Looking at Gypsy Rhodes, it’s hard to imagine she was once a child model. Between the ages of 7 and 11, the 27-year-old Grimsby lass modelled for the likes of Levi’s and Pears Soap – but despite her early start in front of the camera, the second time around didn’t come easily.
“I only started doing alternative modelling when I was 24 years old, and I found it hard at first,” she admits. “At school, I was shy. My best friend and I were into the alternative scene; we weren’t part of the in-crowd and always felt like outsiders. When I see people from my school now, they can’t believe I actually do this kind of modelling!”
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Several years later, Gypsy started looking at alternative modelling shoots online and, encouraged by her boyfriend, Andy, she became enthusiastic about being snapped again. She put her shots on model networking site Purestorm.com, and was taken aback by people’s reactions.
“I didn’t think anything would come of it,” she says, “but the response I got back was so encouraging. At the time, it really helped my confidence soar and I discovered there’s a big, supportive, alternative modelling scene in Grimsby, which really surprised me.”
Gypsy reveals that the glam rock era fires her imagination. She even took her model name from ‘Gypsy Road’, a song by glam metal band, Cinderella. “My biggest influence is Alice Cooper,” she says. “I’ve seen him live loads of times, and love the snakes, strange dolls and guillotines he uses on stage. My dream shoot would be to have a custom-made latex outfit based on his stage outfits – a latex top hat, evening jacket and cane would be brilliant!”
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There’s also a darker side to Gypsy Rhodes. Her first shoot involved stripping down to her underwear and submerging herself in a bath full of blood, and she’s also been in trouble with MySpace because of her penchant for horror shoots.
“It’s been a constant battle with MySpace to keep some of my photos up there,” she sighs. “The ones featuring blood and needles seem to have caused particular offence. I can’t put up ones showing restraints, either, and as for the shots of me strangling myself with my own intestines... It took them 10 minutes to remove them from the site after I’d uploaded them! I think that’s my record.”
In the last two years, Gypsy’s had an education in the realities of alt.modelling. While she’s worked with her fair share of friendly and ethical snappers, she’s also had some strange experiences. “There was one guy who arranged a shoot out in the middle of nowhere and, when he turned up, he didn’t speak a word,” she recalls. “He just took his camera out and started taking pictures. He gave me zero direction and I didn’t have a clue what he wanted me to do. It was really unnerving.”
On the upside, Gypsy’s had chances to experiment with locations. “I recently did a shoot in a studio kitted out with a ton of fetish gear. There were shackles hanging off the walls, cages, and a giant wooden cross with restraints nailed to it,” she says. And with a passion for all things bondage-related, she was in dom heaven.
“My love of bondage stems from my private life and it’s spilled out into my modelling,” she confesses. “Personally, I love being the one in control. When you meet me you’d think I’d be the complete opposite because I can be quiet and I’m small, but it gives me the opportunity to be in power for a change and I love dressing up. I’m quite comfortable with a spanking paddle in my hand!”
After finding out she’d made it into the final Ultra Vixen line-up, Gypsy put a call-out for votes online, but it was the support in her hometown that meant the most. “The local alternative venues, including the Lloyds Arms, The Barge, Gullivers, and Yardbirds, really got behind me,” she explains. “They printed out massive blown-up posters of my pictures and proudly displayed them around the bars. There’s a local alternative clothing store, Emothicuss, who I’ve modelled for, and they did the same.”
Luckily for Gypsy, winning the Ultra Vixen contest meant a day of playing with weird and wonderful props, such as a creepy pumpkin mask, skeleton hands, a child mannequin and a giant squirrel’s head. “When I found out I’d won, I was in shock. It took a while for it to sink in and then I started getting excited,” she giggles.
“I was even more ecstatic when I found out that Nina Kate from Jane Doe Latex would be styling me. I’ve wanted to own some of her custom latex for ages, but couldn’t afford to. The dresses were a real pleasure to wear.”
And like a true pro, she didn’t even baulk at having a stuffed rat put on her head! “I loved it! It was a crazy day and I was surrounded by amazing taxidermied animals wearing hats,” she giggles. “It was so much fun shooting with Bizarre, and different to anything else I’ve done so far. I can’t wait to see the results.”
For more about Gypsy, visit Gypsyrhodes.co.uk