The Ultimate Guide to Alternative Modeling

Holly Bissonnette| October 2, 2014
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The advent of alternative modeling has brought on a new face to the world of fashion. Today, designers and even fashion show producers and directors are not limiting themselves only to gorgeous clean-faced brunettes and blondes. They have become more open to using tattooed, painted and pierced women and even men on the runway or in photo shoots.

If you have always wanted to become a model but have quailed at the thought because you don’t look at all like the models you see on magazine covers, then now is the time to change your perspective. Even if you might appear different, it is exactly this uniqueness that can help you realize your dreams of becoming part of the fashion industry. Whether you are fond of dying your hair purple or you have a body full of tattoos or you have piercings on various parts of your face, you can still become a model – an alternative model that is.

What Exactly is an Alternative Model?


Alternative Model
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As its name suggests for itself, an alternative model looks quite different to what people consider the norm in the modeling industry. Most of the models in this genre may be equally stunning compared with the mainstream models, but their definition of beauty is more far-fetched than usual.

This type of modeling is usually specific to certain niches such as burlesque, latex, Goth and fetishism, among others. As such, most alternative models do not exactly embody the perfect proportions of a normal model. Instead, they are usually walking bodies of art.


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Aside from having intricate body paintings or tattoos, many of them have piercings and sport hair of different styles like dreadlocks or Mohawks and these usually have unnatural or distinctive colors. There are also others that have other more unusual body modifications like neck rings, surface piercing and transdermal or microdermal implants. Some go under the knife to have such modifications done as to have their tongues bisected to appear like that of a snake. While still others apply long-term force like tight-lacing, corsetry or breast ironing to get the effect they desire.

La Esmeralda Alternative Model
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Because of their appearance, the way they dress and make themselves up, most alternative models really grab the attention of people. This is generally what caught the media’s eye and elevated alternative modeling into the mainstream.

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What to Expect from an Alternative Modeling Shoot?

Just like any other modeling shoots, alternative modeling photo sessions always take hours of preparation. This means that before you go to the location, you should already have had your hair washed, your body hair waxed or shaved, your entire body exfoliated and moisturized and your finger and toe nails given a manicure and pedicure, respectively.

You should also make sure to pack up a change of clothing, lingerie, footwear, makeup, accessories, styling products and props. It is also advisable for you to already know the directions to the location of your shoot the day before its schedule to ensure you do not get lost or late. Also, make it a point to have the photographer or artistic director’s contact number with you. This is in case of emergencies or other circumstances that might hold you up and you need to call to inform them you might be running late.

Once you are at the location, confirm with the photographer or other staff about the directions for the day before you do your own makeup and hair or before having it done by the makeup artist. This way, everyone is on the same page, including you. As soon as your look is ready for the shoot, be prepared to pose for long hours, wherein you sometimes need to hold uncomfortable and awkward poses for a long time while looking like you are not having a hard time doing it. Because of this, it might be helpful if you do some exercise like yoga, so you can withstand the rigors of this kind of photo shoot.

Check out this creative fashion shoot by photographer David Apuzzo featuring alternative model Cory Nova:

What Types of Clients Will You Possibly Be Working For?

Although alternative models are slowly integrating themselves into the mainstream modeling scenes nowadays, not everyone are using them for their projects. So, if you are aiming to become one yourself, expect to work for designers of alternative clothing, photographers who are expanding their portfolios and artists doing special photography and art projects. You might also get to model shoes, vintage lingerie, latex clothing and other exotic or distinctive stuff for fashion shows and catalogue work.

A Step-by-Step Guide on Becoming an Alternative Model

Now, that you have an idea about what alternative modeling is all about and you have decided you want to become one, it might be time to go at it following a step-by-step process.

Below is an easy guide you can follow:

1. Always be yourself.

If you already have your own alternative style and you are confident about it, stick with it. Do not follow another person’s style just because you think it’s cool. Always go with something that feels right for you.

Although it does not hurt to be flexible, you should always go for the style that works best for your personality. If you are usually into something dark, then somebody asks you to go for bright colors, be confident yet courteous enough to stick to your guns.

2. It helps if you have body piercings or tattoos.

Alternative Models
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While a lot of clients prefer this kind of body modification in an alternative model, it is not compulsory. You do not have to go down this road if you’re not comfortable with it.

But, if you do not mind a bit of pain and you absolutely love to have yourself tattooed or pierced, then make an effort to be original about it. Ask your tattoo artist to create a unique design for you – the more spectacular or eye-catching, the better.

3. Do not aim for perfection.

Xanthia Pink Alternative Model
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Alternative modeling is not about being perfect. Although there are thin alternative models, you have to be aware that there are also others that are buxom or curvy. So, do not attempt to change your body weight just because you want to get into this type of modeling.

Keep in mind that you do not want to look like most models on the runway. Your originality is what will sell you, not your weight.

4. Always make it a point to dress up every time you go out.

Whether you are going out to a party, a concert or just to the mall, dress up according to your style. Think of every trip out your home as an opportunity to sell yourself. You never know when you will get noticed for your look and get booked for a photo shoot or a job or even a modeling contract with an agency.

5. Make connections.

Get yourself out there. If you want to become a model, then you have to make connections and you cannot do this staying at home. Go to concerts and festivals. Make friends with designers, photographers, bands, musicians and even actors. Everything and everyone can provide an opportunity for exposure.

6. Build up a nice portfolio of photos.

Victoria Van Violence
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You can either get a professional photographer for this or have a friend who has a talent in taking good photos help you. Either way, make sure your photos are of high quality and are shot in original settings. Always attempt to be original and unique in the locations of your shoots, so you can showcase your individuality better.

Unless you have a beautiful home with spectacular grounds, avoid shooting at home. This will make your photos appear unprofessional and downright cheap.

7. Create your own “model name”.

Alternative models usually have catchy names. If you wish, you can also create one for yourself. Just make sure that what you have chosen is not already in use. You can check on Google before you decide on your final name. Make it a point to steer clear of childish-sounding names though, unless this is your particular style.

Alternative Models
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8. Get into social media.

Create social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest, among others. This way, you will have a lot of avenues to share your photos and to build up hype about your own personality. Add as many contacts as you can to all your accounts to maximize your exposure.

However, it is best if you will keep your public and private profiles separate. Do not post your modeling photos along with your holiday photos with your family. You should also stay away from posting photos you took with your webcam or your mobile phone on your public profiles. You want to be seen as a unique person, not just some ordinary self-centered teenager.

You should also exercise care and caution in updating and posting your statuses on all your social media profiles. This will make you appear more professional, mature and mysterious, thereby adding allure to your personality.

9. Get yourself into online alternative modeling networks.

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This will give you the chance to work alongside professionals in the modeling industry like makeup artists, wardrobe specialists and photographers. However, as alternative modeling sometimes involve nudity, you have to be ready and comfortable about posing with little or no clothes on. If not, then you should forgo going for these online networks. Keep in mind that once these photos are up on the Internet, you will never be able to remove them.

10. Socialize a lot.

Alternative modeling is not for the meek and the homebody. You have to be very sociable, daring and fun to make it in this world. However, even if your style or personality is more on the dark side, it still pays to be nice and courteous to everyone.

Never be snobbish, snide, sarcastic or loud. Remember that while a lot of people may want to work with alternative models nowadays, they are still looking for those that have nice personalities to go with their distinctive looks. Modeling professionals always look for people that are easy to work with instead of those who behave like a diva.

Other Advice for Alternative Models


Elyon Alternative Model
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Be Prepared to Work for Free.

If you are still starting out, then you have to be willing to do projects for free. This will help in building up your alternative modeling portfolio and will show photographers in creating works of art and not just earning a living.

Set and Stick to Your Limits.

If you do not want pose in nude, then do not let anyone talk you into doing it. If you are not comfortable in doing something like this, then set this as a boundary and stick to it. You should always work according to your comfort zone because this will allow you to provide better photos for your projects.

Work Hard and Be Reliable.

People should always know you as someone who will work hard and can be relied on to deliver the goods no matter what the circumstance. You will get more work this way because modeling professionals will always look for people who are reliable and capable of giving them what they want and need.

Strive to Be Healthy.

As stated earlier, you don’t have to be stick thin to make it as an alternative model. But, you have to be healthy. Stay as limber and flexible as you can by doing exercises. Sleep more, eat light meals before shoots and drink lots of tea and water. Doing this will not only help you maintain a good complexion. It will also allow you to adjust to the demands of your job better.

Whether your style veers into Goth or the candidly cute, there is a possible spot for you as an alternative model. Just be sure to stick to your own uniqueness and you will be able to make a name for yourself in this type of modeling in no time. Keep in mind that alternative modeling is not about being in the mainstream, but it is all about showing your distinctive style and personality and being proud about it.


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