The shock announcement Yellow Wiggle Emma Watkins is quitting the group comes after a headline-making few months for The Wiggles.
Yellow Wiggle Emma Watkins’ shock departure caps off a headline-making year for the hugely popular children’s group, who have gone through a line-up change, a political controversy and a big personal milestone in recent months.
But today’s news is perhaps the biggest of all – after 11 years with The Wiggles, Emma Watkins will hang up her yellow skivvy at the end of the year.
Why Emma’s quitting and what she’s doing next
Watkins today announced that she’ll leave The Wiggles at the end of this year, after 11 years in the group and nine as the Yellow Wiggle. In a video released to social media, she told fans she felt she had been “missing out” by spending so much of her time touring.
“Like many people around the world, the pandemic has given me time to reflect on what is important in life. For me, that means spending more time at home, something that I didn’t realise I was missing out on being away eight months of the year on tour, but something that I have really cherished over the last 18 months,” she said.
“I am also really looking forward to devoting more time and energy on completing my PhD that incorporates my ongoing passion for sign language, dance and film editing, and to having more time to work with the Deaf community.
Watkins will be replaced by a new Yellow Wiggle, Tsehay Hawkins, one of four new members who recently joined the group in a shake-up to bring more diversity to The Wiggles. Ethiopian-born Tsehay, who recently turned 16, was joined by Evie Ferris, a 24-year-old Indigenous woman, Asian-Australian performer Kelly Hamilton, 45, and John Pearce, 28, of pop group Justice Crew, who has Filipino heritage. The four new members made their debut in the new series Fruit Salad TV, which premiered in September.
“As society has evolved, we have embraced the need for diversity and inclusiveness and want children all over the world to see themselves reflected on the screen,” original Wiggle Anthony Field said in a statement at the time.
“It’s so important that The Wiggles continue to evolve along with our society. This is the first step towards shaping The Wiggles for the next 30 years, taking us in a direction that truly represents and serves our community more inclusively.”
But the group then copped a bizarre public attack from Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan, who accused them of “going woke” in an interview with the Australian.
“The Wiggles are free to do what they like. It was nice while it lasted. But you go woke, you go broke,” said the outspoken senator, who regularly rails against progressive social issues as well as climate change and environmentalism.
A miming bombshell
Blue Wiggle Anthony Field dropped a surprising fact during a radio interview days after the group’s new line-up was announced.
Chatting to Nova’s Fitzy and Wippa, Anthony, 58, explained that he’s been miming the words to The Wiggles back catalogue during their concerts for years, these days under the guise of Red Wiggle Simon Pryce’s vocals.
Having belted out a small section of Fruit Salad for the radio crew, Anthony bashfully said: “I never sing!” as they struggled to guess who was on the line.
“Have you just lifted the lid on a huge Wiggles scandal? … I thought you all sang,” asked presenter Sarah McGilvray.
“For years I mimed! Believe this or not, I mimed Simon’s voice for years. I have this low voice and people would ask me to sing in public and they’d be very disappointed,” Field responded, to shock from the presenters.
Departing member Emma announced her engagement to boyfriend and Wiggles bandmate Oliver Watkins in April this year. She’d earlier confirmed her romance with Brian, who plays the banjo for the group, in December 2019, telling Stellar magazine: “Yes, I’m in love and I feel very excited to tell you.”
Watkins revealed that she and her new beau had worked together for four years before he asked her to dinner, describing him as her “opposite”.
“He’s a very calm and thoughtful person and I’ve always been interested in his mind and his take on life, and his morals. He loves talking about the environment and food production.”
The news came three years after Watkins split from her husband Lachie Gillespie – aka the Purple Wiggle.
Watkins and her co-star Gillespie’s highly-publicised split dominated headlines in August 2018, but the two remained close friends and co-stars since their marriage breakdown. Gillespie has since had two children with his fiance, ballerina Dana Stephenson, after the pair met when she was a guest dancer for The Wiggles.
Watkins later told Australian Story that year that there was a growing awareness between she and Gillespie that “romantically, it just wasn’t going the way that our friendship was going”.