When the owner of Shadow Casting was asked to find a rugged 1960s-era ex-sailor who would sit naked in a chair for a furniture ad, she knew just where to look.
UglyNY is perhaps New York City's only modeling agency specializing in booking nonprofessionals. The agency, a new offshoot of an established London firm, represents models sized 0 to 30; little people of 4 feet and under; and sumo wrestlers, old ladies, drag queens and tattooed bikers, among others.
"Other agencies avoid these kinds of people," said the Shadow Casting owner, Renée Torrière. "Ugly has made a home for them."
Ugly, which opened this past summer, is the sister agency to the well-known Ugly in London, the first character model agency there in 1969. UglyNY has signed on nearly 300 models so far.
Ex-lawyer Asher Suss signed with Ugly in August. He describes his character as "the working guy who has got to get up and make the donuts."
Whatever that means, his strategy has worked. He was booked into a video ad directed by fashion photographer Nigel Barker of the TV show "America's Next Top Model."
Suss played a taxi driver. He was fine with that. "If people want me and they're going to pay me for it, then I'm just gonna go with it," he said.
British expat Simon Rogers founded UglyNY, after working for more than 20 years as a fashion model. His friend Marc French — the pair have been buddies since they were teens — runs the British affiliate. The pair hopes to expand their brand to other cities, among them Los Angeles and Berlin.
Its name notwithstanding, UglyNY doesn't just represent the odd and grotesque, but real people, according to its reps. The agency believes it is tapping into a shift in advertising trends, in which advertisers seek models who look more like customers, on the theory that the customers can better relate to them.
The agency gets up to 100 e-mailed applications per day. But photos that give a good laugh are filed in a desk drawer. Ugly models can sometimes earn the same rates as runway or other traditional models, though mainly it expects to offer part-time gigs paying a few hundred dollars a day.
"I tell them, you can make money being you, the way that you look, because it's beautiful," said Yvette Ulrich, UglyNY talent representative.
Model Betul Alganatay, featured on Manhattan Storage ad billboards, says that she chose UglyNY because she didn't want to get lost in a bigger agency.
"Ugly has a different attitude towards the business," she remarked. "They look at it in a human way."
"There will always be room for Giselle in her undies," noted Rogers. "But we think there is room for so much more."
To learn more, log on to: www.uglyny.com.