Every model agency has strict criteria based on which they select their workforce, and so does the Ugly Models Agency. As the name suggests, of course, you have to be ugly. Well, ‘unusual-looking’, to be more specific. Ugly Models is one of the world’s biggest character model agencies based out of London. The bold and unique company has managed to place its models in some top assignments, including James Bond films and Marks and Spencer ads. Literally anyone can apply at Ugly Models, ranging from size 6 to 30, and 18 to 100 years old.
Case-in-point is Dell, one of the top models at Ugly Models. He got into the modeling business only a few years back, totally by accident. He was actually delivering a package at the agency when owner Marc French spotted him and asked for a few test shots. And everything just snowballed from there. According to Marc, “Dell is not a conventional good-looking boy, you know, he’s got buck teeth, sticking out ears, he’s not what people say is normal-looking, because he’s quite ugly, really. But ugly in a great way and I love his features. I mean, I think he’s quite striking.” Sure enough, Dell is not the kind of guy you would expect to see on a catwalk. “I don’t see myself as ugly,” he says. “I see myself as tall, dark and handsome. I’m a model, innit? When I was growing up, I never thought I was going to be a model. People just made fun of me when I was young and all that.”
Photo: National Geographic Taboo
One look at the Ugly Model’s web page and you will be hooked. The models are categorized as ‘Girls’, ‘Men’, ‘Specials’, and ‘Rage’. Under the ‘Specials’, you have all kinds of models like thugs, bikers, twins and the funniest of all, the ‘wee folks’. Some of the most extraordinary models in the business are a part of this agency, like Sultan Kosen, who’s 8ft1, Elaine Davidson who has 2,500 body piercings and Prince Albert, a retired bank manager who had his first piercing at the age of 75 (he now has 241). So unusual are the models, that a documentary about the agency called ‘Britain’s Ugliest Models’ was made and aired on TV.
Photo: Ugly Models Agency
Marc is only the current owner of the agency; Ugly Models has been around for over 40 years. “I think the number one trait an ugly model’s got to have is what I repeat over and over again – to be comfortable in their own skin. I think you could say that I am looking for at the auditions – every kind of character you could think of – from fat to fit, large to small, and I never know what I’m actually looking for until they come through the door,” says Marc. “Our models have worked for everyone from Calvin Klein to Italian Vogue and there is a massive demand for them. We have open auditions and the queues go on for miles with people wanting to get on the books. It’s amazing; you have little old ladies standing in line next to Hell’s Angels all wanting to give it a go.” Even the name of the agency was chosen with care. “The reason that we use ‘ugly’ is because, why not? It’s such a powerful word, and everyone thinks of it in a certain way and it’s so great to have an unusual looking person and put them under the category of being ugly.”
Photo: Ugly Models Agency
Despite their success, some of the ugly models are still subject to prejudice. “Sometimes I don’t tell people I’m a model. Sometimes they don’t believe me. So I just tell them I’m a cleaner, and they don’t ask any more,” says Dell. But Marc says there are so many people now who are happier about how they look, and that’s what matters. “We have many people who are much happier now with the way they look. We had a larger lady who was unhappy with herself but since she taken roles as a jolly bigger lady she is a different person. She is loving being larger than life, she is not obese or dangerous to her health in any way, it’s just the way she is made.” There are 1000s on the rosters of Ugly Models today, and the numbers only seem to be going up.