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Photo: by Ian Wilson

Every once in a while we encounter an interesting, diverse individual. This month I was inspired by a refreshingly stunning femme called Sara Bellisio, who goes under the modelling name of SarahTonin, and hailing from Manchester. Currently battling to win Bizzare Magazine cover girl competition. Not only has Sara an incredible interchangeable image she also has brains and the gift of creativity. She scooped the accolade of winning the Facebook Alternative Model competition in June 2009. Want to find out more...then read on!

MEL: Firstly thanks for the interview, always good to have someone fresh, individual and eccentric on Mudkiss. My first question has to be  what is it that appeals to you about being an alternative model?

SARAHTONIN: I guess it’s the chance to be myself and express myself that appeals to me the most. Having coloured hair, unusual clothes and make-up is considered to be an asset, rather than being discriminated against, like it is in most professions. I love thinking up my own ideas, themes, outfits and the like for shoots, and being involved with every aspect of the shoot. Its fun and a labour of love for me.

MEL: I noticed you have a degree in Environmental Science, how did you make the transition into being an alternative Model?

SARAHTONIN: Well, when I went to uni, I got much more into rock music, through friends and the uni RocSoc, and started mixing the hippy/retro clothes I wore with rocker clothes. I didn’t really know alternative modelling existed at the time, but a few years later, I discovered that there were various alternative clothes catalogues. I liked the idea of modelling for them, and actually being paid for looking the way I do, and it went from there. I enjoyed my degree, but I don’t want to be a scientist, and am now embracing my creative side with my modelling, designing greetings cards, and the like.

Photo: by Ian Wilson

MEL: How do you feel about the web site 'The Suicide Girls', would you consider joining their ranks?

SARAHTONIN: I’ve had a look at their site and it looks quite cool, but it said in the small print that you couldn’t model for any other websites if you model for them, so I don’t want to limit myself in that way. I wouldn’t rule out modelling for similar websites, though! [smiles]

MEL: Your style is very colourful and certainly eye-catching. How would you describe your own style and how do the images come together? Is it usually a combination of photographer and yourself or do you come up with the ideas?

SARAHTONIN: My own style is a mish-mash of all different things, like I said before, I like to mix hippy/retro clothes with rocker clothes, and anything else that takes my fancy really. I like my influences to be as varied as possible, so that I look different from most people, and so that I can’t easily be put into a box, as it were. I’m not a stereotype, so I refuse to dress like one. For photoshoots, the brainstorming process varies from shoot to shoot. Sometimes the photographer will come up with the initial theme or idea, and I will then do the rest of the creative work, putting an outfit and accessories together, doing the hair and make-up/face paint, to make sure it is coordinated with the outfit, finding props, making nipple covers, or anything else that needs doing. It can be time consuming, especially if I have to trawl the charity shops or Ebay for second-hand stuff, but its SO worth it, as I enjoy it, and enjoy the end result even more. Sometimes, I come up with the themes myself, as well. For example, I did a shoot on April 1st (April Fool’s Day), and because of the date, I decided to dress up as a 'fool' (Well, a clown).The shoot went really well, and it was fun to mess about and pretend to be a clown for a few hours. One of the photographers even asked if I had been to stage school, as he thought I was playing the role of a clown really well. I love all the creativity that goes into my shoots. 

MEL: You appear to do a variety of themes in your photoshoots, anything from fetish, to nudes, to clowns. What kind of shoots do you prefer the best?

SARAHTONIN: I love all of it, and am crap at making decisions like this. Ummmm….any shoot that requires me to think and be inventive is my favourite type of shoot.

Photo: by Paul Beard

I did a mermaid themed shoot last week, it wasn’t just a case of buying a mermaid costume from a fancy-dress shop. Oh no, I got a blue wig, and attached various blue and green hair extensions and hair-flowers to it (and a seashell on a string), which took FOREVER, as it all kept falling off! It also took me ages to choose the wig in the first place, as I wasn’t sure a wig would suit me. Luckily the one I picked looked really good. The make-up for the shoot also took a long time, as I wanted all the shades of blue and green to look perfect.I also made a necklace and a bra out of seashells and string, which took me a while. It’s nice to be photographed with, or wearing things I’ve made myself!

MEL: You’ve entered the Bizarre Magazine’s Modelling competition to be the cover girl of the month - how’s this coming along?

SARAHTONIN: Well, the competition for this month has closed now, I don’t think they announce the results for a couple of months. There’s no way of knowing how many votes you’ve got, unfortunately. I am sending them some more photos anyway, so that I can enter the competition again if I don’t win this month. I got a lot of support from friends and people on-line, so even if I don’t win, at least I know people like my photos.

MEL: Which magazines have you appeared in and which are you most proud of and why? If you could be the ‘face’ of any brand which would you like to be?

SARAHTONIN: I have appeared in Bizarre magazine twice now. Once for a nude shoot I did in the middle of Manchester City Centre (It was nippy). The other time was this month, as an entrant in their UltraVixens modelling competition [smiles]. I am most proud of being chosen as a Bizarre UltraVixen, as they must get hundreds of entrants each month, and I’m one of the eight people they chose to be in the magazine. [smiles] so I can’t be that bad then, can I?

Photo: by Gavin McQuarry

I’m also going to appear in a South African alternative culture webzine, called LT(LoveTernative) magazine( ) at the end of this month, which I’m dead proud of. It’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world wants to interview me and see my photos. I originally applied to model for the mag, thinking they were based in the U.K., but then found out they were actually in Cape Town. The distance didn’t seem to put them off though. I just sent them some photos instead of doing a shoot with them. Do take a look at their website at the end of the month, as my interview and photos will be up there.

I would love to be the face of Bizarre magazine, as its kind of a 'flagship' magazine for alternative culture, if that’s the right word? Probably not!

I would also love to model Dr Marten boots, as I’ve worn them since I was a kid, and part of my signature style is wearing odd DMs. I want to buy more of them in different colours, so I can mix and match them even more, but I shall have to wait til I have the money. Unless DMs want to give me a free pair….I’ve been wearing the same odd purple and green ones for years, and to be honest, they’re getting a bit threadbare, so some new ones would be most welcome [smiles].

I’d also like to be the face of Directions hair dye. I dye my hair rainbow, using 9 different shades of the stuff, so I think I’d make a great model and representative for their product. I wouldn’t even need to change my hair or wear a wig for the photo shoot. I would just turn up with my hair looking how it does everyday [laughs]. One day, I would also love to model my own range of alternative clothing and accessories! That would be a dream, come true. [smiles].

MEL: I’m guessing you’re pretty influenced by music - but just what kind of music are you currently listening to, where would you say you obtain your stimulus from?

SARAHTONIN: Hmmmmmm…I listen to all sorts, to be honest. My first love has to be punk, though. I love the energy and the passion associated with it, and the songs often have meaningful, clever lyrics, which adds depth to it. I got into punk, and rock music in general by listening to The Offspring. Although they are more mainstream than they used to be, I still like them. A song called 'Smash', from their album of the same name sums up my attitude to life perfectly! [big smiles].

I’m more into other bands these days, like Bad Religion - their songs really make you think, and I’ve learnt some new words by reading their lyrics. I like the fact that they don’t dumb themselves down. It’s good when a song teaches you something you didn’t know before, or makes you think differently about something.

MEL: From your facebook you mention you enjoy singing and writing lyrics, have you ever been in a band or performed live?

SARAHTONIN: Well, I was in a band for a couple of weeks in my second year of uni, if that counts. They weren’t very clear about their influences though, and eventually said I was “too punk” for them, as they wanted to make indie and folk music. (If they had been clear about that before, I wouldn’t have auditioned, but oh, well…). I also sung live at a Rocky Horror-themed night for Halloween at the Student’s Union, when I was at uni. It was SO much fun, the band did about a 45-minute set of covers, consisting of various songs, including 'Time Warp', from the Rocky horror film, 'Buddy Holly', by Weezer, and 'Time of Your Life', by Greenday, amongst others.

I enjoyed the challenge of doing so many different songs, as it helped me expand my vocal range. 'Buddy Holly' has some quite high parts in it, and I’m an alto, so I was dead chuffed that I sang the song so well. I was buzzing for hours after that gig, and really want to join a band in Manchester. I’ve been writing lyrics for about ten years now, so it would be nice to be able to use them.

Photo: by Morbidly Inclined Photography

MEL: You also enjoy pole dancing & burlesque is this something you do often, we need to know [smiles]

SARAHTONIN: Not at the moment, as I’m concentrating on my modelling, but I’d like to be doing it more. I would need more lessons before I actually performed as a pole dancer. But I’ve had burlesque dancing classes with a dancer/dance teacher called Bella Besame (She is ace, and runs burlesque classes in the North West). I would love to give burlesque performing a go, providing I can make the time to create and practise the dance routines [laughs]. It’s more time consuming than it looks, you know.

MEL: Ok time to spill the beans and tell our readers what your secret vice is and also your beauty secret? 

SARAHTONIN: Definitely chocolate - but that isn’t really a secret. Everyone knows I’m a bit of a piglet [smiles]. My beauty secret is having a straight edge lifestyle. It makes for healthier, more hydrated skin, and more money to spend on beauty products and nice make-up, as I ain’t spending it on booze.

MEL: If you could be a character in any movie who would you be and why? Also if they made a movie about your life who would you chose to play you?

SARAHTONIN: Probably Jessica Rabbit, as it would be nice to have bigger boobs. [smiles]. I don’t know who I would choose to play me, maybe somebody much better looking than me, so that people who didn’t know me, and had only seen the movie would think I was better-looking than I actually was. I dunno - it would be a case of pick from along list of pretty actresses, who look nothing like me.

MEL: Just as an aside I’d be curious to know what your favourite coffee table book is?

SARAHTONIN: This is going to sound really bad, but I don’t really read that much - not even coffee table books. I get too carried away, and end up reading for hours, and I don’t have hours to spare. I guess the coffee table books I would choose to read if I had time would be art books-I love surrealist art, like M.C. Escher.

MEL: If you could save the world what would you attempt to try first? And what causes are closest to your heart?

SARAHTONIN: The environment is the most important thing to me. I have been a member of Friends of The Earth for 13 years now. I did my degree in Environmental Science, as I wanted to be an environmental campaigner. I don’t want to do that as a career anymore, as my heart is in doing creative things now, but I still feel really strongly about environmental issues. If we don’t preserve our land and its organisms and ecosystems, what chance have we got? We need to be proactive about issues such as climate change, as not doing so will be detrimental to everyone in the long-term.

 Photo: by Paul Beard

MEL: If you could live purely in Sara’s world, describe what your "dream world” would be.

SARAHTONIN: Multicoloured - The future’s bright-the future’s rainbow! [smiles]. Maybe it would be like 'The Chocolate Room' in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, a room that was entirely edible. In my world, there would be savoury snacks too, so it would just be called 'The All-You-Can-Eat Room'. And there would be comfy, marsh-mallow-esque chairs everywhere - even in the street, so you could sit down and chill, wherever you wanted. And it would never be cold. I hate being cold. I could ramble on about this for hours…

MEL: We love your rambling Sara, it sounds a yummy world. In one word how would you describe yourself to Mudkiss readers.

SARAHTONIN: Only one word? Can it be hyphenated? Slightly-pudgy-with-small-tits? Hmmmmmm….. Unique (just like everyone else)? Rainbow-sparkly-random-creative-person! There we go. [smiles]

MEL: Thanks for an enjoyable trip into your world, I look forward to our photoshoot.

Interview by Mel 05/05/10
Photo credits: Ian Wilson, Morbidly Inclined Photography, Gavin McQuarry, Paul Beard.

Model Mayhem –
Pure Storm -
Bizarre Magazine -

If you are interested in booking SarahTonin for a shoot,please use the links above.