Redhead alert: agencies seek models with ginger aspect

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The Independent Online

They were buried alive by the Egyptians, cursed by West country farmers for souring dairy produce and are the traditional object of playground ridicule.

They were buried alive by the Egyptians, cursed by West country farmers for souring dairy produce and are the traditional object of playground ridicule.

Life as a carrot-top has never been easy. But it appears that finally the era of the redhead has arrived.

Model agencies issued a plea yesterday for attractive redheads of both sexes to come forward to fulfil a growing demand for flame-haired models.

In a shift away from brunettes and blondes, a growing number of catwalk, promotional and photographic assignments are specifically demanding redheads. And their place in the realms of high fashion was recently confirmed when Italian Vogue put together an artful selection of five vibrantly flame-haired sirens.

One agency that has been inundated with requests for redheads is Tyne Tee Models, based in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, which claims to have lost work because of a shortage of models with red locks.

"A lot of women with red hair don't seem to realise how beautiful it is," said Lesley Middlemiss, the company director. "I think they're so used to being on the wrong end of jokes that they don't think of themselves as model material.

"I get so many briefs asking for natural redheads - men and women. There is such demand for them at the moment yet I have only one natural redhead on the books - and the last time she was booked for a job she'd dyed her hair blonde."

Redheads have a troubled history, suffering prejudice, persecution, not to mention endless teasing, for centuries.

Ancient Egyptians buried male redheads alive in a misguided attempt to prevent the sun from dying, while for pagan witches, the hair of a "fat redhead" was a vital ingredient for many spells. Cornish farmers once barred redheads from dairies as they believed they soured their produce.

But in the film and modelling worlds an elite group of redheads has been turning heads over recent years, with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and the models Lily Cole, Maggie Rizer and Karen Elson as trailblazers. At Storm model agency in London, which has Kate Moss on its books, there are only 14 women and three men with red, auburn or strawberry blonde hair from around 160 UK models. Gavin Boardman, the agency's senior women's booker, described how red hair was having a "fashion moment".

"Red is always a colour that's been seen as a bit anarchic. Now the context seems to be more natural and pre-Raphaelite," he said.

But despite the apparent dearth of redheaded models, many agencies are far from panicking. As a spokeswoman for Models 1, home of Karen Elson, pointed out: "First and foremost we look for a classic, even-featured, vibrant beauty on a tall, slender frame - and then a redhead is only a colour bottle away."

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