The Great Resignation has claimed another.
Emma Watkins has confirmed she will be leaving the Wiggles at the end of the year, spurred by a lockdown epiphany.
“Like many people around the world, the pandemic has given me time to reflect on what is important in life,” the Yellow Wiggle said in a statement. “For me, that means spending more time at home.
“I am also really looking forward to devoting more time and energy to completing my PhD that incorporates my ongoing passion for sign language, dance and film editing.”
Watkins’ announcement comes after 11 years spent in the skivvied supergroup. First appearing as a character called Fairy Larissa, she took on a number of roles, including Wags the Dog and Dorothy the Dinosaur, before being made the first female Wiggle in 2013.
She was also married to Purple Wiggle Lachlan Gillespie for two of those years. The couple announced their separation in 2018.
Replacing Watkins in the role will be 15-year-old Tsehay Hawkins, who joined the Wiggles earlier this year as one of four new members aimed at increasing diversity within their ranks.
Current and former Wiggles congratulated Watkins on her decade-long run with the band. “Enjoy the break (probably some therapy),” wrote fellow Yellow Wiggle Sam Moran.
Parents took to social media to lament Watkins’ departure. “I watched my daughter’s face light up when she saw you in the group,” wrote one user.
It’s “the end of an era”, said another.
Other parents treated it as an exercise in grief management – dreading the moment they’d have to break the news to their children.
Despite having a shorter run in the group – at least compared with some of the founding members – Watkins had an outsize influence on the Wiggles and a profound impact on fans.
After an endometriosis diagnosis left her briefly unable to perform in 2018, she used her platform to raise awareness of the condition. “I urge anyone suffering with the symptoms of endometriosis to put your health first and get a diagnosis,” she wrote in a Facebook post at the time.
Half of all Wiggles merchandise is also “Emma specific”, said the band’s head of licensing and merchandise in a T Magazine Australia cover story about Watkins earlier this year.
In the same article, frontman and current Blue Wiggle, Anthony Field, described her as “the Elvis of the Wiggles”.
“Emma is number one,” he said. “You look into the audience, 60, 80% of the children are dressed like Emma.”