The fashion industry can be a bitch. And no one knows this better than Becky Southwick, the breakout star of VH1's reality show The Agency. Singled out as the resident shrew at the high-end division of Wilhelmina Models, the 34-year-old Brit represents everything demanding, and frequently unsettling, about the world of modeling. This, naturally, has earned her an effusive cult following. In an industry rife with fickleness and sycophancy, the razor-tongued Southwick can be found proffering searing commentary like, ''You've got fatter. And yes, I've just said the F-word.'' (She plans to parlay her potent brand of tough love into future TV-hosting gigs.) So EW.com was impressed to discover that when we chatted with her on the eve of The Agency's April 3 finale, the surprisingly laid-back doyenne, who now works at Trump Model Management, can taketh the barbs like she giveth.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you feel about being portrayed as the show's villainess?
BECKY SOUTHWICK: I was a little concerned. But when I saw the first couple of episodes I was like, ''You know what? I'm actually really brilliant.'' What's been really satisfying is that the feedback from people in my industry — clients, models, agents — is like, ''Becky, you speak the truth.''
Do you regret anything you said on the show?
The one thing that made me cringe a bit was when [my Wilhemina coworkers] Lola, Pink, and I went on that scouting trip down South. I'd overslept by a half hour. And they're trying to spin it like, ''Becky is lazy.'' We'd been working 16 hour days! I was a little bit upset the way I behaved that morning. And I just looked terrible. My voice was shot to pieces from smoking too many cigarettes. We'd been out drinking with the film crew till 4:30 a.m., to be honest.
They made you out to be a total lush.
Well, back in those days I did like to drink quite a lot. But I'm not as much of a boozer anymore. I just turned over a new leaf. And I don't even smoke anymore.
What do you think of the other modeling shows on TV?
To be honest, I've never watched America's Next Top Model. Ever. Tyra Banks was never a supermodel, as far as I was concerned. 8th and Ocean — I may have watched a little — but Miami is not a major market. I did watch one episode of [The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency]. Janice's hardball attitude is a little bit realistic. But Los Angeles also isn't a major market, so I couldn't take it seriously.... Frankly the models [on those shows] are not even models. They're not even pageant queens. They'd never step foot in any agency in New York City.
There's a lot of talk about models getting too thin. Aren't you part of the problem?
No, not at all. No. The industry demands a certain figure and shape. But I must admit last season on the runway I did feel that they had gone a bit far — their legs were the same width as their arms. Those were not girls that I represented. But everyone looked pretty amazing this season. Those girls have put on a few pounds.
But you're often telling models to lose weight.
Like [model] ''Doughy'' Chloe, for example. When we found her on the kids' division, she [only] needed to tone up. After we took her on the women's board, she let herself go. But what was shown was us being mean about it. People need to stop pointing fingers at skinny people and start pointing fingers at the obesity problem. They also need to look at the bloody actresses that are gracing the pages of every f---ing gossip magazine. They're the people that young girls aspire to be like — they don't aspire to be like models.
You were pretty tough on that teen model, Robin, who ended up quitting the business and moving back to Alabama. What's interesting is that when you went there to try to bring her back, she stuck it to you by eating Skittles in your face.
That was definitely a big finger to me. ''Look what I'm doing, Becky!''
Is it really so bad for her to not want to be a model at that price?
Actually when we went to Alabama.... she actually got herself back in shape. She looked amazing. They didn't show this, but her boyfriend had tapped into her e-mail account and sent me these horrible e-mails — and that's how [this] storyline came about. She now lives with that loser boyfriend in Birmingham, Alabama. There were a lot of issues there that were not shown on television. Her father, aunt, and I were so concerned about her... because we didn't like this loser boyfriend. We felt she was passing a really good opportunity by. I actually gave a s--- about that girl.
Did you truly not like your job?
I did not like that agency. But I was still doing my job. I was just fed up: I was brought there to try to change things, and nothing changed. I was very disappointed, and you see that in my face.
Would you ever do a season 2 of The Agency if they were to renew it?
Not unless they were going to pay me a hugely large sum of money. Never ever will I go back there. I've moved on to a much better place. I'm at the right agency now.