Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | January 28th, 2020’s Icons:
Meghan Collison

It’s the discovery story plucked right out of a teen drama. A young Meghan Collison’s untapped talent and beauty shine through in a local mall model search at her hometown of Edmonton, eventually advancing her to sign stateside and in front of the photographic leaders that would shape her career. Since her early moments being shot by Steven Meisel for the cover of Vogue Italia (which she subsequently landed an additional 5 times), Collison has been a regular face on billboards for Prada, has dedicated her lithe frame to serving as muse to artists like Meisel, Craig McDean, and Mert and Marcus while walking for big-ticket clients like Proenza Schouler, Helmut Lang, and Rodarte. With looks that are a callback to 70s charm, the Canadian icon has solidified her place in model history with her more than a decade-long career, undeterred by whatever bumps in her path that emerged. With visuals shot by Paul Maffi, got candid with Collison about how she first made waves after she was discovered, being sidelined at the peak of her career by illness, and how she learned to love the person she’s become.

Photographer – Paul Maffi for
Stylist – Roberto Johnson
Hair – Miki
Make up – Asami Taguchi

Model – Meghan Collison
Interview and text – Irene Ojo-Felix

Looking back, it was interesting to see on our site that you were named a top 10 newcomer before the show season even started. Take me back to around that time and having a great editorial career before debuting on the runway.
From 2007. I won a model search with Mode Models, which is my mother agency back in Canada. When I won the search initially, no agencies in New York were interested in me; no one wanted to take me. I was young at the time and still in high school so I thought, “We’ll just see where this goes.” Long story short, eventually I did get placed with an agency called Supreme. Honestly, I landed in New York and the very first day I was there, I shot a cover. For me, it happened so instantly. I’m still grateful. I don’t even know why that happened for me or for what reason but I do know I hit the city and it was off to the races. I didn’t know what was normal and what wasn’t because it was brand new experiences for me.

Being so young and being in New York and getting to shoot with Steven Meisel and all these amazing photographers, like you said before I even stepped foot on a runway. I think starting that way, with a strong emphasis on editorial, it definitely continued as my career progressed. I just enjoy being in front of a camera more than I do runway.

So names like Mert & Marcus, Meisel, and Craig McDean have been prevalent throughout your career. Were you ever intimidated when you first worked with them or did you get comfortable being the muse of these photographers as time went on?
I think that because things happened to me so quickly when I was so young, I didn’t really fully understand what was happening, I was just going with the flow. I didn’t have the knowledge of how important these people were so, I entered into photoshoots with no anxiety and excitement. I think in a way it helped me be myself and perform and model well. If I had understood the level of people I was working with, maybe it would have made me nervous or change things. The older I get, I have the understanding of how great the people that I’ve worked with are and it just warms my heart because these people gave me a chance and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s kind of surreal.

Jacket – Orseund Iris | Lingerie – Zimmerli of Switzerland

Taking it back further, how did you first get to even be in that competition in the first place? Were you always interested in being a model?
I always understood that modeling was a profession. I used to love watching this Canadian show called Fashion File. One of my favorite courses in school was fashion studies and I loved to sew. I think with me doing all that, my mom heard on the radio that my mother agency was hosting a model search and I fit the height requirements. On a whim, through my mom’s encouragement, I decided to go not really thinking I could be a model. I definitely remember being there though. I was a really shy teenager and I never wore makeup; I didn’t curl my hair. I just remember getting to the model search and seeing all these girls with makeup, curled hair, dresses, and high heels and I thought, “Oh boy, I don’t belong here.” When I did win, it was very much a shock to me.

“When I first started modeling, I remember thinking to myself, ‘If I’m just in one magazine, I’ll be happy.’ To go from that goal to have a cover of Vogue, it was so magical.”

So from the moment you won the competition, they tried to get you placed down in New York and eventually, you sign. But a lot of stuff happened in between there so, was it through your mother agency that you were working and doing all that editorial before that first season?
No. So I won the competition and then I think maybe about a year and a half, I was in Canada and the founder of Mode Models, his name is Kelly Streit he was such a big believer in me and my look. Even though agencies in New York said, “No. I don’t get it,” he kept pushing. Maybe about a year and a half later, Paul Rowland who at the time was at Supreme saw something in me and I flew out to New York. That’s when I instantly started working and doing castings, seeing people…

And when did you kind of feel like, “Okay, I’ve done something that has now taken me to another level of attention or success in my career” so to speak?
I don’t think I ever really had that moment. Every opportunity I got, I tried to live in the moment. There are definitely some moments that have stuck out. I still remember the feeling of seeing my first Italian Vogue cover by Steven Meisel. I think I cried. It was just so crazy and I was so happy to see that he really embraced my unique beauty. When I first started modeling, I remember thinking to myself, “If I’m just in one magazine, I’ll be happy.” To go from that goal to have a cover of Vogue, it was so magical. I was like, “What is my life? This is insane.”

Who is iconic to you?
Definitely the supermodels of the ’90s. Naomi Campbell and Linda and Christy Turlington – they’re such beautiful women and I look up to them. The longevity of their careers is amazing.

And you’re talking about people who are iconic in the industry but I wonder, is there anyone that you point to that’s iconic outside of our little bubble?
My first instinct is to say, my Grandma. She’s taught me so much, most importantly on how to bring positivity to every interaction. She’s always looking on the bright side. She loves when I smile in photos and always asks why there aren’t more pictures of me smiling. She actually has some framed modeling pictures of me randomly hanging up in her house. My Grandpa once when I was in my early twenties said, “In all the years you’ve been alive, you’ve seen more of the world than I have seen in my 85 years” – it hit my heartstrings, let me tell you that. Am I crying or is somebody cutting an onion? Why are my eyes sweating?

You’ve been able to travel to so many places, do you have any places that ever stood out or you fell in love with?
One of my favorite places I’ve ever visited was Iceland. I’ve been there four times now. My great-grandfather was Icelandic and immigrated to Canada. His name was Magnus Magnusson, which I think is a great name. The landscape is so magnificent and beautiful and then on top of that, knowing that I have roots there made me really enjoy the country. I’ve been there for work and also went for fun with my boyfriend, my brother and my brother’s girlfriend. We rented a car and drove the road that goes around the whole island. It was so magical.

Have you learned anything working with the greats?
Definitely. With Steven Meisel, I learned my confidence. I learned how to hold my body in a really elegant way. Just to work together as a creative team and how much goes into making these amazing photos. The teams are so incredible – Pat McGrath and Guido and all these amazing stylists. I do such a small part. It just taught me how talented everyone is basically around me and how to collaborate. It’s really cool to see other people work and how their processes are. It’s like a puzzle piece, you know?

You talk about being into fashion obviously from the side of modeling, but I heard you mention sewing in school. Was designing ever something that you were into pursuing or was that just a way to show your interest and creativity?
For me, I don’t think so. I mean, learning how to sew definitely made me appreciate drafting patterns and everything that goes into designing. But me personally being a designer, I guess you never say never! One of my favorite things ever is the excitement of picking up your film. That’s why I’ll forever love film photography because you kind of just forget what’s on the roll as you go.

There was a period that you had to pause modeling. What fueled that break?
Some health problems from getting a parasite in Peru, which sounds like something that would be on a TV show but it really did happen to me. It was a hard time in my life because doctors didn’t really know what was wrong with me and I wasn’t getting any answers. That part was frustrating and trying to balance failing health with wanting to work and being successful was tricky. I think when I look back on it, I’m proud of myself for how I handled it. I just want to say if anybody’s struggling with any health problems, don’t give up. There’s a light and you will get healthy. When you have something taken away from you like your health when you get it back it kind of helps you become more grateful for just feeling normal every day. It was a rough time that turned into a positive, good learning positive experience.

“When you have something taken away from you like your health when you get it back it kind of helps you become more grateful for just feeling normal every day. It was a rough time that turned into a positive…”

For a lot of models I always hear that keeping up with the rigorous pace of it all can be really, really hard. Have you ever dealt with low moments where you’ve felt overwhelmed and you had to take a break? What has been your experience?
Pretty early on in my career, I definitely reached a point where I felt like I had to take a break. It’s good to listen to your body. I’m glad I listened to mine. I went back to Canada for six months and took a couple of classes in university and regrouped on what I wanted. Through that, I realized that I really enjoy modeling. I need to get my shit together so I can go back to New York and continue doing everything that I love. Being in the city that I love. To keep on opening up new doors because I didn’t want to be stagnant.

Jacket – Orseund Iris | Lingerie – Zimmerli of Switzerland

After more than a decade of work, if you could go back and talk to your twenty-year-old self, what piece of advice would you give her?
Probably not to be so hard on myself. And don’t read stuff on the internet about what people think. I think people behind computer screens forget that they’re talking about a real person with real feelings. Luckily, I feel like the older I’ve gotten, I’ve got a really good ability to put up a wall between me and the negativity. Which I didn’t have when I was in my early twenties because I was too young. You haven’t quite formed your own opinions of yourself. You haven’t developed into the woman. Now I love myself. I love how I look. I love the person I’ve become. It took me a long time to get to this point. Every day I just write down all the good things that happened. And every single time, the list of good is exponentially longer than the few little bumps in the road.

Most models say “I’ll shoot as long as I can” but in the next five years, what would you love for yourself in the scope of fashion?
I have many things on my fashion bucket list. I would love to shoot with Steven [Meisel] again. I would love to work with [Paolo] Roversi, who I have never shot with. I’d also love to shoot a cool editorial for Self Service and Love Magazine. I’m so open to new experiences and am looking forward to what 2020 will bring. Outside of modeling, I’d really love to have a little house by the sea somewhere!

Earrings – Jennifer Fisher

Related Posts: