The Interview: Amber Anderson

Published on 24 July 2014

[W]e first singled out Amber Anderson two years ago for our second issue, and since then she’s become a Hunger favourite. The Inverness native has fronted campaigns for the likes of Kenzo and Burberry, and continues to cultivate a successful modelling career; her real focus, though, is acting. Amber has already appeared in indie films, Lotus Eaters and We Are The Freaks, as well as Charlie Brooker’s dystopian TV series Black Mirror, and her next appearance in the highly anticipated film adaptation of Laura Wade’s West End play Posh will most likely launch her into the mainstream consciousness.

Though she doesn’t see herself as a role model, the intelligent, levelheaded star sets a fine example without even trying. Amber opens up to us about her burgeoning film career, the one thing she won’t do for a role and why modelling was never really part of the plan.

HUNGER: YOU DIDN’T CONSIDER MODELLING AS AN OPTION AT FIRST. WAS THAT DOWN TO CONFIDENCE OR CIRCUMSTANCE? 

Amber Anderson: It was a mixture of both. It was circumstance because I grew up in the very north of Scotland, in Inverness. Modelling just isn’t something people do up there. Also I was studying classical music, and my plan was to either be an actress or go to some sort of conservatoire and study piano. But when I was around 13, people started pointing out that I was really tall and had good skin, and that I should think about modelling. I’d always just shrug it off because I wasn’t confident at that age, and I know that’s the case for a lot of models. I hadn’t really grown into my height; I felt very physically awkward, and I was quite socially awkward as well. I was a music geek. I had a few very good friends, but I was by no means the popular girl at school. So I never saw myself doing it. Then a friend of mine saw an advert in a magazine for a modelling competition and persuaded me to go. Within about two minutes of being there, I was scouted. It was completely crazy.

DO YOU REMEMBER THE POINT WHEN YOU REALISED THIS WAS SOMETHING YOU COULD DO AS A CAREER?

As soon as I started I completely fell in love with it. I left school at 17, and moved to London, which was incredible, coming from a tiny town in Scotland. It was a year or so before things started to get exciting. But I definitely wanted to do it as soon as I started. I loved the idea of travelling, meeting lots of different people. And I also started acting at that point.

ARE THERE ANY MEMORIES FROM THAT TIME THAT REALLY STAND OUT FOR YOU?

I remember one of my first ever shoots was a very small editorial for Vanity Fair. We were at this really opulent location near Hyde Park Corner. There were about ten other girls there, all around 16 years old – the newest faces of that time, like Edie Campbell. I just remember sitting on this set and being wowed by it all. We were wearing McQueen dresses, and I remember looking at them and thinking they were so beautiful. I’d never seen anything that well-made or impressive before.

IT’S INTERESTING THE WAY YOU TALK ABOUT DISCOVERING YOUR LOVE FOR FASHION. HAVE YOU EXPANDED YOUR KNOWLEDGE JUST THROUGH MODELLING?

Totally. Growing up in Scotland I was such a tomboy because up there people dress for comfort and warmth! So I never really had much of an idea of fashion. I didn’t read Vogue until I was 16. It just wasn’t something I was interested in. Then as soon as I started modelling, it fascinated me. It was amazing learning about designers, doing the shows, and seeing the process of making something from start to finish. I’d never realised how much time
and effort it took. I’m not necessarily a fashion addict, but I do love it, and I feel very lucky to work in this industry.

SOCIAL MEDIA HAS TAKEN OVER SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER AS A MODEL.

Completely. There was no such thing as Instagram when I started.

AND NOW EVERYONE USES IT, NOT ONLY AS A WINDOW INTO THEIR LIVES BUT ALSO AS A WAY TO PROMOTE THEIR OWN BRAND. HOW DO YOU USE IT?

I think it’s brilliant. I use it as a mixture of putting up work and putting up a few personal pictures. But I’d never put up personal images if I thought it would affect me or whoever was in the picture.
I don’t put up many pictures of my family. I think you have to use it in the right way.

IT’S AN INTERESTING LINE, KEEPING IT PERSONAL BUT ALSO USING IT AS A FORM OF PROMOTION. CAN THAT SOMETIMES BE QUITE NEGATIVE?

I think it depends. I actually had an interesting conversation with someone I was working with in New York recently. They asked how many followers I had on Instagram, and when I told them, they said, “Oh, we really need to work on your social media,” as if that was suddenly a really important part of my job. It’s funny because it had never occurred to me that people put so much importance on it these days. I’d always just done it for fun, but I never thought about it in terms of getting jobs. People really do now, don’t they? They get jobs off the back of Twitter.

DO YOU THINK IT’S A GOOD THING THAT MODELS HAVE MORE OF A VOICE NOW?

I think it’s really good. It’s not quite the same, but it feels like we’ve gone back to how it was 20 years ago when models had an identity and their own individuality. For the last ten years or so there’s been a trend for faceless models. When you watch shows, they all look exactly the same. So it’s amazing that now models have their own voice and they’re becoming well-known in their own right. But that comes with a responsibility that we have to think about quite carefully. If you’re given that voice, it’s nice to use it in a good way, to send a positive message.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULDN’T DO FOR A ROLE?

I probably wouldn’t do full-frontal nudity. It would have to be something really special and done in a way that isn’t objectifying. It’s unfair that actresses are expected to go nude much more than male actors, so when it becomes more equal maybe I’ll think about it. But it’s good to keep your clothes on if you can. Of course if it was something incredible, with a great director where I thought it would be classy and actually make sense to the story, then I’d consider it, but I’m pretty strict about nudity to be honest.

YOU’VE SAID THAT YOU’RE NOT ESPECIALLY CONFIDENT, BUT YOU HAVE A LOVE OF MUSIC AND ACTING. ARE YOU A NATURAL BORN PERFORMER, DESPITE YOUR LACK OF CONFIDENCE?

It was performing that gave me my confidence. I studied music from the age of seven, and then I went to a specialist music school from the age of 11. I had to perform every week in front of audiences of varying size. I feel like that’s why a lot of people become musicians or actors. A lot of my actor friends are dyslexic and had real issues at school reading and writing, and it was only through acting that they found their confidence. Piano was very therapeutic for me and still is. Even though I didn’t become a musician, I still play the piano all the time, and it’s something that I love, that is just mine. It’s a great reliever of stress and the thing I still love to do the most.

SO YOU WANT TO KEEP IT PRIVATE?

Yes, I think so. Around the time I did my grade eight on the piano, I could feel myself starting to resent it. I didn’t want it to become a chore rather than something I loved, so that was one of the reasons I decided to pursue acting instead. But I’ve used it a little bit. For example, in We Are The Freaks, my character plays the piano and cello, and it was great because I actually could. When we did the scenes where I had to perform in the film, I’d just learn a few pieces and take them to the director to choose from. So in the film I was doing live performances as opposed to miming. In Lotus Eaters, I sang on the soundtrack for a couple of the scenes I was in. So I’ve always kept it fairly close and managed to use it, but I just don’t know if I see myself being a musician. I don’t think it’s my calling.