Conducting interviews for this blog is always a pleasurable experience. I get to talk with some of the nicest, most intelligent and talented women around, sharing their terrific work with my audience. This next interview is no exception to that, in fact I would go further and say this next interview was a dream come true for me. I say dream come true firstly because I got to work with the wonderful Becki, aka Whiplash; an alternative model whose images I have admired for a while now and whose work in the latex and fetish field is some of the most enjoyable around. I describe it as a “dream” also because of the personality and enthusiasm of my interviewee; she made the entire process a pure joy, with constructive and inspired contributions that were out of this world. The wonder of Whiplash is not only held within her modelling portfolio however, this lady is a powerhouse of ambition and creativity, with interests in producing her own jewellery and music journalism occupying her time. But my first introduction to this remarkable woman was via her photographs, where I beheld a truly unique beauty, with the talent and knowhow to best showcase a distinctive look and produce truly more-ish visuals. Getting to talk and work with such a model has been a privilege, and I could have written page after page with her incredible contributions. I hope this two-part special will suffice.
Q: Greetings Becki, aka Whiplash, welcome to my blog. Whiplash is a fantastic model moniker, how did you come up with/decide on it?
Becki: Hi there, thanks for having me – it’s an honour! It’s a strange story really – it started out in school when I was about 15 and I used to really be into art and had decided I wanted to be a tattoo artist, so I started “tattooing” some of my friends with a pen during class. It soon spread to the point where a lot of kids wanted me to “tattoo” them, until the school got wind of it and told me I wasn’t allowed to do it anymore! Then one of my mates suggested that I should have a tattoo artist name and started calling me Lady Whiplash. So when I got into modelling that was the first name that came to mind, and years later I dropped the Lady, and here we are!
Q: There are so many areas of interest when talking about you and your work Becki, but can we start with your magnificent modelling. Can I ask where it all began for you in the modelling industry? Where did you get your start in the business, and what do you remember from those first few shoots?
Becki: I honestly never thought I’d get into modelling, but somehow I did and am still clinging on – even though there are days where I want to give up because it’s so stressful! I think I started about 4 or 5 years ago because I had a friend who was an alt model and she suggested I give it a go, and after a few shoots I soon found that I actually really liked it. But I think my first proper shoot was a disaster because when I was first getting into it I was rather naïve, I only managed to get about 3 photos back from the photographer after waiting for 3 months! Obviously since then I’ve learned how to seek out much more professional people, and I don’t stand for as much rubbish as I used to! It’s so weird to look back on where I began because that was so many years ago and I’ve learned so much since then.
Q: With modelling being such a vast industry, did you have a specific area you wanted to work within? Were you an alternative model from day one, or were the early days spent finding your niche?
Becki: Without a doubt I knew that I wanted to be an alt model. I would’ve never fit in with commercial models, and I didn’t want to. It’s nothing against them, but there is so much more that is expected of you in that part of the industry. As tough as it is to be an alt model, you still have so much more freedom and artistic creativity that you’re encouraged to express and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Although, I’d definitely say that I did spend some time finding an alt niche – in the early days I did a lot of shoots in my day-to-day clothes or big dresses and corsets, and it was really only last August that I started doing more latex and fetish shoots, and I honestly haven’t looked back since!
Q: Did you have any preconceptions about what being a model was all about, and what the job would entail? Or were you jumping in headfirst? If you did have any preconceptions starting out, how have they changed later on in your career, or have they changed?
B: When I first started out I was just doing it for the fun really – I NEVER expected anyone to pay me for what I was doing and I NEVER thought I’d get published. I was really just doing it for me to be honest, because I loved the fun of being someone else for a few hours – it felt almost like playing an adult version of dress up! I would never have thought that I could be a legitimate model, as I was never very confident when I was younger and (cliché alert) I was really chubby and quite ugly. And I mean it, trust me - braces, glasses and hair bordering on an afro are not a good combination when you’re 13! I had really bad self confidence issues, a lot of which I still carry around today, so if someone had told me back then that I’d be modelling one day I would’ve laughed in their face. I think another thing that hindered me when I started out was that I barely knew any other models or designers and I hate to think about how much money I spent on getting to shoots and paying for outfits haha! But in the past year or so I’ve become far more focused and far more serious about it – don’t get me wrong, it’s still so much fun but now I actually want to get somewhere and have my work recognised. I just wish I could go back all those years and tell 17 year old Becki to pull her bloody socks up – could’ve saved myself a lot of time!
Q: Modelling to me is always underestimated. It’s a job that involves far more than just looking good. What drew you to the work in the first place, and how did you learn your craft starting out? Do you practice posing and expression in your own time, or is all your learning done on the job, from shoot to shoot?
B: It’s very weird because it’s not something that I’ll practice really – I think it’s just something that I’ve picked up. The best way to do it is when you get photos back from a shoot look at all the horrible ones, take note of what doesn’t work and figure out different angles or facial expressions that do so you don’t make the same mistakes. It’s all about angles and lighting and if you can work within that, you start to get better. I still think that I have a lot left to learn and I doubt I’ll ever be satisfied with every shoot I do, but that’s just the process of learning. And I’m glad that you see how underestimated the profession is! Everyone seems to think you just stand around twiddling your hair and “looking cute”, but for some reason after every shoot I’m SHATTERED! And for any model who isn’t shattered after a shoot – you’re not working hard enough!
Q: You have a very unique look if I may say Becki. I always find myself lost in your pictures. You have such intense eyes, sometimes accentuated with eye make-up, but always naturally interesting and beautiful. Are your eyes a weapon you consciously use when engaging with a camera? Are you picturing connecting with the photograph’s audience when you shoot looking into camera? Or is it the photographer you look to, or some other inspiration in your own process/mind?
B: Aww, shucks! That’s very sweet of you! Out of all my features I do like my eyes best, but don’t be fooled – they can be a pain in the arse! My eyes are quite deep set so from the wrong angle or with the wrong makeup they can look really narrow, or sometimes slightly cross eyed hahaha. I have a bit of an odd heritage which is probably what I can thank for my eyes – my dad is Dutch and my mum is from the Caribbean, so I think that’s why my features aren’t what you’d see conventionally in an alt model. A lot of alt models (at least when I started out) have pale skin and light eyes, and I have darker skin and dark eyes, which is fine for me because I like standing out. I’ve always been proud of my background and wouldn’t ever change it – it just means that I have to work a little harder sometimes. I don’t normally think about what I’m doing when I use my eyes, and when I look into a lens I’m not thinking about anyone in particular or about the photographer. But I do think a big part of getting inspiration from a shoot is feeding off the energy of the photographer. Some of the best shoots I’ve had have been when I’ve worked with a photographer who knows how to bring out a side of me (or even an alter ego) that I don’t normally have. One photographer I’ve worked with a few times is Biskography, I have no idea how he does it, but he is the one photographer who somehow captures something in my eyes where they look like they’re lit up. And it’s definitely nothing to do with me because I’m not adjusting the light or focus - he just has an amazing way of lighting up the whites of my eyes, and I think it looks ace!
Q: You are one of my latex icons, and model the material superbly. I have a real soft spot for work with latex and love to see it shown off well. What is it about the material that has drawn you to work with it so often? What do you think it does to those who wear it?
B: Oh wow, that’s one of the loveliest things anyone has ever said about my modelling – that has just made my week!! I absolutely love latex – I’m so glad that I started modelling it because, as much as it can be difficult to put on, it’s such a versatile material. There’s something very sexy about the way it looks when it’s on and I think that’s what draws people to it. It used to be a form of clothing that was once considered sleazy, but is now gathering more of a following and becoming more sleek and sophisticated, and I know of more and more people who are buying latex garments and wearing them out to club nights/fetish nights etc. It sounds strange, but when I’m wearing it at a shoot it really does make me feel like a different person, and it can look amazing with the right creative team. Saying that, it does mean that I have to be a bit more careful with my body and it really keeps me on my toes when it comes to diet and exercise. As I said before, I come from a Caribbean background, and I was raised in a family where food was a big deal, so I love to eat! But now instead of just eating everything in sight and then having seconds (which I still do occasionally!) I just make sure I eat healthy and keep fit, because latex is unforgiving!
Q: I always ask this when talking about latex. Do you have any tips about working with the stuff? How to get it on seems to be a question that many people struggle with. Could you give us some guidance based on your own experience please Becki?
B: My top tip would be: Use lots of talcum powder! What I normally do is make sure I get a lot of the powder on the inside of the dress/skirt/etc, get my legs in and then slowly roll it up until it’s on. Don’t pull too hard or be too hasty as latex can be very temperamental, so patience is definitely handy when working with it. Also, I’m an excessive nail biter (literally) and have been biting my nails since I can remember – which is surprisingly helpful when it comes to modelling latex. I’d hate to have to worry about getting my nails caught on the material, and hear that awful ripping sound!
Q: You’ve worked with some impressive photographers already in your career, I especially love your sets with Terry Mendoza, Adam Saunders and James Ellis. What do you look for in a photographer ideally? Do you like to be directed, or left to be more improvisational on a shoot?
B: Yeah, I’ve been really lucky that such amazing people have wanted to work with me! It was great working with all of them as they know exactly what they’re doing and are really friendly, which is why they’ve made such a name for themselves. Now when I look for photographers I generally look for people who I know are going to be reliable, professional and yet are going to be a laugh to work with. There’s nothing worse than showing up to a shoot and finding out that you have no chemistry with the photographer or that they’re going to be in a sulk the entire day. Lately I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some really lovely, talented people and have gotten on with all the photographers – which is really easy to do, so long as you’re friendly and outgoing, and you show up on time and work hard. The alt modelling industry is such a small world that if you piss everyone off that you work with, word spreads fast and you soon find that no one will want to work with you – so I always show up to a shoot with a positive attitude and so far I haven’t had any negative feedback!
To be continued…
Photos used were provided by Becki, and are the products of the following talents in order of appearance:
1st Immortaleye Photograph
2nd Chris Ruggio Photographer, Jean Fernand MUA
4th Laura Hince Photographer, Pandora Deluxe latex