Hannah Wallis meets Alternative Model of the Year Finalist and Edinburgh History of Art Student, Katie Webster, aka ‘Wonderfully Wacky Webster’, to discuss alternative modelling, eyeliner and gothic misconceptions.
Congratulations on reaching the final of the Alternative Model of the Year Contest. What is the competition all about?
It’s an annual contest for aspiring models across the alternative community. I did a photo shoot in June at my audition, and will be doing a catwalk final in October, competing for a contract with Rogue Modelling.
What do you think about the term ‘alternative modelling’ and its portrayal?
Alternative modelling incorporates not just Goth but different cultures such as Punk, Emo and Rockabilly (a more alt version of ‘50s style). I don’t mind the word ‘alternative’ because I understand that the style is distinctive and doesn’t appeal to everyone, but, of course, more acceptance and representation would be positive. It is often only featured in mainstream publications in autumn or for Halloween when it isn’t represented accurately or fully.
When did you start modelling?
It is only in the last eighteen months that I’ve been doing photo shoots with local photographers and had an online presence. I think that when I tried to get into modelling before, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted and was only beginning to explore alternative fashion, so I struggled to find my place in the wider industry.
What is your look and how long does it take you to get ready?
I almost always wear black, with winged eyeliner and lipstick, but I take inspiration from a particular decade or group, like Guns and Roses for example. My eyeliner goes wrong constantly, so I allow three hours for preparing for a shoot.
What myths and preconceptions are there about alternative communities you want to dispel?
The term emo in particular suffers from negative use, as people associate it with mental health issues, depression or being moody. But that isn’t true – just because we wear black and have an appreciation for darker things, doesn’t mean we are unhappy or believe in Satan! I’m interested in witchcraft and being connected with nature, which I do through a pagan path, but people wrongly associate Goth culture with other taboos such as non-conventional religion.
The contest describes itself as having a ‘fresh and laid back approach to modelling competitions.’ What has been your experience so far?
It’s a really inclusive environment, open to beginners as well as those with more experience so it’s a really fun thing to try and there’s complete freedom with your style so it’s a big confidence booster.
The contest’s mantra is ‘celebrating all things unique and quirky.’ How important is this stress on individuality in a society where there are often unhealthy ideas about beauty and pressures to conform?
I think it’s really important. It’s hypocritical that we’re encouraged to be individual in other aspects of life, but that in fashion we have to conform and dress a certain way. In the workplace for example, dyed hair is considered unprofessional, which seems suppressive.
Do any of the prejudices regarding size, shape, or ethnicity, unfortunately prevalent in mainstream modelling, exist in the alternative sector?
The competition’s ‘straight to audition’ policy means that it attracts all shapes and sizes, and in fact many of my alternative model friends are what the traditional industry would call “plus-size”, and I’m 5ft 8 which would be considered short. In that sense, alternative modelling is a lot more inclusive.
Piercings and tattoos are also accepted, as you’re encouraged to bring your own personal style and ideas to a shoot, whereas in the mainstream sector, models are expected to be a blank canvas which designers and make-up artists style according to a specific theme or trend. However, skin colour can still be a topic of prejudice because there is a misconception that Goths and Emos are only very pale skinned.
Good luck in the final of the competition! What can you reveal about your catwalk outfit?
My outfit takes inspiration from a moon goddess look, and I’ve accessorised with pieces from Edinburgh shops and the jewellery company Blood and Stars. I don’t want to give too much away!
image: Laurence Keir