Interview with Alt Model/Actress SarahTonin

SarahTonin’s one of those wildly fantastic human beings who go beyond the term ‘colourful’.

Psychedelic, kaleidoscopic, rainbow coloured creature of fun, would be the closest bunch of words you could use to describe Sarah. And even then they would seem flat as a pancake and completely redundant in that context. It’s probably best that you see and read and experience all the colours for yourselves.

Based in Manchester, UK, SarahTonin has modelled for numerous alternative clothing companies including Wonderland Awaits and Sisters of Moon Designs. Somehow with all that fun going on she’s found time to work as an actress for an upcoming series on Channel 4, and a handful of independent movies.

As you can imagine, she’s also a fiend when it comes to clothing and makeup.

Ladies and Gentlemen, SarahTonin…

How did you get started in modelling?

I’d wanted to get into alternative modelling for a while, and I finally took the plunge back in 2008 when a magazine contacted me on MySpace and asked if I wanted to model nude for them. Initially I was wary, as I wasn’t interested in doing adult work and I thought they were a porn magazine! However, when I researched them, I found that they were a local (Manchester-based) arts and culture magazine, and that they wanted people to pose nude in the street infront of well-known Manchester landmarks as a publicity stunt to promote the magazine. It was supposed to be a big group shoot, but everyone chickened out, apart from me and a guy called Matt. The upshot of this was that Matt and I did a nude shoot in the middle of Manchester on a FREEZING cold October afternoon, in front of the Town Hall, the Urbis and the Printworks, with loads of members of the public watching and taking photos on their phones! (Somehow, we managed not to get arrested!)

We got some great photos and they were even featured in Bizarre Magazine. After that shoot, I never looked back – the shoot expanded my comfort zone so much! I don’t find many shoot concepts scary now, and don’t mind being cold or uncomfortable if it results in some great photos. After that shoot, I networked online to find photographers to work with, and did more shoots. I also did Bella Besame’s “Beginner’s Guide To Burlesque” course, which was so much fun! I didn’t pursue burlesque, but met some awesome people – some of whom were models, who put me in touch with local modelling groups and photographers, who helped me build my portfolio further, and it went from there.

You look like a one woman rave (compliment by the way) and your style seems to be pretty much ‘SarahTonin’. How would you sum up your thought process when putting together your look? Is it planned out, or thrown together and impulsive?

Thanks very much! I take pride in having my own style. 🙂 To be honest, it varies from day to day. For photoshoots I plan everything the night before – those odd stockings and heels are actually carefully chosen and packed in a suitcase beforehand! My “daytime” outfits are just thrown on though. I’ve been wearing odd socks and mismatched clothes for years so its kind of second nature now. I think I’ve got an eye for this sort of thing as my outfits always end up being colour-coordinated! It’s lucky really as I don’t usually have a lot of time to choose what to wear before I go out. I don’t actually store my socks or stockings in matching pairs!

How much fun is it to get dressed up and out in front of a photographer/film crew? And what has been your best shoot?

Initially, it’s stressful, as I’m worrying about whether I look OK, but once we actually start shooting, it’s amazing! It’s hard to pick one shoot that stands out, as I’ve had so many awesome ones, but a bodypaint shoot I did last year with Rowena Fiaba Photography and Liz Barnes was amazing!I was painted as a sort-of demon,with a pair of horns one of my sponsors Maskerade made me, and I was being painted in the window of a hairdresser’s shop, to help get the shop some publicity. It worked! It was a lot of fun scaring passersby by standing still and suddenly moving! And lots of cars beeped their horns! I’m an exhibitionist – can you tell?!

You’re a sponsored model for a handful of agencies. How do you manage to juggle shoots for all of them?

I’m sponsored by several companies and I feel really lucky and privileged to be working with them. It means a lot that they want to see photos of me modelling their products.:) I don’t find it challenging to juggle the shoots as the companies allow plenty of time after they have sent out items for me to model and for me to send photos back to them. Also, I can model products from more than one company at a single shoot and often these are shoots I am planning on doing anyway, regardless of my sponsorships. For example, I did a Valentine’s Day shoot in February and modelled some jewellery from Amehsaurus Handmade Crafts And Accessories  and a black and red rose headdress from Wonderland Awaits. If I do a shoot especially for the purpose of modelling items from my sponsors, I enjoy coming up with a theme and planning the shoot anyway, so its all good.

You are also very much involved in the make up side of modelling. How important are make up skills to a model? (sounds like a dumb question, but just generally interested)

I guess it depends what kind of model you are. Fashion and commercial models usually have makeup artists to do their makeup for them, so makeup skills are less important to them. As an alternative model, I rarely have a makeup artist to do my makeup. Alternative modelling is a less lucrative industry than mainstream modelling. There is less money to throw around so my makeup skills have been invaluable. I’m so glad I did a makeup course! Plus, I actually prefer to do my own makeup as it’s fun to be creative and use my face as a canvas!:)

Photo by Simon Smith Photography
Photo by Simon Smith Photography

What has been your most crazy, mad and out there clothing/character/hair concoction?

I have to pick one?!! Aargh Um……A colourful gore photo shoot I did would definitely be a contender! The photographer set up his studio with some awesome props and fake blood, including a fake severed head, and I went mental with it basically! However, instead of wearing a stereotypical “horror” outfit, I wore my big cyberfalls,colourful makeup (with a bit of fake blood mixed in), big platform boots, a strappy top that said “All this and brains, too” on it, and a skirt with patches all over it that I made myself. Somehow it worked!

How many of your costumes have you designed yourself?

I STYLE most of my photoshoots, if that’s what you mean? I like to put outfits together and mix and match different styles, colours, textures ,and the like. I designed and made a skirt that I’ve worn for a few shoots though (the one with the patches that I mentioned earlier). Oh, and I made a tie-dyed wrap-around skirt for GCSE Textiles at school, but my bag got stolen with the skirt in it, so I don’t have that skirt anymore! I did really well in Textiles, and I’d love to pursue it further and do a fashion design course, but I don’t have the time or money to do that at the moment. One day…

You’ve acted in some Film and TV projects recently. Tell us about that and give us an idea of what you have coming up soon in that department.

Well, I was an extra in episodes 7 and 8 of “Cucumber“, which is a comedy-drama series about gay people in Manchester. Look out for the swishing rainbow hair in the party scene! It was so much fun to film, and I met some awesome people like actress/screenwriter Charlie Covill and comedienne Bethany Black. I hope they make a series 2!

I was in another programme for Channel 4 that’s out this Autumn as well. (I’m not allowed to say which programme,due to a confidentiality agreement!) I played a Pagan girl at a festival with a flower wreath on my head and spent a lot of time dancing on top of a log, with no top on! I also got to improvise on camera with some of the main actors, but I don’t know which parts will be used yet. It was a lot of fun anyway !I’ll post details of the programme on my social media profiles as soon as I’m allowed to!

I was also an extra with a small speaking role in an independent film called “Candyfloss“. The part I’m in was filmed back in Autumn 2013 and the film is still being finished as the film makers are making it on an unpaid basis in between their paid work. Hopefully, it’ll be released this Autumn. Fingers crossed! Again, I’ll post an update as soon as the film is out.

I’ve recently been cast in a film called “Tearful Surrender”, as a “Dream Witch”- it’s a horror/fantasy/sci-fi film and my character is a magical, feral, ghost-like creature. We’re filming it later this year/early next year.

I’ve also been cast in a series of short films about drugs called “Eight“. They haven’t told me which character I’m playing yet so I’m excited to find out! We’re filming it this year and I can’t wait to get started! Bring it on! 🙂

How different is it modelling with a photographer to working as an actress? How does the discipline (or even lack of) vary?

I find both jobs demanding, but totally worth it! I guess with acting/TV work you have to work for longer periods at a time, whereas a photoshoot may only be a couple of hours long. Also, with acting, you are working with loads more people, so you can have more of a laugh and chat between takes. Acting takes more discipline though, as you have lines to learn, and more directions to follow. I don’t mind though, as I enjoy it.:)

What excites you in life and what makes you mad?

Colours! All the colours! *Bounces slightly* 😀 I enjoy anything where I get to be creative, and find things that make a difference in the world exciting. For example, I’m passionate about environmental issues, so I love the work that organizations like Friends Of The Earth and Greenpeace do. 🙂 People who judge other people they don’t even know, or who are discriminating, small-minded or generally nasty make me mad. Can’t we all get along?! Oh, and corporate greed. Why do people who are filthy rich need MORE money?!!

What have you got coming up in the future?

I’m planning various shoots, including a candy-themed shoot with some of my sponsors Wonderland Awaits, who make awesome clothes, accessories, headdresses, and the like. Sisters Of The Moon Designs, who make tutu-style skirts, and Sugared Bones Accessories. It should be epic! Plus, there’s the acting work I mentioned,earlier. 🙂 *Rubs hands with glee*

Where can people find your work?

You can see my work and follow what I’m up to in the following places: (NSFW. This is the first place I upload my topless and nude work to.) (VIP members can view full topless and nude photosets.)

You can also vote for Sarah in the Simon O. Latex competition, the winner of which gets a custom-made-to-measure latex outfit.


Photo Gallery

Image Credits

1. Photo: Blaze Photography
2. Photo: Morbidly Inclined Photography
3. Photo: Jeremy Sheard Photography
4. Photo: Morbidly Inclined Photography
5. Photo: Copyright EMP Photographik
6. MUA,Wig-Styling and Styling: SarahTonin
Wig: Freak Boutique
Latex dress: Black Sheep Latex
Charm bracelet: The Red Queen Boutique
Photo: Rob Vanner Photography
7. As photo 6, but with jewellery by The Red Queen Boutique .
8. Photo: Focused Photography
9. Bodypaint,hair and latex nipple and groin covers: Kaymar Body Art
Photo: Simon Smith Photography
10. As photo 9.
11. Photo: Oaktree Photography
12. Collar and cuffs: Belladonna’s Boudoir
Latex dress: Hellcat Latex
Photo: Black Cat Photography 
Styling: SarahTonin & Black Cat Photography
13. As photo 12,but without the latex dress.
14. As photo 12,but without the latex dress
Bracelets and short, pink necklace: Nightmare Jewellery

1 comment

  1. Sarah is wonderfully unique, every photoset is a visual stunner. And the colors! Did that get mentioned? Oh yeah, it did!! I hope her acting takes off enough that we get see her work over in the U.S. Thanks for the interview!


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