Alternative modelling: if you lose who you are, what do you have?

Alternative modelling: if you lose who you are, what do you have? Monika Prey

3rd November 20151Comment

The decision to get into alternative modelling began whilst I was studying English Language and Linguistics at university last year. I promptly became restless when faced with the idea that my life would pan out in a certain direction: to meet some of society’s mainstream expectations of me. Rather than focus on my studies I was constantly thinking about all the other things I could be doing instead. I’m not saying university education isn’t right for some people, it’s just that when I took stock and considered the near future I felt turned off by the thought of perusing a path of education right out the door, followed by a conventional career path into a well paid job. So I quit university in April and, personally speaking, I knew I’d made the right choice for me. It immediately felt like the clouds had shifted and my horizon was suddenly much brighter than it had ever been before. I decided now was the time to try out some of the things I’ve always wanted to do. And alternative modelling was one of them. It’s different to high-end fashion modelling as there are no specific height or weight restrictions. Models may, for example, have coloured or body modifications and usually rock a bizarre wardrobe. The styles in alternative modelling can range from fetish – to pin up and can mix these elements too; for example I was recently involved in a pin up shoot which also focused on roller derby: a full contact sport played on roller skates.

Photo courtesy of IJGPhotography
Photo courtesy of IJGPhotography

When I started, I began by doing some research and looking into the dos and don’ts of alternative modelling. The community is really supportive and encouraging of each other. I contacted a model friend who helped me out and gave me a few pointers in the right direction and…ta-da! A week later I had my modelling profile set up online. To my surprise, within a few days of setting it up, I was contacted by a photographer and a shoot was booked a little while after. I was over the moon! It’s been six months now and I regret nothing. I constantly look at new ways to challenge myself, whether it’s wearing something I don’t feel comfortable in or stepping on to the catwalk for the first time.

I’m also a Deadstar girl now and part of the Deadstar team – a community for creatives, models, photographers, MUAs, stylists etc. It’s already given me lots of opportunities to test myself; earlier this year in August I had the wonderful opportunity of performing at KFS (Skin Two North) which I never imagined I’d be a part of. It was an amazing event and enabled me to push myself further, with the reward of a cheering crowd at my feet. It was my first catwalk and I had the honour of working with some of the DS Girls: I quickly realised how easy they can be to work and get along with.

Recently, I also participated in my second catwalk event; I competed for Alternative Model of the Year, which held auditions all over the country, including Leeds, London, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Manchester. It was a fantastic event that allowed me to be in the spotlight again and meet models I’ve only ever seen on the Internet. It was a great event to learn from and gain experience, and has left me eager for the next one.

As a model under the “alternative” label, it allows me to be as creative as I want with my image, as there are no limits. I like to think there’s nothing or nobody stopping me from being the way I am and looking the way I want to look, and this makes me feel free. It allows me to wake up everyday, excited to create who I am and present myself the world.

My look is more of a mixture than a specific one. I knew I could never fit into the typical scene of high-end fashion modelling: for starters I’d never fit the requirements. I’m a roller derby girl, so fierceness is in my nature, and I’m of the belief that trying to be something I am not just isn’t worth the effort. Adhering to mainstream beauty norms and society’s expectations of how a young woman should look isn’t something I’ve ever succeeded in either. Discovering Marilyn Manson as a teenager felt like a gold star in my book! I also get a great deal of inspiration from the bizarre fashion of the 80’s and 90’s, in particular the notorious New York Club kids: a group of young people led by James St. James and Michael Alig, known for pushing fashion to the limit. Their philosophy was all about the relationship between sexual freedom and self-expression. James St James once said that their looks were all about showing how you felt on the inside, outside. For instance one day he might dress-up like a wart-addled troll — his attitude was, ‘If you feel like a troll today, dress like a troll today.’ I also love how that scene was big, bold and bright back then, yet there was also the darker elements and the likes of Manson and his “F*ck you!” nonconformist attitude. I like to blend these elements of style inspiration together, as well as adding parts of my own personality, so I feel like me. Because as Marilyn Manson said…,

 “If you lose who you are, what do you have?”

Photo courtesy of IJGPhotography
Photo courtesy of IJGPhotography


My 3 top tips for anyone starting out in the alternative-modelling scene

  1. Safety first!

I cannot stress this enough. It’s common sense but sometimes you need a nudge to be reminded. Check references, and dates of those references, when speaking to new clients. Always let someone know important information such as: where your shoot is, the times, how many models/ photographers there will be, whether the shoot is on location or in a studio. In fact, I take a chaperone with me and always let the photographer know this beforehand. If they are not happy with the chaperone idea then I simply won’t work with that client. Basically if you don’t feel comfortable or 100% safe – don’t do it. Trust your instincts!

  1. Be yourself!

Find a photographer or MUA who can help you express who you are. This will help you to feel authentic and create an image you are proud of. Don’t let a photographer push you into doing something you don’t want to do as the camera sees everything, and the results will show. Remember: that photographer picked you instead of many others because they saw something unique in you that shone. Know your worth as an individual and create an image that will separate you from the rest.

  1. Have fun and enjoy it!

It’s not worth doing something if you’re not happy. The more you have fun and enjoy the experience, the better the photographic results will be, because you’ll be more relaxed and more inclined to be you. Keep in mind that everything is a learning curve so it’s ok to make some mistakes along the way. Mistakes can be lessons, an opportunity to grow and get better.


Monica Prey2
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