Photos by Oscar Ouk.

meet new york's street cast model agency

See Ricky Michiel's diverse crew wearing Gauntlett Cheng.

by Nicole DeMarco
|
Feb 21 2019, 7:24pm

Photos by Oscar Ouk.

“After street casting for so long, I found that there were so many underrepresented kids looking to get into the industry that don’t know how," Ricky Michiels says. As a former photo editor for V Magazine and freelance casting director, Ricky's experiences in production and booking lead him to create his own eponymous agency last year, with the help of his assistant Joe Viola, in order to help the talented models he'd scouted enter the fashion world. And, get paid the rates they deserve for their work.

Ricky's models are a little unconventional in that most of them have tattoos, face piercings, or brightly colored hair. While these physical characteristics aren't uncommon on the streets of New York, or elsewhere, it's only recently that fashion has begun to embrace alternative beauty standards and celebrate diverse looks. "I think that we’re in such an exciting time right now in fashion where brands are shifting to be more diverse in their casting and their campaigns, and they’re casting a wider net for people from all over the world — they’re younger, curved, tattooed, trans — the list goes on," Ricky explains. “Uniqueness is definitely at the top of my list. I don’t really care about size, height, or age. I’m looking for not only unique features, but personality in general. I'm looking for talent that’s going to represent something bigger than themselves.”

Oscar Ouk photographed the faces of Ricky Michiels, in Gauntlett Cheng, while i-D asked the models about their ideas on alternative beauty and what's inspiring them at the moment. Meet them all below.

Tatiana
Tatiana. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Tatiana, 20

Where are you from?
I’m from Queens, NY.

What does alternative beauty mean to you?
To me, alternative beauty means to be outside of the box with your look because it’s YOUR LOOK. The industry is so caught up on just having this standard of basic beauty... same look... certain size and it’s whack.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
I would change the way plus size girls are looked upon. I would have every plus girl included in every runway because let’s be real.... the industry is opening up to us plus girls... having us involved in stuff now. Took long enough.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
My personal goal for 2019 is to eat healthier, work out more, and to never overthink things or situations.

Brianna
Brianna. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Brianna, 21

Where are you from?
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Alternative beauty means no standards or boundaries. Society tries to tell and show us how to be beautiful or what in the world is beautiful. When you think outside of that box you have and are alternative beauty.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
I would change the way agencies view us models. We work ourselves and try to reach their standard of beauty/size just to be accepted into their team. It’s extremely stressful for people like me that have tattoos, piercings, not a size 0, or over 5’10. This shouldn’t determine if we’re good enough to be up there with other agency models. Agencies need to think outside of the box rather than uniform. We are not just a look, we have personalities and stories. But I’m sure if they're trying to be “edgy,” they’d welcome us.

What's inspiring you right now?
Happiness and seeing how I can push myself is the most inspiring thing to me. Challenging yourself and setting goals that you never would’ve thought you could do is the best thing ever, cause when you actually do it the feeling you get from that is indescribable.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
To get healthy, be more social, and learn how to express my feelings better for myself and the people around me. I also want to make a change in the world regarding confidence and building yourself up when you are low. A few professional goals are to get signed to an amazing agency, travel way more, and land a magazine cover.

Nicholas
Nicholas. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Nicholas, 23

Where are you from?
New York City!

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
“Alternative Beauty” to me means beauty that goes against societal constructs. Its authentic and cannot be replicated.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
I would love if people were more open-minded. Sometimes the modeling industry can look as if people are following a formula instead of creating new paths.

What's inspiring you right now?
I am inspired by my friends. They are creating opportunities for themselves and crafting paths for others to follow. They keep me motivated.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
To be on a billboard! I want to be in a campaign or ad for a well known designer. That is the goal I would like to complete this year.

Jake
Jake. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Jake, 22

Where are you from?
Stafford, Virginia.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Beauty that’s unique and represents real people and the real world.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?

More caring people.

What's inspiring you right now?

Writing, experiencing new things, genuine conversation, and the Pixies.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
Create a collection of poetry, make clothes, and progress in modeling.

Magnus
Magnus. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Magnus, 23

Where are you from?
Skive, Denmark.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
All that is not sold to us / does not fit the mold of what society wants us to look like.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
More money for models.

What's inspiring you right now?
Sydney Shen, Jesse Darling, Kevin Beasley, Energy Drinks, Earth Rituals, Keith J Varadi, Poststructuralism...

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
Do more/ Work more.

Dylan
Dylan. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Dylan, 22

Where are you from?
A small town called Petaluma. It's in California (sort of North Bay).

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Like beauty, nonconformity is in the eye of the beholder. Conventions are fluid and based in your community's standards so there’s no one way of going against them. Whether you feel you're alternative or not, all that matters is that you don’t take anyone’s shit and just keep shining.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
I love that more brands are pushing for diversity, however I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. When a set's talent is diverse and the rest of the production team feel homogenous, it sometimes feels like the brand is transparently tokenizing my identity. I want to see more diverse photographers, agents, editors, designers, etc. Not just more diverse models.

What's inspiring you right now?
I watched the No Sesso show and was so moved by the whole thing, start to finish.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
I’m definitely trying to do more international work this year, so traveling is my goal both professionally and personally.

Jamont
Jamont. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Jamont, 19

Where are you from?
Born and raised in New York.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
A form of beauty that is rare, under-appreciated, or not understood.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
Diversity shouldn't be a trend or just placing "some" minorities just to say it's diversity. Inclusion should be shown thoroughly because it authentically reflects the world we live in.

What's inspiring you right now?
Acid House 1989 Illegal Raves, different depictions of black/brown identities across the world, and the original raw culture that I was raised in.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
To physically have my degree in my hand (completed it in December). Working with bigger brands and agency to expand my public outreach and normalizing success of young minorities who are unaware of their potential.

Brooks
Brooks. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Brooks, 22

Where are you from?
Albany, New York.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Embracing every part of yourself, especially the things you hate (or have been told to hate).

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
I'd love to see casting directors take actual risks in order to push toward a more inclusive industry. Regardless of how many things have changed in recent years, old standards still dictate much more than anyone would like to admit.

What's inspiring you right now?
My friends! Watching them push boundaries of beauty in each of their own ways drives me, a few being @felixvelvet, @cupidsvault, @pyromuse, @genesisfawn, @jazminbean, and @salvjiia.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
I've been working on an album for around four years now that I'd like to release properly! I'd also love to continue with acting after doing a few roles last year. In regards to modeling, working with Nick Knight and Rick Owens would be a dream.

Zer
Zer. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Zer, 19

Where are you from?
Brooklyn, NY.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Not conforming to society’s norms. Being yourself and taking pride in who you are.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
Giving equal opportunities to EVERYONE.

What's inspiring you right now?
POC walking in shows overseas and being the spotlight of the show.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
One of my personal goals is to inspire people and give POC a seat at the table. Everybody’s gotta eat. I hope to gain a larger platform to reach people and guide them in the right direction. One of my professional goals is to get flown out overseas for shoots and shows, and of course make bank while doing so.

Christina
Christina. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Christina, 23

Where are you from?
Bergen County, New Jersey.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Alternative beauty is extremely important, especially in today’s society. Everyone is constantly bombarded with images that contain unrealistic beauty standards. Alternative beauty highlights a different perspective, emphasizing that being “different” only makes you unique and beautiful.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about the modeling industry, it would be to be more accepting of natural beauty.

What's inspiring you right now?
I’ve always had a passion for the arts, entertainment, and fashion. The more I am exposed to all of the beautifully talented people involved in the industry, the more inspired I get.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
My goal for 2019 is to establish myself and my career.

Mylean
Mylean. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Mylean, 19

Where are you from?
Las Vegas, NV.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Beauty is intention, genuineness, and kindness. I could care less about everything else.

What's inspiring you right now?
Positive Nihilism is the reason I get out of bed every day. You can do anything you want, because nothing matters. Just don't hurt people.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
Remember that tomorrow's never promised and that years pass like leaves fall off a tree. I'm going to call my grandmother tomorrow.

Dien
Dien. Photo by Oscar Ouk.

Dien, 20

Where are you from?
Born in Korea, grew up on Long Island.

What does "alternative beauty" mean to you?
Not the typical beauty standards. Beauty in being and looking different.

If you could change one thing about the modeling industry, what would it be?
It’d be to be to make it more inclusive not just do it because it's trendy and makes brands look good for PR, but as a reminder that there's not one type of beauty.

What's inspiring you right now?
Everyone around me inspires me. Everything I see, everything I hear.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for 2019?
One would be to see my face on a huge billboard. Also, start working in Europe and Asia. Dream and goal to be signed in Korea.

Credits

Photographer: Oscar Ouk
Stylist: Kendal Steensen
Hair: Sean Bennett
Makeup; Michaela Bosch
All clothing: Gauntlett Cheng