at school, I was in the yellow house, so yellow is a colour I've always worn. I didn't get to choose the colour, but it suits me.''

And it's something she plans to do for a long time.

''I love children's entertainment. I always have … I'm just lucky enjoying travelling the world doing what I love. It's not really a job. It becomes your life.

''I said to Jeff the original Purple Wiggle - he turns 60 this year - I'll have to go for 36 years to beat him, so I've got a lot of wiggling to do.

''It's open-ended, and I just hope it's successful and there has been big growth in the year that has been and I hope I can still be up here in 10, 15 or 20 years.''

It seems she is doing a good job, with Anthony, the only remaining touring member of the original line-up, commenting that more girls are now coming dressed up with yellow bows - Emma's signature item.

But the thing that keeps her on her toes is the audience. She says their honesty and pure enjoyment make the shows worthwhile.

''I love to hear children laugh … Sometimes they don't know why they are doing it, but when they are genuinely laughing, you can't help but laugh back.

''And they are such an honest audience. If they aren't interested, they just walk away.''

The Wiggles will play at the AIS in Canberra on December 11. Tickets available through Ticketek, ticketek.com.au.



Relax has three family (2 adults + 2 children) passes to give away to three lucky readers. Each prize also includes a meet and greet with The Wiggles before the show. The passes are for the 10am show on December 11 only.

The meet and greet will be at 8.45am at the venue. This is the only option for the meet and greet element of the prize. To win, email relax@canberratimes.com.au and tell us why your family should meet The Wiggles.