Emma Watkins is wide awake and chipper at 7 a.m. her time when I call her on the phone to talk about The Wiggles, the Australian children's entertainment group (and TV show) of which she's been a member since 2013. We talk this early to account for the 13-hour time difference between New York City and Perth, and when I thank her for waking up so early to chat, she gently assures me she's been awake for ages and is already on the road toward her first live show of the day. Tiresome schedule be damned, she sounds just as bubbly as she does on stage and screen as the illustrious Emma Wiggle, basically human sunshine.
Tiresome, by the way, is a total understatement. The Wiggles — now comprised of Anthony Field from the original troupe, Watkins, Lachlan Gillespie, and Simon Pryce — tour roughly nine months per year. "We travel to lots of different countries," Watkins says. "In America, the venues are bigger, so we don't have to do a lot of shows [there]. But in Australia, the popularity is so big that we're doing four shows a day six days a week. And that's starting to happen in Canada now."
If you're picturing these live shows as a carbon copy of the original TV show from the 1990s, forget it. The earlier days were "very Australian, very relaxed," but 30 years of change has catapulted the group's performances into a medley of higher-octane dance with even more live singing and instrumentals. "We do ballet dancing, Irish dancing, Scottish, jazz, tap — whatever country we're in or whatever culture that we'd like to present to the children," Watkins explains. As it's always been for The Wiggles, education also plays a key role in performances; Emma Wiggle teaches sign language and Watkins is now pursuing a Ph.D. in the subject because of it (she wasn't already busy enough, clearly).
Point being: The Wiggles are hardcore, OK? Thankfully, the easier part of the job is maintaining the signature Emma Wiggle look, according to Watkins. "A lot of children's entertainment is animated, and I guess the beauty of The Wiggles is that we're still real people... You're able to be predominantly yourself. I think that's why children relate."
The transformation from Emma Watkins into Emma Wiggle isn't a long or drastic one, and that'll never change. "Children love consistency... they love knowing what's going to happen," she says of her look: curly ginger pigtails, a colossal yellow hair bow, and simple makeup akin to a Disney princess. "It's that whole idea of recognition and characterization. As soon as they see [my hair] and the yellow shirt, they say 'Oh, that's Emma.'"
All of these factors combined can't even come close to fully capturing just how much work goes into being in The Wiggles, who over the course of three decades have basically raised countless Aussie children (myself included, so I'm impartial) and many others across the world through TV screens, live performances, and now YouTube videos.
Still, Watkins moons when asked about the job's continual rewards. "It's such a varied experience, and I think that's the most amazing thing about it. We don't ever get bored of what we're doing because every day is something different."
To get across the busy reality of being a children's entertainer of her degree, Allure followed her complete routine for a day, from her morning cup of bulletproof tea to the end of the day's fourth performance. Oh, and modern-day Wiggles fans and their parents: You'll be pleased to know that Watkins has finally divulged to us whether or not her Emma Wiggle hair is real or a wig — watch the video above to find out.
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Originally Appeared on Allure