So I’ve been disgustingly behind with my work and I’ve just realised that I haven’t yet bored you with my happenings and goings on in 2016.
Well, I was very lucky to work with lots of wonderful people – including duo shoots with my friends Katarina Marie, Chiara Elizabetta, Bad Dolly, Annie Moya, Rachelle Summers and Keira Lavelle.
During 2016 I toured round several places in the UK, working with old friends, meeting up with familiar faces and I also got the pleasure to work with a selection of photographers I had never previously worked with.
I also found myself playing photographer more and had much fun shooting some self-portraits under my photography guise of ‘Slink‘ and by working with my creative partner in crime, Katarina Marie as our duo project, Slink and Kositzki. Original blog can be read here.
In 2016, I decided to write a blog on being gender fluid, which had a fantastic response – thank you so much everyone for all your lovely messages! It was wonderful to chat to others with similar feelings too.
Although my touring schedule for 2016 was not as jam-packed as previous years, I think it’s safe to say that 2016 was a pretty eventful year for me. I think most predominately my charity head shave for Young Epilepsy. I went from having long auburn hair to a grade two buzzcut!
Since I wanted to do the shave as close to Epilepsy Awareness Day (26th March) as possible – I had a shoot booked over that weekend – so the nearest date I could do was the 28th, when I happened to be staying with my good friends, Howard and Karen Kennedy in Aberdeen. Since Karen used to be a hairdresser, then it only seemed right for her to do the honours of ridding me of my auburn locks, whilst Howard filmed the event. I also decided to do a little Facebook live feed (the first time I’d ever done one!!) so family and friends could essentially be with me whilst the deed was being done. So as I started the feed, it started off with a few friends and family members… but then I started to see the number of veiwers rise… 50… 100… 300…500. I’m actually pretty shy and although I do (arbite, seldomly) talk on camera, people who know me well will tell you that I’d probably rather eat spiders than talk on camera. It was terrifying, more so than the headshave! I was truly not expecting it and the support I got from hundreds of wonderful people brought a lump to my throat (which, incidentally, made talking on camera even more of a challenge, not to mention Howard tearing up in the corner whilst he was filming me!). I really am finding it difficult to articulate exactly how shocked I was to see so much support from amazing people and how grateful I am to everyone’s generosity. Not just through donations, but also from friends/followers that did not have any spare cash to donate, but still helped to spread the word for my fundraiser. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The headshave video went viral on Facebook. The last time I looked, back in April, it reached over ten thousand views. I still can’t believe it. And so far my current total raised £6,191.53 – and that’s without gift aid (add another £822.25!).
If you would like to see the headshave video recorded by Howard Kennedy in full, including a pre-headshave interview, click on the link HERE. Please note: I may of had a one or two whiskeys prior to the headshave, so I’m slurring a little *hic* I seriously had no idea it was going to go viral, so apologies in advance if I look like a bit of a drunken mess.
I’m pleased to announce that I will be modelling at Map Studios on Saturday 4th March!
There is only ONE PLACE LEFT! 12pm – 2pm! Just £90, all in – two hours with a professional and highly versatile model plus use of an awesome studio. On top of that, absolutely EVERY SINGLE PENNY from the £90 will be donated to Young Epilepsy – if I can just get this last space filled, then that’ll mean you’ll be helping me to raise a whopping £450 towards my Young Epilepsy Fundraiser
A little about me: I’m a professional and very experienced model from Southampton with over 300+ references to my name. I have an unique look and I can adapt myself to many different styles such as nude, glamour, androgyny, boudoir, soft erotica, portraiture, beauty, fashion, commercial… I’m like a little photographic chameleon! I consider myself gender fluid, so can transform to ultra girly to boyish in an instant!
I have a toned, yet curvy, physique and very pale, light reflecting skin. I currently have a very short pixie cut and a selection of wigs – so I’m pretty darn versatile.
Please contact either myself or Alex at Map Studios for bookings
I hope to see you there!
Due to a bout of poor health, I’ve had to take my work a little steady, so I’m rather behind on my tour plans! However, after a little rest, I’m back up on my feet and feeling as good as new! I shall be updating my travel and availability for 2017 in the next few weeks. I will still be touring in 2017, but not as much as usual (one long tour or two short tours a month, maximum) – but please do let me know if you’d like me to visit your area and I’ll do my best to arrange something!
So here’s what I’ve got so far for 2017!
13th: London – Booked
14th/15th: Eastbourne & Surrounding – Only 15th available
17th – 28th: Hampshire and Surrounding – happy to travel to you (within 2 hours of Southampton Central Railway Station) or can shoot from my home in Southampton.
3rd – 6th: Midlands
Saturday 4th: Charity Studio Day at Map Studios, Loughborough – All Proceeds to Young Epilepsy!
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!
Here’s a way to kick start your 2017 and beats those January blues…
Artemis will be driving, so we’re happy to travel to surrounding areas (provided travel costs are covered) too!
Artemis and I are exceptionally good friends and work incredibly well together. We both have years of modelling experience behind us and we’re both able to adapt our look cover to many different styles of photography and can totally change our style in an instant. We’re certainly rather versatile!
Nude – Erotica – Androgyny – Fashion – Glamour – Boudoir – Beauty …. to name but a few of the many genres you can achieve with us (see images below!)
We love working with photographers of all levels of experience – so please don’t be shy if you’re new to this! – and we will offer to help in any way we can.
Isle of Wight (15th Jan) Studio Day rate (includes studio hire): £85 ph
Southampton and surrounding rates:
£80 one hour
£160 two hours
£210 three hours
£280 four hours
£420 six hours
Here’s just a small selection of some of our previous work together:
Plus here’s an unique opportunity to shoot some fabulous androgynous images of us both during this time. We are both very good at this genre!
And last, but not least, here’s some additional information for our Isle of Wight studio day at Studio 2:
Message me for bookings and further details!
Today I’ve ran a few trivial errands, eaten breakfast and lunch, read a little. I even procrastinated on various social media platforms, getting my daily intoxicating kick of validation from my latest selfie or post. This time next week it will be Christmas Day. I don’t feel festive. The only thing I can feel is guilt and quite rightly so.
I sit here, in my centrally-heated home, on a bed with a mattress, typing on my new laptop with clean clothes on my back. Being a healthy young woman of thirty, I know that there is a slim-to-none chance that I will die today. I’m currently sitting on my grand throne of privilege.
Syria is a country with people like you and I; doctors, nurses, electricians, shop assistants, artists, architects, parents, brothers, sisters, children…et cetera. Families that, like you and I, have children who go to school and maybe have a pet dog or cat and go on family outings together. And teenagers who like to hang out with their mates, chill out and watch the next blockbuster at the cinema. People who catch up with the local gossip on Facebook, maybe post some selfies, maybe share an amusing GIF. The exact same things that we do right here in Britain, because there’s no difference. We are all people in modern society. Regardless of our birthplace. This is what life was like for the peoples of Syria until war broke out in 2011.
On the 2nd September 2015, a disturbing image of drowned child, somebody’s little baby boy, who had been washed up on a shoreline in Turkey was published in the mainstream Western news. This highlighted a family’s bid to make a desperate attempt to escape a terrifying situation. So terrifying that a parent would risk theirs, and more poignantly, their children’s lives to flee from it.
The little boy had a name. He was called Alan Kurdi and he was only three years old.
I cried my white tears and I shared a few posts on Facebook. Then I did nothing. Despite at the back of my subconscious, I knew the war was still very much raging in Syria. Alan was one of many children and other civilians that have died as a result of this war. I did nothing. I didn’t even bother to seek out and share anymore posts, or to better educate myself on the Syrian Civil War. Why should it matter to me? I’m safe right now, safe in my own self-absorbed bubble, in my warm home with my friends and family around me. It was easier for me to block it out, to not to argue with the bigots who complained about the people who are leaving their homes (homes, not houses) in Syria to seek refuge in Britain. At best I passively tried to educate a few moderates who’d read a fear-mongering article in one of the ‘hate’ newspapers. But without educating myself to a more acceptable standard, then how was I supposed to hold down an intelligible debate? I was lazy and complacent.
I did nothing because it was easier for me to block it out. Unfortunately the people of Syria do not have that privilege.
Five days ago, I was sat in this same position reading tweets posted by people in the largest city of Syria, Aleppo. I was helplessly reading their desperate pleas, their goodbyes, their final messages whilst the city around them was crumbling and genocide was happening before their eyes. Unfaltering explosions. Dead bodies in the street. Unimaginable scenes that can never be unseen and brutal destruction of lives, homes and communities that can never be remedied. About a hundred thousand civilians (according to the UN) cornered in the city, awaiting their fate. The incomprehensible horror.
But whilst this was happening, on social media, the top news was about Kanye West meeting Donald Trump. Yes, this is humanity right now… 400,000+ deaths, yet people would rather talk about a pop singer hanging out with a buffoonish President-elect.
I want to apologise to the Syrian people caught up in the Syrian Civil War. I know my apology is utterly worthless, but I’m sorry to my fellow brothers and sisters in Syria. I’m so sorry that as a human, I didn’t do anything at all. Nothing. I didn’t play my simple part, even if it was just to influence others around me. That I didn’t scream out from the top of my lungs. I know I’m just one single person – but that’s an abominable excuse. It’s the single humans that collectively make the difference. I have no excuses.
I want to cry, but I don’t deserve tears.
Please, all you single, solitary people out there, sat in your warm homes on your thrones of privilege, I implore you to educate yourselves on the war in Syria and to the needs of the Syrian people. To learn how to stand up to the hatred that gradually seeps into the brains of those who are desperate and willing to believe the lies of the right-wing press and to be able to correct them with the facts. To learn how to stand up to Islamaphobia, Xenphobia and Rasicsm. Because lets face it, this is why our countries have had such an air of reluctance to help, or even show a glimmer of human compassion.
We all need to stand up together
Wishing everyone love, wisdom and solidarity,
If you would like to donate, click here for a link to some recommended charities.
There’s heaps of information available explaining the Syrian Civil War online, but I found this little YouTube video quite helpful as a rough guide: ‘Syria’s War: Who is fighting and why.’
So a couple days ago I was talking to my lovely mum and we got on the subject of gender. She was telling me that her friend’s son (born female) is going through the process of taking hormones and getting his name changed from a traditionally female name, to a traditionally male name.
And then my mum casually said this:
‘I told her that when I go to see you, I never know if it’s going to be Helen, my daughter, or Helen, my son. All I know is that I love both.’
Well I totally nearly cried at that. My eyes definitely watered and I have usually the emotional capacity of a Vulcan. It made me so happy. Not that I ever thought for one moment that my parents were nothing but proud of me, nor have they ever even remotely hinted that it was ever a problem. They’ve always been accepting of me (even if I do have a slightly…er…unorthodox… career). But to hear those words made my day. It was like a verbal validation.
Growing Up Gender Fluid.
Gender Fluid is a word that’s pretty new to me. I often used to joke about my childhood ‘gender issues’ (I still do, actually) but I could never quite articulate it. I’ve known about the terms transexuals and transvestites for a long time but I knew I wasn’t either of those. I’m not transsexual as sometimes I’m very much a female and I definitely don’t want to permanently change my sex through surgery and/or on official documentation. I knew I wasn’t a transvestite as when I feel male… well that’s exactly it, I’m not simply dressing as a male, I FEEL it. I want to be male. Later, I learnt about being transgender, but I automatically presumed it meant a person exclusively identified with the opposite gender to what they were born with. Simultaneously, I also knew I wasn’t entirely cisgender (identifying as the same gender as your biological sex). I was one confused puppy.
There have been periods in my life where I will spend months, sometimes years, feeling very feminine and it’ll get to the point where I actually convince myself that I’m cisgendered and the thought of openly referring myself as gender fluid makes me feel, well, like a massive fraud. In my feminine stages, I now remind myself that there have been times in my life (particularly through childhood) when I have found it incredibly difficult coming to terms that I was not born a boy. I remember breaking down in tears to my parents, asking them ‘why am I not a boy?’ and telling them outright that I simply did not want to be a girl. As a child, I predominately dressed in boyish clothes, but on the rare occasions my mum wanted me to wear a dress… well, it was mortifying. I might as well have strutted down a busy high street, stark naked, wearing a traffic cone on my head whilst being followed by someone playing a trombone to the beat of my footsteps. I simply never understood at formal family functions why I couldn’t wear a suit, just like the other males in my family did.
Throughout my teenage years, it was pretty mixed. When I was at college I was finally able to ditch the restrictions of a school uniform and I started experimenting with clothes and make up. Everyday was a different look (upon reminiscing, it must have been pretty entertaining for my family to see what random couture concoction I was going to exhibit each day). Some days it was mega girly, sometimes to the dizzying heights of me actually looking like I was aspiring to become a Barbie Doll (no regrets by the way, sometimes I want nothing more than to writhe about in fake tan and wear ostentatiously padded, push-up bras). The next day, however, I could be rocking the ripped jeans and generally looking like something that has crawled out of an early 90’s grunge band. There were days I would wear a shirt, tie, smart trousers and brogues – and occasionally even don braces and a trilby hat if I was feeling particularly swish. I have even been known to draw on a little mustache with brown eyeliner! Oftentimes, I would loosely base my appearance on Bowie, he was an aesthetic inspiration for me. I adored the thought of being a man who wears make up – either in subtle or extravagant ways.
Modelling and Relationships as a Heterosexual Gender-Bender.
I’m straight (mostly), so I do worry about the thought ever finding a man (or a woman/trans person) who will love me regardless of the fact that on one day I could be male and on another day I could be female. During my twenties, I was in two serious heterosexual relationships. Firstly, I was married (now divorced) and then after only six months of being officially separated from my ex husband, I entered into another serious relationship. I never really knew how to explain to either of my partners how I really felt. To be fair, although we never talked about it, I believe my ex husband subconsciously understood to a certain level, since we were mates long before we became a couple, so I guess he was already lucid to my tomboyish ways! But I don’t know if he was aware of the true extent of masculinity I felt at times. And he, as do many of my friends, calls me by my nickname of ‘Slink’. Which I love, since is so darn wonderfully gender-neutral. As for my second serious relationship in my twenties, I never talked about it, ever. My ex boyfriend was like my ex-husband, very heterosexual. So I dressed and acted like a woman. Everyday. For two years. Fortunately, for the vast majority of that time, I actually did feel rather female. But there were days when the thought of acting/dressing typically female was, you guessed it – comparable to marching to the sound of a trombone player, down a busy high street, wearing nothing but a traffic cone on my head. Not my idea of fun. Sometimes I felt so trapped, I wanted to cry. I literally had no idea how to tell him. I didn’t fully understand my own gender issues, so how was I supposed to even begin to describe it to someone else? At the time, all I thought was that a person either solely identified with the gender they were born with, or they didn’t. I didn’t realise that other people bend and switch and queer-it-up to the massive too.
I totally love my job working as a self-employed model. But I have found it difficult at times. I sometimes find it hard turning up to shoots and putting on this girly act, or being a strong, sensual, sexy woman when actually, I feel like a man. It’s weird, I feel like a drag act.
Now that I’m being more open about my gender (and having that flexibility of short hair/wearing wigs), I’m finding work easier. I’m still doing very feminine shoots – which I love, especially when I am feeling womanly – but I’m also doing a lot of androgynous shoots. I’ve even been booked as a male model a couple times now too, which is bloody brilliant.
A little while ago, I did a stint of working as a stripper and I often did stage shows to Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, not only because it’s an awesome song, but the lyrics felt totally appropriate to me; ‘Plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs and then he was a she’. I didn’t dance to ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ by Aerosmith though, would’ve been a tad too much methinks. It would’ve been amusing though. Darn! Kinda wish I did now…
I haven’t spoken to many people who are gender-fluid, so I’m not sure about what the general pro-noun situation is. I hear ‘They’ is popular with some trans people – this article by Jeffrey Marsh is pretty neat. However, I personally am fine with ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘it’, ‘oi, you!’…whatever. People that know me well, tend to notice when I’m having a ‘Boy Day’ or a ‘Girl Day’ and there are some people call me Slink on a ‘boy day’ and Helen on a ‘girl day’. But in total earnest, I’m really not too fussed, so please don’t worry about calling me the wrong name or by the wrong pro-noun. The only thing that really upsets me is if I mention, for example, that I’m feeling male today – and I’m obviously trying to look like a man – only to be told something like, ‘well I think you look like a beautiful lady’. I know it’s meant in the nicest way. But it makes me feel pretty horrible. It trivialises my gender identity and it feels like a metaphorical punch in the face.
I don’t mind if a comment is made if, for example, I’ve had a shoot where I’ve had to perform as a female on a day when I’m simply just not identifying as one – but somehow, through acting/modelling skills or just sheer luck, I’ve managed to pull it off – and then I’m congratulated by someone for managing to act all female. That’s totally cool, as it shows that I’ve done my job as a model to the high standard I always strive for. But if I’ve taken a selfie, for example, or if it’s any other time when I’m showing my ‘real self’ – like, when I’m not actually modelling – I’m ‘Helen Stephens The Human’, not, ‘Helen Stephens The Model’ and if I’m going through a stage of identifying as male, especially if I tell you, then please accept that. Don’t remind me that I’m female, it hurts.
So now I know it has a name, finally! I’m not alone. I’m not weird (well, I am weird, but not in a gender-y way, just weird in other aspects). It’s called being Gender Fluid, Gender Queer or Transgender (I’ve since learnt that transgender also includes gender fluid people). Gender Bender gives me a chuckle too. Or ‘Gender Elastic’ as one wonderful photographer, Adam Rowney, put it when we were randomly discussing my ‘masculine ways’ during a shoot. I totally love the idea of being gender elastic!
But anyway, I know what to call it now. I’ve now written down my thoughts, feelings and experiences on it. I’m going to tell people I’m gender-fluid. Hurrah! It’s taken thirty years, but better late than never I suppose.
Tell you what though… Packing for a holiday or deciding on an outfit for a wedding is an absolute bastard. I have to plan/pack for two genders now. Bahaha!!!
Thank you for reading!