November 26, 2009

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Where beauty is skin deep
Miss Alternative New Hampshire pageant shows off tattoos
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

If SuicideGirls infiltrated a certain Atlantic City institution, it might look like the Miss Alternative New Hampshire pageant. The show, originally scheduled for last September at Milly’s Tavern in Manchester (and cancelled due to health emergency), has been moved to the newly opened Club X Studios in Somersworth, and will happen Dec. 31.

For this contest, beauty is skin deep, literally. Tattoos and piercings, along with outlandish hair, are what will get attention. A ballroom gown works only if it’s paired with ripped mesh thigh-highs. If you bring a tiara, it’s best to dip it in blood-colored paint (though the real thing would probably win style points). 

Forget about swimsuits — it’s not that kind of show.

The competition is divided into two “stage walks.” The first provides time for introductions and judges’ questions, which range from innocent (“What’s your name?”) to bizarre (“Have you ever worn men’s underwear or danced naked in front of a mirror?).

For the second half of the program, girls are asked to “make the audience go wild,” says Chaotica, a self-styled dominatrix who serves as the show’s personnel manager. Talent is whatever an alt-girl wants it to be — nunchuck-throwing, muscle-flexing and showing off double-jointed limbs are all suggested in the contestant guide.

Using the stage name Your Swisher Sweetheart, Marie Simoneau won the Maine title on Sept. 10 with her belly dancing. Of course, Simoneau’s red and pink hair, 20 tiny studs arranged in matching quarter-moons over her eyebrows and two star-shaped pelvic tattoos certainly added to the effect.

“It just depends on who really wows the audience,” Chaotica said, adding that crowd response matters more than a judge’s opinion.

The winner will receive a prize and move on to the Miss Alternative New England contest later this winter. The second- and third-place finishers will also take home prizes.

Contestants must be 18 and, it is emphasized, sober — this is not “Girls Gone Wild.” Anyone interested can enter at Milly’s right up to show time.

The pageant is the creation of ClubX, a Somersworth-based modeling agency run by Dan Tiberio.

“ClubX was founded on the belief that anyone can be a model,” Tiberio said. “You don’t have to be glamorous and beautiful.”

But you do have to be outlandish, said Chaotica, who sports 28 piercings on her face and body and styles her long black hair differently almost every day. She’s fond of risky fashion moves like mixing a black vinyl bustier with above-the-knee argyle socks.

“People look at me like I’m an alien,” she says with no small amount of pride in her voice. “Kids see me and hide behind their mothers.”

“I enjoy it, actually,” said Chaotica, who has trademarked her name. “A lot of people haven’t seen this side of life and I think they’re curious.“

Dan Tiberio started ClubX last year, after a knee injury ended his job as a heavy equipment operator.

Around that time, an acquaintance of Tiberio’s complained to him about trying to get work modeling for SuicideGirls, a Web site that crosses alternative style with a softcore porn aesthetic. “She didn’t like the nudity policy,” he says. So Tiberio decided to do something for the models who like the look but don’t want to take all their clothes off.

Tiberio began with a “Femme Fatale” night at Costello’s Nightclub in the Boston suburb of Everett, which led to a Miss Alternative Massachusetts contest and eventually the region-wide competition. In less than a year, the business has grown so much that he’s looking to hire additional staff.

Club X Studios, which celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 20, hopes to be a one-stop shop for alternative culture. Inside the mostly black walls of the former Akasia’s restaurant in downtown Somersworth is a place for models to build portfolios, photographers to shoot and show their work and clothing artists to host fashion shows.  The photographer’s work space incorporates some elements one would expect at a business catering to fans of the lifestyle, Tiberio said.

He notes with a laugh: “There’s a dungeon with four-point restraints — for people who like that kind of thing.”


Chaotica of Club X strikes a pose.

Hear it live
What: Miss Alternative New Hampshire Pageant
When: Thursday, Dec. 31, at 8 p.m.
Where: Club X Studios, 109 Main St, Somersworth
Tickets: $10, 21+
Info: Contestants must be 18 or older. Visit www.clubx.ws.