Model Tessa Kuragi – Surrealist Muse

By Ally Richards

Although designers may require a blank canvas on which to display their wares, the most famous and influential models always had their own sense of character, which drew people to them.

This kind of quality can elevate a model above that of an embodied clothes-hanger, to that of a modern-day muse and an artist in their own right. Tessa Kuragi has such a distinctive style and personality to her work, with her dramatic black bob and the curves of a 60s Playboy bunny, that photographers and designers are keen to capture her unique look.

Tessa began modelling at the age of 15 after being scouted in Jamaica, where she was living. However, a move to London meant she had to put this work on hold. At 19 she found herself returning to the camera

This was more organic. I had an idea of the images I wanted to create, surreal of uncomfortable, so directly approached photographers whose work I felt reflected or complimented that.

Her unconventional portfolio reflects a daring spirit; an usual collection of images often touching on the dark, bizarre and fetishistic. “I quite often come up with ideas for a shoot myself and then develop them with the photographer. I used to do the styling etcetera as well but now I’m leaving that to the experts! Sometimes, though, I think a shoot suffers when there are too many people involved.”

Tessa’s enthusiasm to take on challenging concepts has led to the creation of images that are both disturbing and beautiful. “It would be extremely difficult to say what my strangest shoot to date was – my work with Alva Bernadine, Marc Blackie and more recently Madame Peripitie are all pretty outlandish.  Being covered head to toe in clay and then blow-dried was an interesting experience…” 

Much of Tessa’s body of work is the result of frequent travels around the world, especially in Europe, “You can generally find me between London and Paris. Paris is definitely my preferred location for shoots. There is greater room for experimentation there and it feels somehow that there is more of an overlap with art, particularly the surrealist movement.  Breton, Bellmer and Moulinier seem to be everywhere, well at least in the places I end up in. Plus I never tire of being enthusiastically shouted at in French I don’t understand!”

Her unusual look has earned her fans from couture lingerie and latex brands, including such as HMS Latex. This year Tessa hopes to extend her fashion-based and editorial work. “To be honest I couldn’t claim to know much about fashion, and until quite recently didn’t want to. It has been the story/ use of body/ bizarre props that have made the shoot so actually I could be wearing a potato sack and It could work…well, maybe not quite a potato sack! More recently however I’ve been giving fashion more of a chance as I see some clothes can tell enough of a story themselves. I recently acquired a leather and steel Victorian medical corset which I will be shooting.”

She is often styled as a vampish sex-bomb or as a coquettish Lolita, I wondered how close this was to the ‘real’ her? “When I’m not modelling, my own style tends to veer between 1940’s/1920’s looks and that of a European or Japanese school girl.  I have been known to wear fancy dress to pub lunches though and would probably wear kigurumi’s to work if I was allowed!”

Thankfully she also has no plans to drop her distinguishing look “I have had this hairstyle for 4 years now.  For some reason I started wearing a wig in this style then wore it more and more so eventually went for the chop. I wanted to dye it white but was told it would all fall out and the whole bald thing is not for me. Otherwise, no thoughts of changing!” Tessa’s portfolio reflects someone who isn’t afraid to create an image that won’t be ‘pretty’, putting her passion and imagination into her work. If you like your art seductive and strange, you won’t be disappointed.

To find out more on Kuragi visit her Website

Images by:

HMS Latex by Phantom Orchid
Berenice V with styling by Mis en Cage, other model is Alexandre Wetter
Eugenio Recuenco

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