Last year I had the great pleasure to interview Marlena Wiley, a Tom Hiddleston blogger and avid fundraiser. She generously agreed to once again share with us her Hiddleston experiences of 2018-19, and her plans for her Unicef fundraiser which is done in honor of Tom Hiddleston’s birthday. The fundraiser kicked off on November 20, 2019 and will run until February 10, 2020.
In my recent interview with Wiley we rap about: Hiddleston, Broadway, fashion, fundraising, Marvel and other real life heroes. Links to websites will be found at the end of the article.
Have a wonderful and peaceful holiday season! ~B.D.
B.D. So much has been happening in the world of Tom Hiddleston; the most recent being his approximately year long run in the Harold Pinter play, Betrayal. The play has crossed the ocean with performances in London followed by a run of shows in NYC on Broadway. As a matter of fact, Betrayal is Hiddleston’s Broadway debut along with his co-stars Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox.
My first question has to do (of course!) with Tom’s choice of wardrobe. The trio of actors has done many public appearances and interviews to promote the play. People have noted that Ashton and Cox will frequently appear in different attire from that of what they wear in the show. But, Hiddleston seems to stick with the basic outfit of his character. Why do you think that is?
M.W. “I always love these kinds of comments. Tom Hiddleston, since Day 1, has always had a ‘uniform’. He even calls it that. If you go back to 2010/11/12 he’s got on his coated ‘leather’ pants and his Ariat boots in every picture. He wore those boots for six years straight!
You look at Benedict Cumberbatch or Eddie Redmayne etc. and they’re all wearing the same things over and over again too. I’m really good friends with an Eddie Redmayne blogger (@amazingredmayne) and we have this ongoing bet about who is going to get a new pair of jeans first Tom or Eddie. Tom usually wins.
I think the only thing that’s changed is the amount of attention. We fans noticed obviously, but the media or casual observer certainly never picked up on the fact that Tom was wearing the same outfits. I remember in 2013 he was on all the UK Best Dressed Lists even though he wore the same Armani tuxedo to four different events that year. Now it’s just an ongoing commentary. I think Tom has embraced this because now even when he does get a new sweater or jeans or shoes they look exactly like that old pair even if it’s a different designer.
As to the why? I always go back to this quote Tom gave a few years ago;
‘Eight years ago, I was traveling a lot with a touring theater company called Cheek by Jowl. We traveled all over the world with productions of classical plays. I would come back to London, and I had a flat. I started to feel uncomfortable in this flat. I didn’t really recognize who owned all that stuff.
On the advice of a friend of mine, whom you may know—[actress] Rebecca Hall—I got rid of all of my stuff. I took 33 bin liners (trash bags) of secondhand clothes to a charity shop. I sold all my furniture. I put my books in storage.
I decided to live out of just two suitcases for 12 months. It was the most enjoyable year of my life, because I felt free and available. That was an instructive year for me.’”
B.D. I understand you attended the pre-premiere of the show. How did you find the energy of the audience? Did you feel the majority of those in attendance were there specifically to see Hiddleston on stage?
M.W. “I did! There’s no way Tom Hiddleston was going to make his Broadway debut and I was not going to be there.
They definitely leaned on Tom’s star power to try to sell the show early on. There wasn’t a lot of promotion. So it makes sense that there would be a Tom-heavy crowd. There’s been much more extensive and well-rounded promotion and marketing the past few weeks.
The night of the performance itself was very surreal. There was a lot of last minute set ups happening. It definitely felt like a preview. It’s hard to gauge the crowd since Betrayal is such a hard play. To me at least. It’s a play you have to think about. I must have rewritten my review eight different times because I kept changing my mind over how I felt about it. The play is in reverse order so I had to put it in chronological order in my head to really grasp it.
But the energy outside was crazy! 90s Boy Band crazy! There was just a sea of people at the stage door. Completely unbeknownst to me one of my friends had arranged for us to be in the press section so we were right up front. I promise if I had known beforehand I would have worn a better wig! If anyone wondered what vision impairment looks like it’s being the only person in a crowd who doesn’t have a phone in your hand taking pictures.
And you could feel Tom’s excitement too. He is magnificent on screen but Stage Tom is a completely different animal. So many people were kind enough to send me pictures and videos of me talking to Tom. I look like an a-hole because I’m always looking down instead of at him. But it’s the lights. There’s a hundred people behind him taking pictures and I had to look away from the flashes.
I’d like to add that Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton are both lovely and talented human beings as well.”
Cast of Betrayal: Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox
B.D. Do you think the fact that folks were able to see Tom in the U.S. during the NYC run of Betrayal has strengthened and increased his fandom? How about the announcement of a Loki show on Disney’s new streaming service? It seems people are very ecstatic for this to happen.
M.W. “Anytime Tom is working on something it leads to more interest and attention. I think the Loki series will have a greater reach than the Broadway show. Theater is a much more limited and intimate experience. You can only see the play if you’re physically at the Jacobs Theatre, whereas anyone, anywhere can watch a TV show. Every day there’s a different rumor about the Loki series. One thing I am definitely looking forward to is Tom not wearing a wig. The Loki series is filming during Awards Season so I’m all for Tom walking a red carpet with his long hair dyed black.”
Tom Hiddleston as Marvel’s Loki; god of mischief
B.D. Would you say that Betrayal has shed new light on Hiddleston’s great range of acting ability? Has it helped to enlighten fans who previously only thought of Hiddleston as Loki from the Marvel universe?
M.W. “There have been a lot of ‘Loki Can Act’ headlines for sure. But Loki could always act, even as Loki – especially as Loki. The Marvel Universe is such a force unto itself that I don’t know if anything could replace Loki in a lot of people’s minds. As in, ‘oh that’s Tom Hiddleston, he plays Loki.’”
B.D. In our previous interview (2018) you said you did not specifically have an interest in the field of fashion as a whole, but you were drawn to specific and unique pieces that Hiddleston has worn which you wanted to find. Is that still the case for you? Has it been a little frustrating given that in the last year, Hiddleston hasn’t varied much in his fashion choices?
M.W. “I’m still not a day-to-day fashion maven, but I have become much more interested in costumes since starting my Costume Design series. On screen and on stage everything is symbolic. A shirt is never just a shirt. The colors mean something. There are always clues carefully hidden. Costume Designers put so much research into making sure the characters look authentic and I really respect that.
I also had the opportunity to take a course on Sustainability in Fashion with the London College of Fashion. I was shocked to learn how much pollution is caused by the Fashion Industry. You won’t find me criticizing Tom Hiddleston for not wearing three different outfits every day. Emma Watson is always promoting eco-fashion and the “30 Wears Challenge” which is to not purchase any new clothing unless you plan to wear it at least 30 times. I’m like how the heck is Tom Hiddleston not the face of that? He could knock this challenge out in 30 days.”
B.D. In our last interview we talked about how and why you became involved in fundraising for Unicef. Can you tell us about any future fundraising plans?
M.W. “Of course! We are kicking off our next fundraiser on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. November 20th is also World Children’s Day – a day sponsored by UNICEF to promote the rights of children all around the world. This is the perfect day to start our Tom Hiddleston Birthday Fundraiser for UNICEF UK since Tom has been an Ambassador for them since 2013. And even in his charity work outside of Unicef he always has a focus on children and their well-being.
This year is bittersweet for me because it will be the last fundraising drive that I personally organize. It has been such a fulfilling experience and I’m continually amazed by the generosity of the fans. We’ve raised more than £34,000. We’ve had donations from every continent – except for Antarctica of course. But I certainly wasn’t the first fan/group to do this and I definitely won’t be the last either.
I always have a theme for each fundraiser and this year it will be #HiddleHero. Someone commented that on one of my posts and I thought it was so accurate. I think all the fans have our own reasons as to why Tom Hiddleston is a hero. We all have been inspired by him in different ways; whether he inspired you to donate money or follow your passions or just be kinder to people. Or maybe one of his characters spoke to you in some way. I think that’s the perfect idea to finish out with.”
B.D. Having communicated with you over a period of time I have developed a great admiration for all you have been able to accomplish while battling some pretty tough stuff in your personal life. I want to thank you on behalf of all the readers who have enjoyed and learned from your blog and your dedicated involvement in the Unicef fundraisers.
Will you keep the Hiddlesfashion blog going? And what are your future plans (if any) regarding your involvement in the realms of fashion and fandom?
M.W. “Thank you so very much for that.
Honestly, I don’t know what the future of the blog is. I think most people who follow the blog know that I’ve been in treatment for autoimmune disease for some time. One of the biggest side effects for me has been vision loss. I have developed uveitis, cataracts, and glaucoma all at the same time because I’m an overachiever like that. I don’t know if there’s much space in the world for a vision impaired fashion blogger or vision impaired blogger period?
It gets really frustrating because I use a screen reader now. I feel like it takes me 2 weeks to type something I could have finished in two hours a year ago. Trying to format posts and linking pictures or videos etc. is a nightmare. Thankfully, I have some friends who will proofread and make corrections for me. I’m really hoping to be able to finish out my Costume Design series at least while I still have some usual vision left.
I turned 30 last year. There’s something about turning 30 that just puts your life into perspective. I’ve become a lot more spiritual. I grew up in the Salvation Army church. All the happiest moments from my childhood were at the church and their summer camp. I stopped going in high school for whatever reason. Then the church randomly came back into my life last winter. And it was so easy to jump back in. Suddenly I went from never going to church at all to attending every week to volunteering for their outreach programs to becoming a Leader for the Youth Program to now talking about becoming an Officer (which is what they call their ministers). It’s crazy the transitions our lives can make. Fashion blogger to Minister maybe? I definitely would never have picture any of those things 10 years ago when I was graduating with my business degree.
I believe that we find our blessings in the most unexpected ways. Tom Hiddleston is a blessing. With or without the blog, I will always be a Tom Hiddleston fan. It’s crazy how a blog I started on a whim just because I liked a coat could grow into something so much bigger. Hiddlesfashion has led to amazing opportunities for me. And it’s helped me through some difficult times because the blog gave me something to focus on instead of just being miserable. And he has such a great outlook on life. That Hiddles Optimism is contagious. I even have a Tom quote tattooed on my arm ‘Love Your Life’ so I never forget. Then, just as my vision issues were getting worse Charlie Cox signs on to do a play with Tom. Charlie, of course, plays the vision-impaired superhero Daredevil. In reading about Charlie, I was introduced to all the ways he has supported the blind community. He has really gone above and beyond. And through him I learned about organizations that help with accessibility training and classes. I started taking Braille classes. I was able to correspond with Charlie through his work. Charlie Cox is also a blessing. So you know #SaveDaredevil!”
Tom Hiddleston and Marlena Wiley @Betrayal
Marlena Wiley and friend
Wiley & Betrayal gear
Here are some links:
Marlena’s website: https://www.hiddlesfashion.com/
Tom Hiddleston/Unicef raffle page: https://www.hiddlesfashion.com/p/raffles.html
The justgiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ourgloriouspurpose
Tom Hiddleston’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/twhiddleston?lang=en
Betrayal Broadway’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/betrayalbwy