Meet the Southampton student modelling to pay her way through uni
This film student is about as glam as they get.
Ashleigh Millman seems in many ways your typical Southampton Student – she’s originally from the Midlands, is 20 years old and in her second year. But alongside her Film and English degree, she works as a hair and fashion model – helping to pay her way through University and having a lot of fun whilst doing it.
Hi Ashleigh! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from Wolverhampton – the city that was voted 5th worst in the world. I chose to go to Southampton University to go somewhere new, study at a reputable institute and to get in the heart of the South (because cheesy chips are EVERYWHERE here!) I study Film and English as a joint honours student; though the English part is more to make my degree sound a little more hireable. I’m basically just a big film nerd.
How did you get into modelling?
Strangely enough, I started modelling through a tin of corned beef. I had to pop to the shop to grab some of the sandwich filler for my dad, and next door to the Spar is Royston Blythe’s salon – the stylists spotted me through the window and chased after me to work for them in some upcoming shows. They were really lovely, and introduced me to the world of hair modelling up and down the country. From there, I applied to agencies, worked with local photographers and slowly built up a portfolio and contact list as a freelance model – it’s a lot harder than it looks to start up on your own!
What’s the best thing about the job?
The free food – and the artistic expression and freedom that comes with modelling – at the end of the day, you’re a canvas for makeup artists, hair stylists, designers, photographers and anyone else that can get their hands on you; you can be anything from an intergalactic mermaid to a forest goddess in the space of a day. Whilst a lot of the work I do is more parred down (as I work with hobbyists, being one myself) – the ideas and expression behind everything is something I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of. Saying that, the true best thing would have to be the lovely creatives who make up the industry; some of the strangest, most wonderful and indescribably intriguing people I have met have been whilst working.
What’s the worst thing?
I don’t think there’s any one thing I can pick out as ‘the worst’. There is plenty that isn’t great or as glamorous as people think; you have to be prepared for anything on set. That means shooting in snow, wind and rain in clothes designed for summer, waiting and travelling for hours on end for a 10 minute casting and having dead insects stuck to your face and shooting in unsafe places for the public to get the right aesthetic (those last ones were a little more specific for me I suppose!) But none of those things are the worst. They are just a part of the job, and often produce the best outcomes once you get through them!
What was your favourite ever photo shoot?
Based on the pictures afterwards, it would actually be the dead insect one. They were butterflies that had flown in the studio and died and the photographer had collected. I was a bit freaked out at first but the pictures were amazing – I think it was a year or so ago now and the shots remain a highlight in my portfolio. The ‘Summertime Sadness’ shoot was another that produced some of my favourite pictures as well – this was actually a university project for make-up artist and friend Kari Roberts, and was shot in her bath at home. It was hilarious at the time as we all get along great, and I got to spend my time floating around a warm bath rather than doing anything too difficult!
What’s your proudest modelling moment?
The first time I was on a real magazine! I’ve been in a few online magazines and my pictures have circulated a lot of random internet sites – but to actually hold a real life magazine with my images on the front cover was amazing. It’s not like it was Vogue but I was so pleased.
What’s your biggest modelling claim to fame?
I came really close into getting in this year’s Britain’s Next Top Model house, but sadly didn’t quite make the cut for the last part of the process – next year, that will be different. A piece of my audition video was featured on the television show – along with a shot of my feet from the physical interview which means I can also say I’ve been on TV. A literal 5 seconds of fame.
Have you got any funny stories to share?
There was one time where I turned up for a photoshoot that had been booked by an agency, so I was working with a middle man between me and the client. When I turned up, it was a designer who wanted photos for her new website – but she hadn’t booked a photographer as she wanted to take the pictures on her iPad. It got sorted out in the end; but I couldn’t stop laughing to myself when she started test shooting on the tablet. It was just one of those ‘expectations vs. reality’ moments at the start of my modelling career that really got me. I didn’t work with that agency much more after that.
Is it ever difficult to juggle studying with a modelling career?
I tend to work in the breaks from uni and treat each as a separate commitment. It saves me stressing about studying and fitting in dates around lectures and seminars – and means that I work hard whilst in Southampton so I have the free time at home to do what I want. That doesn’t mean I would turn down work at uni, just I’ve found a routine that works for me at the moment.
How do new friends react when they find out what you do?
As I’m not a full time model and a lot of the work I do is for pleasure rather than business; I don’t really see it as a big deal – and my friends just treat me as the same old loser they’ve known for years. They’re super supportive and lovely about it, but don’t let me get a big head about anything like friends should! New people tend to think it’s pretty cool until they get to know me better and realise just how uncoordinated, goofy and loud I am – then they just seem a little confused how the two come together!
Any future plans?
Well, at the moment I suppose to just finish my degree without having some sort of break down and continue what I’m doing to the best of my ability. I’m about to head off on a semester abroad to Sydney, Australia. After that I’ll really have to think about post-university life, and I know I want to work in the film industry. I’d love to make a proper career out of modelling but it is definitely one of those things that you need a massive amount of luck and genetics combined with hard work; I have a whole lot of the latter to give but the other two are a little out of my control! I am going to do it for as long as I physically can, and as long as the work is there – and maybe with a bit of luck, it’ll turn into something bigger and better in the future. I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved so far, but there’s always progress to be made. Only way to find out is to keep on working!