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My Other Job: Katharine Jee, life drawing model

Katharine Jee
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What’s your other job?

I work as a portrait and life drawing model at various art schools, as well as for the Royal Academy and National Portrait Gallery.

How and when did you get into it?

In 2008 I met a lady on a bus and we started talking. I gave her a flyer for a play I was in which happened to have my phone number on the back. A few days later, I got a text from her saying she was an artist and as she needed to practise painting portraits, wondered if I’d be willing to come and pose for her? All I had to do was sit very still (with my clothes on) and not fall asleep. We had tea breaks and at the end I got given a small wad of cash: brilliant. The lovely lady on the bus put me in touch with her art college and I started modelling for them, with clothes and without.

What happens if you get an audition?

I can always call another model to see if they can fill in for me or just plan the classes around when I'm free.

And what if one of those auditions turns into an acting job?

I pick my hours so it makes things easy. If I get an acting job I just don't book in for any modelling work. People are usually very understanding as they know acting is my career and are always very interested in hearing all about that side of my life.

What makes it a good other job for you, as an actor?

I pick my own hours. Sitting still helps me to learn lines. I have to keep my body strong enough to hold long poses so I keep in shape. I also get to see beautiful paintings and sketchings of myself. The whole thing has given me a real acceptance of my face and body. Pretty refreshing actually.

Does being an actor help you do it? Do you use any of your performance skills?

The artists I speak to say that actors are always the best models. We show up on time, we sit still and we have presence. You have to be aware of your audience.

What other jobs have you had?

I started off working in Madame Tussaud's, chasing tourists around in the dark, covered in fake blood. I've also had my fair share of the other stuff: restaurant hostess, cloakroom attendant, theatre usher, temping, telesales (where I got told off for talking to pensioners for too long) and call centre supervisor (where I made lots of money but lost my soul along the way).

Would you recommend your other job to other actors?

I would highly recommend it, but possibly not to someone who can't sit still. Just don't fall asleep and make sure you choose a pose that you can hold without getting pins and needles and your arm going blue... I learned the hard way.

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