America’s Next Top Model Agency: Ugly NY

Via my ever-interesting MSN feed on, I stumbled across this article today about a model agency called “Ugly New York:”

Ugly New York’s mission: To find the look of someone who is anything but outright pretty. There are safe words to describe the look; it could be “real” or “eccentric.” But certainly, “tall,” “short,” “fat,” “thin” and, well, “ugly” also fit.

The model agency, who started in 1969 in England, is looking for people who are interesting-looking. People who represent reality. The agency represents a wide variety of people, regardless of shape, size, height, color, or age. And each individual has their own type of beauty.

Now, of course, they don’t represent just anyone. But the owner, Simon Rodgers, had trouble describing what he was looking for:

“The truth is, it’s just a gut feeling,” Rogers told Roker. “Some people just have that something special. For me, the basic thing is they’ve got to be happy with themselves.

“They have to be content with who they are because after all, they’re going to be out there in front of the camera.”

I have to admit, I was delighted by finding this article. Ugly NY seems to be really, really, correct in their whole enterprise. They’re taking people that most of the media and most of the world would say, “You’re ugly!” and showing that even normal people, women, men, young, old, etc., can be beautiful. They make me gleeful!

What did not, however, make me gleeful was the presentation of the article. First and foremost, it had a way of sort of back-handing it’s subjects. For instance, this delightful paragraph:

Brian Thomas, an extra-heavy-set Ugly model, joked that he already knew he was model material before the agency took him on. “Well, I’m hot,” Thomas said. “Let’s just get that right out in the open. I’m drop-dead sexy.“

But seriously?

“My sister actually sent my pictures in to Simon and when Simon called, I thought it was a prank call,” Thomas explained. “I thought it was my buddies at work fooling around. But it’s been a great ride. I’ve been having a blast ever since.”

Umm…what’s that “But Seriously?” there in the middle? I’m quite sure this guy is actually drop-dead sexy. Especially if he’s as playful, and confident, as he seems in those few quotes. Those are incredibly attractive qualities, not to mention that fact that his “extra-heavyset-ness” is probably quite sexy as well. Lose the attitude there, MSNBC.

Not to mention the fact that on my page, the article was presented with FOUR different sections that contained some sort of contradictory message:

Ugly NY Article ads

Ugly NY Article ads

Number 1: Ad for Crest Whitestrips. Because, you know, you have to be obsessed with the whiteness of your teeth. If not, you must be reading the wrong section of MSNBC.

Number 2: Hair worthy of gold medals, wrinkle busters, etc. In case you wanted to fuss even more over how you looked.

Number 3: Miss Venezuela wins Miss Universe. Beauty Pageant, enough said.

Number 4: Check out these ambush makeovers. We’re making people look better, because they loosed SO terrible before!

Ahem. MSNBC needs to catch what Ugly NY is throwing at them. Here they are featuring them in an article, and on the Today Show, apparently, and they still don’t get it. It almost makes me feel like they’re making fun of the whole thing. Like, they thought it was just so quaint that such a Model Agency existed.

Well, Ugly NY, you got my support! Keep making beauty real, and making reality beautiful! Thanks so much for what you do!


15 thoughts on “America’s Next Top Model Agency: Ugly NY

  1. Did you look at the slideshow accompanying the article? Of course, with the exception of one woman (who is maybe a size 12, tops), every female model they showed is slim and conventionally attractive in every way. Even to be an example of “ugliness”, women have to be hot.

  2. *cheers* to Ugly NY…

    and on a tangent, I’ve thought for YEARS that if anyone got me volunteered for one of those ambush-type makovers, I would be likely to go berserker on the people trying to drag me into the van.

  3. Of course, with the exception of one woman (who is maybe a size 12, tops), every female model they showed is slim and conventionally attractive in every way.

    I think there were a few who might not be considered conventionally attractive – a little person, an older woman, a woman with a face that wouldn’t be considered conventionally pretty. But for the most part… yeah, conventionally attractive with tattoos/piercings/an unusual haircut is still conventionally attractive. And it’s frustrating because there were so many pictures of genuinely interesting and different looking men, but so few of women who didn’t meet the beauty standard.

  4. Hmm, I wonder if that is because fewer women are confident with themselves? The article said the models had to be comfortable in front of the camera. Most women who consider themselves to be “overweight” refuse to have their picture taken. This 19 year old stick on legs came into my coffee shop last night and said “oh I’m so fat.” Us two chunky baristas almost karate chopped her out of the store while simultaneously throwing up on her. But we all know the media needs us to feel bad about ourselves. (especially women)

  5. I’m not sure that the MSNBC article gave a very large selection of the models in the agency. I haven’t looked through them all, but there’s a few that are plus size women, I think. So I don’t think this is necessarily the agency’s fault.

    But I like the fact that they do have plus size men. It works well for me!

  6. I don’t watch a lot of tv series of any kind, & have no use for any of the ‘makeover shows’. I have seen commercials for that “What Not To Wear” & I always find myself thinking that I am just the type who would be grabbed to be ‘saved’ from my lack of fashion sense & that I too would be likely to go a bit berserk as they tried to take away all my favorite clothes & make me wear something entirely different from what I like & feel comfortable in. What the hell IS it with 21st century culture that people are made to feel that we cannot do ANYTHING right & that we need some freaking ‘expert’ nannies to tell us how to breathe & pass judgment on how we dress, do our hair, whether or not we wear makeup, etc.! We are all supposed to be unique individuals who, as adults, should have control over our lives & bodies, but unremitting attempts are made to strip us all of our confidence, our individuality, & to infantilize us. I sincerely hope that these unconventional people believe that they are beautiful & special, because they ARE, though I am less than thrilled with the name of the agency.

  7. Don’t you also love how the first South American woman to win Miss Universe looks “white” or at least has European-looking features that make her white-acceptable?

    what I want to see? My fat queer self with pink hair, nose ring, and glasses in an ad for Vera Wang or Diane von Furstenburg. Then, we’ll have reality – except that being TPQ, I can’t exactly afford VW or DVF…

    and, speaking of tv shows like “what not to wear” – I very rarely see them do anything but make women traditionally feminine. They even made over a dykie firefighter and put her in a pink skirt with a yellow sweater… yikes! As if traditional feminine clothing is the only way a woman can be beautiful – I think I’m quite hot in ratty jeans, a wifebeater and dr martens… and I dare you to tell me I don’t (lol).


  8. MSNBC put the advertisements there, because the target audience of the article is the same audience of those companies advertising.

    That’s how marketing companies think. If they put advertisements in places with the target group, and they bombard the target group enough, the target group will eventually start to gravitate to the product.

  9. Dang it, webpage hiccuped…mean to say “A large dollop of patronizing tones to be condescending”. It is exactly as though the article is like an adult patting a delusional child on the back “Okay, sure thing little one. That’s a great “Sand Castle” you’ve built there. Snark.”

    Bravo to Ugly NY for making an effort. Hope it becomes more and more of an everyday thing to find normal people being represented by….normal people. 🙂

  10. It’s only the media that believe small is beautiful!!!
    There are plenty of larger people out there that are not just beautiful in appearance but because they’re not wrapped up in their appearance they are more beautiful within and a great deal more fun to be around!!!!

  11. I agree that you should be comfortable in your own skin, but when you run down someone for being pretty, You are no better than someone who makes fun of people for being ugly. Sure they get by on their looks, Sure It’s not fair, but whoever told you that life was fair, lied to you. I would rather get by on my skills than be a piece of showmeat. But this article shows that even ‘ugly’ people would do the same as the beautiful if given the opportunity.

  12. Thanks for publishing this post… I had no idea such an agency existed, and now I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.

    By the way, I really enjoy your site. I like how clever and keenly aware you are, not only about yourself, but those around you.

    (I say punch the “trolls” in their throats.)

  13. FYI, Ugly as both an agency and as a concept is all about lack of judgement, inclusion, acceptance, and promoting the idea that society as a whole needs to step back from it’s obsessive focus on specific body types as being the only acceptable standards of beauty. We don’t discriminate against people because of how they look .. and that includes those that are ‘traditionally’ beautiful … and are keen to open peoples eyes to the fact that even though it’s a cliche, beauty really does come in all shapes , sizes, colors, and creeds.
    Check out our web-site,
    as you will see, we really do walk the walk …
    Simon Rogers

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