If you’re one of the few who saw Guy Ritchie’s latest film, RocknRolla, you may recall a scene where a Chechnyan thug chases Gerard Butler through a tunnel. The pursuer in question is a strikingly buff 34-year-old Russian-born Londoner named Alex Kovas, a model/actor who may be more familiar to you licking his “paws” in head-to-toe Cheetah bodypaint. Though RocknRolla is his biggest mainstream acting break, Alex Kovas has been thrilling online audiences for years as The Humanimal. To date, over 700,000 YouTube viewers have watched Kovas transform himself into Dalmations, unicorns, zebras, and dozens of other creatures using an impressively detailed mix of bodypaint and prosthetics. Reactions to this “art project” range from awe to amusement to disgust:
MY SEARCH IS OVER , I HAVE FINALLY FOUND THE MOST DISTURBING THING ON THE INTERNET!
YOU are my hero. I love people who take self-expression into art.
This is the kind of shit you get up to when you're long-term unemployed and left alone in the house for too long. Your girlfriend leaves for work at 7am. You get out of bed at 1pm. By 2pm you're already sick of watching Jeremy Kyle abuse the poor on TV--so you explore the house--and happen upon your GF's make-up bag and then BOOM! You're outside recording yourself and wadda you know ...you're a fucking Deer!
Brilliant? Yes. Inspired? Yes. Creepy as hell? Verily. As all art should be.
I'd like to have sex with that deer.
MrTsBastardChild isn’t the only one who finds Kovas’ Humanimal performance "erotic." Though he doesn’t comment publicly about his sexuality, Kovas has been ogled in many gay publications such as homo-neurotic.com and weloveguys.net. Not surprisingly, Kovas also has a growing following among furries. In fact, he even has his own entry in Wikifur, which, um, yes, is a Wikipedia for the furry community.
Need a half-naked Humanimal Dalmation for your next wedding, bar mitzvah, or office picnic? If you’re in London, Kovas is available for hire. “The majority of my jobs are for the corporate events, usually banking and medical,” says Kovas. “I’ve become more and more in demand lately.”
Sans Humanimal bodypaint, Kova has modeled for a roster of A-list clients including Adidas, Nike, and Diesel. He was recently featured in a spread in Interview with Naomi Campbell. But Kova views his work as The Humanimal as his art, an avant-garde attempt at expressing the beauty of the human form. Curious about the man behind the Humanimal, I spoke with Kovas via email. Here’s what Kovas has to say about Humanimals, the inherent homoeroticism of his art, and his popularity among furries.
Vice: How and when did your Humanimal project begin?
Alex Kovas, the Humanimal: I've been doing entertainment work for about six or seven years, mostly bodypainting for various events. I've been painted in all imaginable designs by different artists, including plain one-color statues, cyborgs, animals, and abstract creatures.
However, about two years ago I decided to concentrate on a particular portion of that--animals--and to do it really well. I chose animals, because vast volumes of inspiration can be drawn from them for the artists I work with. Animal designs transmit effectively on a human body, and it is also much easier and more fun from my point of view to perform as one. So I started getting all sorts of elaborate prosthetics--many of them made for me especially, and called my act Humanimal.
Who helps you turn into different Humanimals?
I work with several makeup and special effects artists (one at a time, of course) who are very good at what they do.
How long does the transformation take?
If it's full bodypaint, it takes four to eight hours depending on the animal design. For example, the cheetah or zebra take eight hours whereas the lion or Doberman take about four. I’m also working on costumes [as opposed to bodypaint] which would cut the preparation time dramatically. As a matter of fact, I already have a full deer costume, which looks great I think.
Do you study animal movement to get into character?
I don't, but I’ve seen so many documentaries on wildlife I can perform more or less convincingly.
The performance is a wee bit homoerotic. Is this intentional? Would you describe the performance as ever being fetishistic for you?
Not at all! I'm guessing this is just a matter of perception and the fact that the naked male form in art is generally considered homoerotic. I just happen to be a male who performs nude (almost!).
Have you been approached by people, at events or otherwise, who fetishize you when you are in makeup?
For that you'll have to go to my YouTube channels (I have two), and read the comments on my videos. As I mentioned earlier, I have a considerable "furry" following online, but so far I haven’t personally encountered anything more than people just admiring my physique or how good the make-up is.
You say the performance is not fetishistic for you, but many would say a nearly naked man wearing a collar in a Dalmatian costume is inherently a bit kinky.
Now, the way you put it, I can see your point. However, the Humanimal is a visual entertainment act, with the goal of blending animal and human forms into one, using art to make it believable. If my Dalmatian wears a collar, this is just to underline the fact that I portray the domestic animal, which is usually expected to wear a collar. If people see it as a submission fetish or something else, there’s not much I can do about it.
Do you see any parallel between Humanimals and furries?
I didn't know what furries were until recently, but from the comments on my YouTube channels I gather I have a big following among them. So obviously there's a parallel, as much as we both try to portray some kind of animal. The main difference is being a furry is a fetish or a lifestyle. I, on the other hand, am a performance artist, who does it as a job, motivated by the creative and artistic aspects of the process. Also I don't wear furry costumes--all my designs are based around the human anatomy, hence the name Humanimal.
What's the most unusual event you've done as a Humanimal?
It would probably be the filming for the Japanese TV channel that I did this month, where I had to perform as a deer (in my new deer costume) for a five-year-old childrens’ party. I didn't know what to expect, but surprisingly, they really liked me. And the day before I had to give an interview to the Japanese TV crew in a full deer bodypaint and very briefly perform outside. It was snowing.
What do you charge for weddings? We generally charge starting from £700 (about $1,000 US these days) for the live event, including weddings.
Of all the creatures you become, which is your favorite?
The top three for me at this point would probably be the Oryx (type of antelope), lion, and Dalmatian.
THE HUMANIMAL HALL O FAME:Dressed as a cheetah at a wedding:Watching the transformation into a big cat with makeup artist Kirsten Bentley:Musical Tiger:Snow Leopard:White tiger:Dog:Zebra:Unicorn: