Born in France, UK-raised Ras-yu grew up with video games, tap dancing, martial arts, and ballet. A cocktail of cultures, he has English, Irish, Scottish and Caribbean blood from his mother’s side, and Chinese genes from his father. Having held close to his heart a childhood dream of becoming a pilot, his journey through life has instead led him to the world of fashion and modelling. His “first taste” of the industry was when he was 8 years old, and around the same time debuted on The Clothes Show runway.
With long, luscious dark hair and an incredibly versatile face, the gender-bending model has collaborated with the likes of photographers Jay Holzer, Peter Warrick and Sian Ashleigh. Having reached out to Van Burnham, an androgynous model, Ras-yu has built his confidence in trying different projects in playing with gender themes in his work. Agency-signed, Ras-yu is currently with Spirit Model Management and Ugly Models. Nee Hao Magazine chats to the budding young model about his experiences in front of the lens and involvement in London Fashion Week.
What’s it like being from such a multi-ethnic background?
I have such a large and diverse family, it’s not something I really think about. I guess you could say that it makes me feel unique; it’s also a great conversation starter so I enjoy that aspect of it. During my early teens though, it was a bit difficult. I was bullied for being different but now I realise how much pride my roots give me.
Do you consider fashion modelling as your calling?
I wouldn’t say it’s my calling, but it was something I got into slowly. But I really enjoy the work and I have met a lot of great people who I otherwise would never have had the chance to meet.
What aspects of photography do you enjoy?
I really enjoy being in front of the camera. When you’re in full makeup and dressed, you do find yourself becoming a different person. You get a great rush from it. And of course I also love the anticipation of seeing the finished images.
You have a talent for pulling off androgynous looks – how do you get into the mind-set?
Ah, it’s when you get the makeup and clothes on that feel transformed. I really have to give my thanks to another Androgynous model called “Van Burnham” who I contacted after seeing her featured interview in Model Mayhem. She really has helped me out with my confidence and she has given me a lot of advice. I’m glad it has worked out so well!
Is there a particular model that you want to follow in their footsteps in terms of your modelling career?
In terms of sheer success, I would have to say Andrej Pejic. Not only is he a fantastic artist, but he continually works with other amazingly talented and creative designers, photographers, makeup artists, and stylists. I would also love to get the chance to work with him in the future.
What has been your favourite image in your portfolio and why?
I don’t really have a particular favourite as I like too many of them (haha!). They all remind me of how much I learned during each shoot, but if I had to, it would be the black and white “butterflies” image. It was my first shoot working with a team and they were very patient with me. They taught me about lighting, positions and angles and such. One of the best parts of modelling is all the new things you learn.
Are there any tips you can offer to budding models?
Researching agencies thoroughly is key; there are a lot of scammers out there. Experiment and play around with different styles to find which best suit you. But the best advice I think is probably the most simple and important: be polite and punctual.
Building a good reputation with your agency, photographers, makeup artists and stylists is incredibly important as people may not ask you back if you are continuously late or tend to act like a diva.
What has been the hardest aspect of modelling?
I would have to say, wondering if I was suitable modelling material. With most contemporary male models having very handsome with chiseled jaws and muscular and toned bodies, I just didn’t think I would compare. But I conquered that fear and tried it out anyway, but I always had that thought in my mind: would I be accepted or turned down? Getting over the initial fear was a milestone for me.
Tell us about your involvement in London Fashion Week. How was the experience?
A photographer I had worked with named Karolina Amberville kindly put my name forward and asked if I would be interested to catwalk for Chico de Barrio’s brand. I jumped at the chance; I had never participated in catwalk modelling at this level and thought it would be useful experience.
I was nervous as heck but ended up having a real blast! You get such a rush when on the stage. I got to meet some fantastic people while there. If it’s to be the first and last catwalk I do, then I will definitely remember it with great fondness.
You love video games, what’s your favourite and why?
The hardest question of them all! Um… I would have to say… Grandia. It’s quite an old JRPG on the PlayStation. Hard to come by now but I can’t recommend it enough. It has an amazing story that’s really engrossing, characters that are fun and varied, and the style and combat system are incredibly fun and unique. I spent many hours playing and re-playing that game… may have to get my old PlayStation out again.