Most modelling agencies require their talent to fit a very specific mould, but that is definitely not the case at this London outfit.
Ugly Models specialicises in representing people of any shape or size, with tattoos, piercings, or plugs, anything as long as they don’t look ‘bog-standard’.
Their stand-out looks make the them popular with designers looking to add some diversity to their catwalks – and several have already been called up for London Fashion Week, which starts today.
Edgy: Model Chris Manns shows off his distinctive look in a topless shot at Ugly Models
Individual: Laura Poole scrunches up her face during a casting at the London agency
Strike a pose: Model Mathieu Blanc looks out from behind his long dreadlocks
Owner Marc French told AFP: ‘It’s celebrating diversity really and it’s bringing a bit more light to fashion instead of just using the bog-standard models.’
He describes it as a ‘character’ model agency – ‘from fat, thin, to large to small: you name it, we’ve got it’.
He cited the example of French actor Gerard Depardieu. ‘I mean look at him: he’s so full of character and charisma. He becomes sexy because he’s so cool and he’s so different.’
Founded 50 years ago, Ugly occupies trendy open-plan space in west London featuring a baroque sofa, brushed aluminium computers and walls studded with photos of models.
Stand-out star: Model Thomas Kerbie is among the talent represented by Ugly Models
Forget pouting! Model Claire Spedding shows off a far more interesting pose in this snap
Rock on: Model Chloe Akan was among those hoping to book a job through the agency
A portrait of late rock superstar David Bowie adorns the wall, alongside the quote ‘Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius,’ which reads like a company motto.
Like any such agency, it manages the careers of its models, putting them in touch with employers of all stripes, from Burberry to Mercedes to Jack Daniel’s.
On a recent weekday, Ugly was organising a casting to complete its catalogue and those in attendance were atypical models.
Among them was former soldier Chris and Kris Chesney, an ex-rugby player with Toulon and Saracen.
With his shaved head, tattooed arms, rugged face, and body bearing the marks of countless scrums, he is perhaps an unlikely male model.
Pioneer: Chairman of Ugly/Rage Models, Marc French interviews a potential model
Vibrant: Chloe strikes a pose in front of the camera at a casting for new talent
‘It’s a new journey, something interesting, like a challenge,’ he said.
Others are on more of a personal mission.
Sheerah Ravindren, a petite 22-year-old model, comes from Sri Lanka and proclaims herself a ‘militant immigrant model’.
Frances, a disabled model who gets around using a pair of eye-catchingly futuristic crutches, revealed proudly that her disability ‘didn’t stop me from doing what I want’.
For French, ‘what makes a good ugly models is someone who is comfortable in his own skin’.
Hopeful: Potential models wait to be seen during a casting at the UGLY model agency
He said: ‘We don’t want retouching, we dont want people to change the way they look. If someone comes to us a certain way, we’d never say it’d be better if he was smaller. It’s really important. There’s so much pressure on young kids.’
The agency is also eager to counter any perception that it cynically exploits its models for their peculiarities.
‘Sometimes we’ve had companies ring up and said: “We want a small person that will kick themselves in the head”. Woo… like no – that’s wrong,’ said Lulu Palmer, a booker who is head of new faces.
‘We’re not here to exploit people, to take the mickey out of people.’