Source: USA TODAY
When The Wiggles formed in 1991, Emma Watkins was one.
At 23, she’s a Wiggle. The yellow one, to be specific. “Our colors fit our personalities,” says Watkins. “I’m part of the original Wiggle fan generation. When I was six or seven, I went to one of their concerts with my sister and we were filmed dancing in the aisle. And now I’m a Wiggle!”
“She’s such a vibrant personality,” says founding member Anthony Field, 49 (the blue one). “She’s like an Australian Lucille Ball.”
Watkins, who replaces Greg Page, 41, isn’t the only fresh face. Jeff Fatt, 59, passes his purple uniform down to Lachlan Gillespie, 24, while Simon Pryce, 41, steps in for Murray Cook, 52, as the red Wiggle.
“Lachlan is very quiet and laid back, so he’s purple,” says Watkins. “Simon studied under Murray and they’re both quite tall, so it seems natural that he’s red. Anthony has always been blue.”
“It would be such a privilege to last as long as the original Wiggles,” she says. “I’m ready for it.”
After three of the original Wiggles retired in 2012, Field didn’t have a female in mind as one of the replacements. Then he happened on a video of Watkins, who was on tour with The Wiggles as a dancer. “I was just mucking around with the cast and made this behind-the-scenes film clip and Anthony saw it,” she says.
“I realized how brilliant she was onstage and how she genuinely connects with children,” says Field.
The revamped troupe is readying for the North American leg of its Taking Off tour, with 35 stops starting in August. “I love the new energy in The Wiggles, I look forward to getting out there with them and embracing the new direction,” says Field. He’s turning the big 5-0 on Wednesday, but he’s not worried about keeping up with his younger compatriots. “I really, really love doing it,” he says. “I just have to watch my diet and keep exercising more than I used to.”
Staying fit is one of The Wiggles’ core messages for fans. “Since we do a lot of singing and dancing, we’re in a great position to encourage fitness. Australia’s obesity problem is creeping up, especially in rural areas where there’s not a lot of food variety,” Watkins says. “We also have a growing problem with food allergies. We have a song called Peanut Butter and another called Ooey Gooey Allergies. So we are really focused on raising health awareness.”
No matter how bad a day it might be, the positive energy that a room full of excited kids generates is an uplifting experience. “Getting out there in front of all those screaming children who are there to have fun and don’t know what’s in your mind, your mood just gets picked up,” she says. “No problem!”
A perpetual good mood isn’t the only job requirement. Knowing how to engage the interest of children is, too. “Children are self-centered, so if you’re addressing one kid, you’re addressing all of them,” she says. “You have to make sure that everyone feels included. And let your inhibitions go. When I first started, I was afraid of being judged, but children don’t care about all that, they’re just here to have a good time”
Watkins, who has been to the U.S. twice, is looking forward to seeing New York City again. “I know that a lot of people say that and I wish I had a more unusual choice, but it’s so different,” she says. “We just don’t have that many people in Australia.”
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