Monique Charriere 1985-2017: a tribute to a talented, troubled soul.
Monique Charriere, a much admired fetish model, took her own life in June. For our August cover story we offer an international tribute to this talented but troubled artiste, with contributions from photographers who worked with her and from others who knew her or just admired her work, plus a film of Monique never publicly seen before. With an introduction by Tony Mitchell, additional research by Heidi Patterson, and cover/banner image by Katja Ehrhardt of High Gloss Dolls
As far as we can ascertain, Monique had attempted suicide by drug overdose, putting her into a coma from which she did not recover. This is the story that has circulated among people who knew her, though we haven’t found official confirmation of it.
That she died by her own hand was sadly not a total surprise to those who knew here well enough to be aware of her extreme depressive side.
Katja Ehrhardt of High Gloss Dolls, one of the model’s favourite photographers and biggest fans who also became a good friend, says she found herself having to talk Monique out of committing suicide on numerous occasions.
Others have spoken of her being lonely, a loner, a woman who found it very difficult to let people get close to her.
Photographers who shot with her typically say that, at her best, she was a talented model possessed of a wicked sense of humour. But many say she could also be moody and difficult to work with.
Despite the distinctly French character of her model name, Monique Charriere was in fact Bulgarian. (Her preferred spelling was Charrière but we’re omitting the grave accent in this article because it confuses internet search engines.)
Monique’s real first name was Maryana (also spelt Mariana), and she was known to friends variously as Micky, Mickey, Miki or Mikki.
She also had a profile on Facebook as Midori Gigovierre, where she shared some of her more personal thoughts.
It was in the timeline of this profile that, in early June, she added two posts that might have set alarm bells ringing for some of those who knew the ‘real’ Monique.
On June 5 she posted “I haven’t slept for exactly 30 hours” — a potentially dark revelation that ironically attracted only a couple of lighthearted comments.
One of these was from a close Amsterdam friend, Michele de Saint, who contributes some touching insights into Monique’s life later in this article.
On the day after her insomnia post — June 6 — Monique uploaded some lines of verse that, sadly, now stand as her farewell to the world. Taken from the beginning of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Alone, this post reads:
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bring
My passions from a common spring —
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow — I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone —
And all I lov’d — I lov’d alone —
Then — in my childhood — in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
The first public indications that she had died appeared on June 21, as comments under her Midori Gigovierre post of June 6. The gap between these two dates suggests she might have remained in a coma for two weeks.
The very first person to comment on June 21 under her final post was Nikki Thorn, a well-known UK and international scenester, who wrote, simply: “heartbroken”.
Similar sentiments, along with expressions of shock and disbelief, began to populate the same comment space as a growing number of people realised what had happened. It made me wonder if she ever really knew how many people actually cared about her.
Monique Charriere and I were Facebook friends but I’m not sure I ever met her in person — although I did photograph her on the catwalk of the 2009 German Fetish Ball.
And I certainly featured her on The Fetishistas. In fact her Fetishistas debut was as a cover model — something that happens rarely and is a tribute to the vibrant visual presence that characterised so many of her pictures.
Photographed by Katja Ehrhardt (who also provides the August cover/banner image for this article), she appeared on our March 2011 cover (on the original Fetishistas site) as the poster girl for our feature on Katja’s High Gloss Dolls project.
This was followed by two further appearances on the old site, in galleries accompanying our cover stories on Dutch photographers Me-Chiel (Michiel Kivits) in July 2012 and coJac (Jacco Breedveld) in March 2013 respectively.
Monique moved around quite a lot, and lived at various times in Berlin, London and Thailand.
However, aside from the incredible work she did with High Gloss Dolls, many of the model’s best known collaborations were with various Dutch photographers during the time she lived in Amsterdam.
And it would be her work with one of these — Peter Diablow — that led to her final appearance on The Fetishistas earlier this year, in the galleries accompanying his cover interview for our March 2017 edition.
All the above photographers have been kind enough to contribute some of their pictures of Monique, their reflections on her life and their reactions to her death, for this article. You can see their images in four galleries at the bottom of this page.
Another of Monique’s Amsterdam collaborators, filmmaker SG Collins, has also generously contributed two short films he made with the model, which you can find at the end of this article.
The second, Come Out Of Me, is a darker piece, with Monique delivering a video diary-style monologue straight to camera.
This second film, never publicly seen before, reveals feelings of self-loathing that are hardly unique in the fetish scene, but are no less sad for that — a perfect illustration of what a tortured soul she was.
There was also another side of Monique Charriere that was perhaps less celebrated than her fetish fashion and glamour-orientated modelling work: her activities on the iFriends website.
She was apparently active on iFriends, doing cam sessions, right up to the end of May. She also featured in quite a few of its affiliate promo campaigns.
As Miss Toxic X, she described herself as an “intoxicating fetish vixen” with a love for domination. “I am also a pro dominatrix in real life and have a lot of gear,” she added. “Latex is my passion.”
Someone who knew her work on that site believes she may have been logging on there for as long as 15 years. “She seemed to have a following and was in good graces with the iFriends management,” our insider reckons.
This side of her work may well have been where most of her income came from.
But now it’s time to hand over to people who knew her better than I, for the rest of this tribute to a model who, troubled soul though she was, made a significant contribution to the iconography of modern fetishism in her all too short life.
Co-owner, Savage Wear, Berlin
I got to know Monique Charriere in 2007. I think she lived in Berlin for about two years from 2007 to 2009.
She did some modelling jobs for Savage Wear for catalogue shoots and also took part in the Underground Catwalk [the famous Berlin alt-fashion show that takes place annually on the U-Bahn]. In 2009 she walked for us at the German Fetish Ball.
We met from time to time but lost closer contact after she moved away. She was a quiet girl, a bit crazy, and Heidi [aka Haydee Sparks] and I liked her very much. We are very sad about what happened and we really hoped it was not true.
Globetrotting scenester, Brooklyn
We actually first connected in the MySpace days, or maybe even before. She was asking in a Wave-Gotik Treffen forum in maybe 2003 or ’04 about whether it was possible to wear latex all day at a festival like WGT. She was a skinny shaven-headed punky-goth from Bulgaria back then.
I was close-ish to Mikki for years — I visited her often in Berlin and then Amsterdam when she moved there. I only saw her once during her time in London — in 2014, soon after she moved. Her mom and stepdad live there, but she had very difficult relations with her whole family.
She’d had cosmetic surgery for her nose and was totally alone in her hotel room during recovery.
I went to London to brighten her up and it was then that I really recognised she would always keep me at arm’s length and never accept ‘friendship’.
One of her closest friends from her teenage years who now lives in NYC gave me the impression that Mikki returned to Sofia specifically to kill herself.
Her death has really hit me much harder than I would have imagined, given the circumstances. She was always troubled inside and you don’t often find photos of her smiling, even when she is with friends or at a party.
However, in Amsterdam she made a video about coriander that was pretty funny — her and some friends at a party. [You can watch this video on page 2 — Ed].
Haydee Sparks says she remembers that the first time she met me, in about 2007, was when Mikki brought me into her newly-opened Savage Wear shop in Berlin.
Monique was proudest of the work she did for Savage Wear, Peter Czernich [Marquis] and Katja Ehrhardt of High Gloss Dolls.
How I’d summarise things is that she achieved a lot in her fetish modelling career, shooting for top brands with top photographers, and her portfolio of photographs strongly testifies to that.
But while she seemed to have been proud to share what came of her work, she never seemed satisfied with what she had done nor did she ever express a feeling of joy for her accomplishments.
I think that’s an important distinction: if she could have felt a sense of personal reward for her work, it might have inspired her to go further, but instead she seemed to withdraw and focus on minor imperfections.
Since she remained aloof with even her closest friends, she didn’t have a support network when maybe she needed it most.
Very many people thought very highly of her work and her appearance, but I don’t think she ever accepted that she actually had adoring friends and fans.
The August 2017 cover and banner image for our Monique Charriere tribute (full frame version above) comes courtesy of Katja Ehrhardt and her High Gloss Dolls website.
The range of products offered needed fine images to support them, and slowly the photography became as well known as the products themselves, with notable publications around the world requesting to showcase the designer and her images.
Creating the images for the site became something of an addiction, and over time the photography became more daring, and continues to constantly evolve.
While images began as simple product photos, the emphasis soon changed to glamour with an edge, and then to more explicit shoots, aiming right at the heart of our inner desires.
The clean lines and strong colours of the latex are emphasised by the gorgeous models and the clever use of light and shadow, creating a perfect world of sexiness and seductive quality.
A futuristic blend of shining material and imaginative, evocative poses creates a fantasy mindscape of alluring perfection.