By Chloe Sweet @ChloeSweet
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Videographer / director: Marc-André Lavoie
Producer: Chloe Sweet, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus
Benjamin Altmejd, 25, and Nastia Cloutier, 22, are a heterosexual couple with a difference.
Both working in creative fields as artists and photographers, they are used to breaking boundaries in their respective crafts. However in their personal lives they have found a new way to express themselves – by crossdressing.
The pair, from Canada, met at a house party and although Ben confesses to having a crush on Nastia from the get-go, she says her first impressions of Ben didn’t quite reciprocate his.
“The first night I met him, I thought he was a douche bag,” Nastia admitted.
“But when I got to meet him on the second date, he really showed me his sweet and like little shy side, and my first impression of him completely changed.”
After a number of dates and trips abroad together, they started a relationship and now they have been dating for almost three years.
Their journey with crossdressing began in May this year, when Ben suggested that they dress up in private together.
Recalling that moment, Nastia told Barcroft TV: “I remember the conversation about cross-dressing very well.
“He was like, ‘You know, I don’t know if I should tell you,’ and he was laughing and trying to hide himself. He was like, ‘I would really like to dress up as a girl and have a night in a hotel together and have fun.’”
At the time neither Ben’s family or friends were aware of his secret fantasy.
He told Barcroft TV: “I’d been thinking about doing it for a while but I never had the guts. I was too scared to open myself about it.
“As a partner, [Nastia] is the most supportive person I’ve ever had in my life. She’s the first person I’ve ever really been myself with, I can tell her anything she’s not going to judge me.”
Since then, the couple regularly create hyper-feminine looks together and flaunt their glamorous photos on social media.
They each even have their own sassy alter-egos, named Alaska and Katya.
Describing his female personality, Alaska, Ben said: “She’s this blonde girl, super tall, the highest heel possible, the longest hair - often blonde or pink. She’s just this goddess.”
“When he’s Alaska, he’s like on top of the world and he’s not sorry for being there,” Nastia added.
“Alaska and Katya is a way for us to be ourselves 100 percent without being afraid of what people are going to think about it.
“When we're both dressed up, we're not vulnerable anymore, because we're living a fantasy.”
The couple have since come out to their families, who have been mostly supportive of their unconventional hobby. Ben claims that his dad even shows off photographs of Alaska to his friends and encourages him to post more.
However Nastia says that although her close family are accepting of Alaska, some of her extended family members did not take the news too well.
“Some members of my family have been very uncomfortable with it. To the point where I've been asked, ‘I don't want to see pictures of your boyfriend dressed up anymore. I don't want to hear about it. I don’t want to see it. It makes me uncomfortable. I don't like it.’
“When we put [photos] up on social media, of course it’s for the attention but it’s also because we want to share what we create to the world.”
Ben added: “A lot of my friends would tell me to not stand in a certain way, or not talk like that, or don't do this because the girls might think it's ‘gay.’ And it affected me in a way.
“Putting it online is also like a big ‘f*** you’ to everybody who is hating.”
While the pair have debuted their alter-egos numerous times in public, this has always been in LGBTQ+ friendly venues where safety was not a concern.
However on their first official dinner date as two women, the couple ventured out into town, away from their usual safe spaces.
To their disappointment, the couple did not receive the reaction they were hoping for. While leaving the house, people shouted names at them in the street and someone attempted to “snatch” Ben’s wig.
Nastia explained: “Being a woman in a big city at night, like most women have experienced, is not always the safest.
“People will follow you in cars or people will call up names. You'll have like a bunch of guys driving in the car and they'll be like ‘hey b*****s or ‘hey, you have nice t**s’.
“And the minute that you are ignoring them it's always like, ‘oh, you're such a b*** or ‘go f*** yourself’ or ‘you're just a w**** anyway.’
“And then they realise that Ben is a man and then it would go even further.”
Ben added: “Some people are still going to be closed minded and you can't change them I guess.”
But despite the judgement they face from the public, the couple continue to celebrate their love for each other and for crossdressing.
Nastia said: “No matter if Ben is Ben or if Ben is Alaska, like no matter how he's dressed and who he is, the person I fallen in love with three years ago is always there.
“If you're with someone in life that doesn't allow you to be you, then you're not meant to be with that person.”
Ben said: “It's very liberating to be with someone like this and I'm really grateful. I feel really, really lucky to be with her.”