After being told she should do clowning instead of acting, this Donegal model and actress is using her height to her advantage.
At 6ft 2, Killybegs woman Karen Connell (32) once thought her height would hold back her dream of being an actress.
And it did at first.
Karen told Donegal Woman: “I grew up doing drama in Ireland. Your height is always seen as an obstacle. A teacher once told me I could get into clowning or physical theatre. I don’t think he meant anything bad by it. But I was 23 at the time and crushed by this.
“The irony of life now, is every single good thing that happened to me came from my height, it’s like a high five from the universe.”
Karen’s height was just right to work as a stand-in for Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) in the hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones a number of years ago.
“I think people like Brienne of Tarth have changed the game. We see tall women in positions of power. Gwendoline was so lovely and to see that set was incredible. The cast were all so nice to meet,” she said.
Karen has had amazing experiences recently in big name shows such as Vikings and George R.R. Martin’s Nightflyers.
A spur of the moment move to London three years ago opened up this world of opportunities to Karen.
May 2019 was an especially good month for her, as she signed with Tall Models and had her photo featured on Vogue Italia.
The creative picture above was taken on a small-scale shoot in a park in Central London, but the shot gathered the right attention and made its way into the magazine’s Photovogue feature.
Opportunities like these come from unexpected connections you find in London, Karen says.
“Over here is definitely full on, there is so much opportunity it’s almost overwhelming,” she said.
Karen’s part in Vikings will be in Season Six, which is yet to be aired. But the role has already boosted her profile.
“Vikings changed everything for me, I went from getting one audition a week to three or four a week. It really was the right role at the right time. I’m very grateful for that.”
Modelling was something that came naturally alongside Karen’s acting career. She has featured in commercials, fashion shoots and catwalks and loves every part of the fashion, the clothes and the photography.
She also has a Masters in Drama and Theatre and toured with her own one-woman theatre show, Fried Eggs, in Ireland and the UK.
“I used to focus always on theatre. I think I’m drawn to film now. I do anything to keep up my skills and keep fresh and focused. In London you have to be ready any day for a call,” she said.
“I’m planning to do a bigger photo shoot, new headshots and a showreel and keeping up the work and hoping it will take me to the next level.
“I’m mad to get over to LA. But I’ll stay here as long as I can to keep building up my resume. There are so many people wanting the same thing, you have to give it everything you have.”
Every audition is a gamble, but Karen said she has been fortunate to land chances in big projects of late.
“The hardest part of the journey is the near-misses. But it’s so exciting when you get the call or email to say you’ve got a part. There’s nothing like it.
“I’m hoping there’s a little bit of momentum now. And I’m just being grateful for how much I’ve managed to do in the last few years.”