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Derry model makes it big on London runways

Northern IrelandBy Roisin Gorman
Caolán McClafferty
Caolán McClafferty

Derry man Caolan McClafferty’s dream started with a £6 flight to Liverpool, £100 in his pocket and plenty of ambition.

Two years later he’s an in-demand London fashion model and an actor with three films out this year.

Along the way he’s had to wear some odd outfits, including tiny trunks for Alan Titchmarsh on daytime telly and antlers at last month’s London Fashion Week.

But his Speedo strut led to his first film role while his model looks have landed Caolan work with big brands like ASOS and American Eagle.

He admits the speed of his success has been a bit surreal and the arrival of a modelling career was completely unexpected.

“If you had asked me a year ago I’d have said I’m an actor full time. The modelling started because I was told I couldn’t be a model,” he says.

“I went to an agency and they said ‘you’re never going to make it’. I took the criticism because that’s what this industry is about, but it really bugged me and I knew I still wanted to give it a shot.

“Four months down the line I was doing photo shoots for American Eagle.”


The Derry man left school with plans to study ICT and graphic art but when that failed to ignite his passion he turned to the Nerve Centre in his home town and worked on media techniques.

It was there he discovered he liked drama and then decided to take the leap. 

“I found a flight to Liverpool for £6 and thought I’m going to make a stab at this. My mum thought I was telling fibs but I headed off the next week with £100 in my pocket and plans to work my way down to London.”

Caolan studied drama in Wales but left the course after a year and set himself up with an online resume.

“There were people who had graduated sitting around not knowing what to do, so I thought I’d do this on my own.”

One of his first modelling jobs was with TV host Alan Titchmarsh in barely-there swimwear.

“All they asked me was ‘are you confident about your body?’ and then gave me a tiny pair of red Speedos with Alan written on the ass. 

“I’d never worn Speedos in my life. It was so cringeworthy.

“They were doing a piece about the three finalists on the Splash TV show so we were walking down a catwalk and they were spraying us with water.

“One of the other models was involved in a movie and he said he’d mention me to the director, which he did.”

A few days later Caolan got a call from director Trevor Hayward to say an actor had been fired from his movie Witch.  He was offered the part of a supernatural villain but had doubts initially because he’d have to work for free.

“When you’re building your career a lot of work is unpaid but I knew I couldn’t leave this role. Then the film got picked up in LA and got a distribution deal so I ended up getting paid. When something is right it’s just right.”

He’s working with the same team on drama Darker, based on the real story of a house where two of Jack the Ripper’s victims were found in Whitechapel. The owner believed the dead women’s spirits were still in the house and he eventually lost his mind, claiming he’d seen the Devil.

The actor is also playing the lead in short film Socio Network, about a sociopath who creates different identities on internet sites to reel in a young woman. It will be released in June.

Since Caolan’s first job just a year ago he’s made a living from fashion modelling – his next big client is Samsung.

Last month he was on the runway at London Fashion Week for up-and-coming designer Reza Orosz where he was head-hunted by another agent.

Behind the lens he says eating disorders are just as prevalent among male models as females.

While commercial male models have to be buff, in fashion the men are expected to be extra skinny.

“I used to be really skinny. After that first photo shoot someone made an online comment that I needed a good meal. I had to take it on board.”

Caolan plans to head to LA in the next few years to throw himself into movies and his aim is clear – to expand his business.

“Whether it’s fashion or film or TV it’s a business.

“My body and my look is my business and I’m a brand.”

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