MEL: How did you get into modelling, has it always been the alternative kind?
COLLETTE: I was always interested in modelling and decided to do my first fun shoot when I was 21. It was with a friend who was studying photography at the time. We worked on a few poses and generally had fun with it, not really thinking that anything big would come from it at the time. It took me a while to find my identity when I started out modelling so some of it was quite mainstream when I was starting out.
I applied to some mainstream model agencies and got my fingers burned a few times by agencies asking for registration 'fees' and for a while I gave up. It was only about three years ago that I would make a serious go of it and see how far it would take me. I got my fingers burned once more by this company claiming to be a scouting business and they got me a shoot booked with a studio in London, that ended up charging me a pretty penny for the privilege and from then I did as much research as possible and discovered the likes of Model Mayhem and Purestorm and decided to freelance model and build up a strong portfolio of work that way. I've not looked back since and most of what people see comes from my networking and planning - all my own work. As my confidence has grown, so too has my identity as a model. I have managed to create an image that is working well for me, in what is a very superficial industry, and I am very happy with what I have been able to achieve both on a personal and professional level this past three years.
MEL: What was your first modelling assignment and what were your hopes and aspirations from this initial experience?
COLLETTE: My first modelling assignment was with a good friend of mine Emma Cowsill of Distorted Smile Photography, back in 2007. This was after my first photo shoot being with a studio in London that ripped me off. I was new to modelling and Emma wanted to add to her portfolio of work, which mainly looks at appreciating the female form. At the time I wanted to build confidence and develop pose and theme ideas and to really see what was going to be involved shoots.
We started off with a simple fashion shoot with a couple of outfits and then we decided to do a dead bride themed shoot as I had a wrecked old wedding dress and I guess this was the real me coming out... I thought it would be a fun idea. So the fake blood came out and I was posing in Preston Park on a Saturday dressed in a wedding dress. The fun part was walking back to Emma's house as we had no way of removing the fake blood from my face, so I went back in the wedding dress and fake blood. Any other shoots I do with Emma seem to end up that way too... Just the way our collective minds work I guess.
MEL: I believe you are now a mentor for alternative models what does this entail?
COLLETTE: I am operating on an advisory level to new, aspiring models. The plan is that through Perfect Storm Models young models based in the Lancashire can be directed to me for any advice on getting into modelling and for me to direct them to helpful websites and information. I enjoy helping these girls as I remember how hard it was to get started.
MEL: You’ve entered a number of modelling competitions online, as seen via Facebook i.e. Bizarre Magazine. How have you faired in them so far?
COLLETTE: I have indeed [smiles] I entered the Bizarre Magazine Ultra Vixen competition for issue 164. My photo got selected and I went on to win the competition for that issue through winning the most votes. The photographer was Donna Craddock of Clickclick Bang photography and it was part of an awesome shoot we did based around the theme of a wasted Rock Star. I also recently won a chance to go to the Bizarre Ball in Manchester with the Ultra Vixens website. I would say I have faired pretty well... but honestly I couldn't have done it without all those lovely people putting up with my relentless reminders and voting for me.
MEL: What’s a typical day in the life of Collette Von Tora?
COLLETTE: Most days during the week I will be found on the internet, either checking out the various casting calls there are on the various websites I am registered with, I also do a hell of a lot of networking on the internet and make sure I am always discussing new and ongoing projects. I do a lot of research into what there is out there in terms of resources for alternative models, such as magazines, websites etc...
When I'm not networking, I research new themes and poses, working on creating new and interesting material. On a typical shoot day. I get up early and spend the morning getting my outfits and make-up ready and done for the day ahead. It is then normally a train journey to where ever the shoot is taking place and away I go.
MEL: What do you enjoy doing when you’re outside of your alter ego Collete Von Tora and is Collette your real name?
COLLETTE: Only my friends know my real name [smiles]. I am a massive anime/manga fan and Japanese horror movie fan so you will normally catch me watching lots of Japanese movies and scaring myself stupid at home or looking into the latest anime series to watch. I love going out and dancing the night away with my friends when I can, I am mainly into rock/industrial music, such as Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot, Foo Fighters, Devin Townsend plus many, many more.I love horror fiction books by the likes of Clive Barker, Koji Suzuki, Joe Hill and James Herbert. I also love Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams books, along with many more.When the weather is good I love to take my bicycle out with my camera and take lots of photos, or spend a long day hanging out with my lovely man.
MEL: Your look is somewhat androgynous, has this been a help or hindrance in your career as a model?
COLLETTE: As a mainstream model I feel this has been a slight hindrance. I am not really commercial material it would appear so a lot of main stream agencies have come back to say that my look is too editorial for them etc... I am also not the right build to be a mainstream fashion/catwalk model so again, you can see the problem.
In terms of alternative modelling, it has been the one thing that has given me the most success. I have a look that is striking and sometimes confusing and it works really well in the alternative community. When I cut my hair short at the start of this year, it suddenly became so much easier to get work.
MEL: I read you were influenced by the sexually charged ‘SEX’ Madonna book, who else has been highly influential and inspirational in your modelling styles?
COLLETTE: A number of people have influenced me over the years, the main people who come to mind include the awesome Dita Von Teese (That is partially where the 'Von' came from in my name, a little homage), I love her style and class and she was the person that made me want to get back into modelling after I had taken an extended break. Madonna has always been an influence in terms of style and attitude. As much as some people seem to love slamming her for what she does, she is a very successful business woman and is one of the most well known performers in the world.
Styles and themes: I adore the work of David Lachapelle. He is amazing, his originality and imagination knows no bounds. I think if there was one photographer I would strive to work with before I die... It would have to be him. I am also influenced by other greats, including Hunter S Thompson for his off the wall writing, Johnny Depp for his sheer versatility and style - I also have an obsession with Japanese Horror movies.
MEL: What has been the most challenging shoot to date?
COLLETTE: The most challenging shoot to date has to have been with Dan Archer. It was a shoot based on some of my ideas and Dan's. It started out as a fashion shoot, we then went onto making me into a pit fighter, so quick change of outfit and makeup, which I was doing, then another few quick changes. I was the one making this more challenging as this was the point that I was wanting - to really start pushing myself and my abilities.
The latter part of the shoot was the most challenging part. It was a water shoot with a difference. I wanted to be hit with water in the face and for the photos to be taken of various parts of the impact and before and after. Dan made every effort to make me as comfortable as possible, by setting up a heater for me and using warm water... but in between shots I was still shivering. The last part of the shoot was the infamous paint shoot where I was covered in children's poster paint. I had never done this before and it was quite daunting as when it was on me I could not see and it did go up my nose so it was all a little claustrophobic. But I did enjoy it at the end... Fun way to finish an intensive 7 hour photo shoot I feel. I would happily do it all over again.
MEL: Which has been the most enjoyable and fun shoot to date?
COLLETTE: I would have to say that it was the Japanese horror themed photo shoot that I did with my friend Ellorae De la Dean helping as model and photographer Black Orchard Photography. I was the Sadako, evil character as well as being a hapless victim for some of the shots and it was just so much fun to really stretch my acting abilities and be as scary as possible and also acting scared. The guys were great fun during the shoot and we all had such a blast. The images I got back were also very, very cool. Looking forward to working with Black Orchard again soon for more madness.
MEL: If you could dream up the ideal photo shoot with another person (as a couple - male or female) who would it be with and why (it could be anyone dead or alive)?
COLLETTE: I may get slammed for being a wee bit predictable from some people - but Johnny Depp [smiles] maybe a pirate theme. The man is GORGEOUS! I have seen a good number of photo shoots that he has done in the past and he poses really well, kinda comes with the territory of being a damn fine actor to boot! I also think that we would look good together [smiles].
MEL: Certainly a good choice Collette. What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in the alternative modelling business?
COLLETTE: Try to be yourself as much as possible, work hard, practice your poses and try not to limit yourself to one style of modelling. This industry is very competitive and in order to get anywhere, you are really going to need to work at it and never give up.
MEL: Your latest shoot was rather risky, (Revenge of the one eyed she devil shoot) how far would you go, and what might you turn down, indeed what have you turned down?
COLLETTE: Myself and the photographer were very careful not to go all out on the shoot you are referring to. It is implied that the character I am playing is of a military standing, however, we did not wish to upset people too much and make the images unusable due to their treatment of the subject matter. We wanted the viewer to use their imagination to fill in the spaces.
I regard the work I do as a type of art-form of expression. I do enjoy pushing the boundaries of acceptability. However, I would never go all out to upset people. I would never do a shoot that dealt with a theme that I do not feel happy with. One thing I would never do is anything pornographic. There are certain levels that models work to in modelling which can include the more pornographic end of the market. As much as some people have slammed me for doing that type of work (mainly through not really understanding the world of modelling)... which I have not... I would never consider it. I would also never work with themes that condone things such as violence against women etc. I am careful to select work that focuses more on art than anything else. It's just making sure that the viewer understands this that is the trick.
MEL: Modelling like any profession usually has a downside do you have any modelling stories to relay to our readers?
COLLETTE: There is a term used in the modelling industry - it is 'GWC' or 'Guy With Camera' this is someone who has gone and bought a camera as a way of getting to ogle ladies, basically. This is one of the reasons why any model setting about organising photo shoots themselves needs to be extra careful and get references from models that have worked with the photographer, check the photographer has a website with a lot of examples of their work and it all looks like it is their work.
Even the most experienced can sometimes get caught out and it's horrible when that happens, it did happen to me once, but I got off lightly. I saw a casting call on one of the modelling networking sites and applied for it. I went through the motions of asking for references, he didn't have a website and his work was not amazing, however I was prepared to assist as he was local and seemed ok - complacency on my part. I really should have read the warning signs as both reviews I got back mentioned that at the time he didn't have a professional standard camera during the shoots (this was a good few months prior to my arranging a shoot with the guy) due to his camera being broken. I thought this was a little odd, but was not thinking enough to stop there.
On the day of the shoot, I met him, he was giving me very odd vibes and fed me some line about his professional standard camera being broken and being away to be fixed, so he would be using his snapshot camera. It was raining heavily that day and he wanted to do a shoot in a disused building a good few miles away from my local town. As I was speaking to him on the way, his story as to why he was doing photography kept changing and he just did not seem right. He was nervous, talking a lot and generally giving off very odd vibes. We took some very quick shots at the building. There was no direction given and I was getting concerned about where this was going. We went to the next location and took some more shots, and he originally said that I would not be getting the images back from the shoot. I kept asking for them and later that evening, when I got home, he sent me them and they were appalling. Nothing about them said that this guy really knew anything about photography at all. The framing was off, there had been no editing, there were rain drops all over the lens, the flash washed everything out... Not good. I was left feeling rather uncomfortable and it knocked my confidence for a while. I was lucky and at the time made it very clear to the guy I was not comfortable with the situation - you don't want to piss me off [laughs] There are people out there that will go a lot further than that, so I repeat that girls should be really careful when booking shoots with people they have never met.
MEL: Finally, you’re not only a talented, gorgeous model but you’ve also done some work on a horror movie, would you care to tell us further about this?
COLLETTE: I worked on the set of Slasher House, an independent British horror movie, which myself and the production team are hoping will be released early part of next year. The bulk of the film was shot in the disused prison in the Isle of Man over three weeks. I was there for the full three weeks as part of the production team, so I did a lot of mucking in, so to speak. I helped the team get sets ready, cooking the team meals, acting as runner and generally trying to help where-ever possible. I was also there as a documentary photographer and interviewer on set, so my job also involved making sure that I was always ready to either take photos of or film key moments behind the scenes.
I do have a couple of small acting roles in the movie, which is awesome. I will not give anything away, apart from the fact that 'Slasher House' really does live up to it's name.
I plan to be spending next year focusing more on my acting work and hopefully you will be seeing a lot more movies with yours truly featured.
It’s been lovely working with you; we wish you a great success with your modelling future, not forgetting your budding acting career. Thank you for wearing one of our Mudkiss Tee's too [smiles]. Looking forward to doing another shoot with you in the New Year.
Interview by Mel 14/11/10
The Assassin photoshoot 14/11/10 by Mel
Check out the rest of the photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vivamel/sets/72157625384804406
Collette is represented by: