Red lipstick, puffy dresses, garter belts, and victory rolls. Such is the life of a pin up girl.
25-year-old Port Huron resident Alyssa Ferri is living the vintage dream.
Ferri is the founder of Alfie Jean’s Pin Up Charm School where she teaches women to embrace themselves and how to do proper pin up and style ranging from makeup, hair and dress to posing and pin up etiquette.
She is also the lead singer of Fifth Avenue, a jazz band created by her and her boyfriend of three years Jack Wellington.
“She is so into that scene of high class and pin ups and stuff like that, that she came up with Fifth Avenue,” Wellington said who plays bass in Fifth Avenue. “There used to be an old saying, ‘Oh that’s so Fifth Avenue,’ referring to someone being really classy. We chose that.”
Fifth Avenue started off doing free shows to gain recognition and is now being paid for their work.
The group has traveled all over Michigan from Traverse City to Grand Rapids, but Ferri says she would love to see the band travel out of state.
Ferri, who also goes by pin up name Alfie Jean, credits her love for pin up with her love for jazz.
“When there’s something you really like you want to learn more about it,” Ferri said.
So she explored and practiced, eventually starting the charm school to help other women begin.
“There were all these questions, all the time, just questions about pin up and I wanted to help people,” Ferri said. “I worked really hard to know the things I know. The wardrobe, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the prop pieces; everything has to be researched and made sure it’s era appropriate.”
Ferri didn’t always have the appreciation for vintage that she does today.
“I grew up kind of poor, so I was wearing thrift store finds that my mom would get,” Ferri said. “At that time, I would get teased for it, bullied, because I was the poor thrifted kid. It didn’t feel good, like it was horrible to be wearing vintage.”
During college Ferri was in an abusive relationship.
“It was about five years of just like abuse if every way you can imagine. That person just kind of beats it out of you, who you are. When that finally ended and I moved to town, I didn’t know who I was anymore,” Ferri said.
It wasn’t until after when she started seeing Wellington that Ferri said she started accepting who she is.
Ferri said she originally thought pin up modeling was going to be a hobby, but just fell in love with it.
“It’s so good, and so empowering. You can embrace your femininity. It’s powerful to me. Once that all happened, I knew this is for me,” Ferri said. “I thought it was going for fun, but it became this full time feel good job.”
She began the charm school to help women who are interested in learning have an easier time than she did starting when she had no help.
Ferri said she worked with a student that hated her smile.
“She expressed to me that the reason she doesn’t like to smile is that someone had made a very rude comment about her teeth and ever since then she just stopped,” Ferri said. “We just talked about it, and at the shoot I actually got her to smile. That meant a lot to me. When she saw the pictures, she actually cried. That’s so amazing to me. If that’s what doing the charm school is about, that is so worth it.”
No prior experience or knowledge is necessary to take the classes.
“You don’t have to be a pin up, you don’t have to know anything, or you can know stuff and want to know more,” Ferri said. “I’ve had girls that have never modeled before in their lives that don’t even know how to put on makeup, to girls that actually do pin up with me.”
All of the charm school classes end in a photo session with RSII Photography owned by Ray Smith.
Ferri hopes to eventually get a location for the charm school. Right now, she is teaching out of her apartment.
“You don’t know who’s coming to your apartment a lot of times,” Ferri said. “A lot of these girls, I’ve never met before in my life. They just sign up and come to my home. That can be kind of unsettling sometimes. You don’t know what could happen.”
But Ferri says the risk is worth it so see the result.
“I will do it for 20 years and if I only get 10 girls, then at least I changed 10 girls’ lives,” Ferri said.