By Lucy Shanahan
“Oh my God. What have I done? They’ve bleached her eyebrows.”
In a terrifying moment of doubt, a dark thought entered John Scott’s mind when he called his client, Mimi Elashiry, on a shoot for Sneaky Magazine. Her first major fashion editorial with talk of a cover, John and Mimi suspected that something big was brewing. Mimi was bouncy and excited on the phone. John, on the other hand, was searching for an escape route, “I just thought, ‘how do we get out of this?’”. But when he saw the images, it was one of those ‘oh’ moments, “I went, ‘we’re dealing with someone who is more exciting than I ever imagined’.”
Mimi is an unstoppable current and the go-to girl of the moment for all things fashion and beauty. A designer’s golden ticket, Mimi has proven time and time again that her influence transcends beyond the screen and into wardrobes. She has the ability to sell out garments nationally. But rather than being moulded by a major marketing mogul, her brand is her own.
“It’s the new age of expressing yourself and being able to own your own brand. I think that’s the most important thing. Before that, everyone was trying to fit into someone else’s niche. Now it’s like, ‘be you’, so that people connect to that,” Mimi says.
Mimi’s connection with her social media followers has flourished from a grassroots beginning. Many of them crossed paths with her growing up, whether they attended the same school or danced together as baby ballerinas. Anyone who knew Mimi has been able to watch her grow up as they’ve grown themselves. And what’s more, she’s still the same person. As her following has expanded and her work has matured in a remarkably short amount of time, Mimi’s philosophy is to remain the level headed, down to earth young woman she’s always been.
Mimi says her posts are unformulated. She shares what she feels passionate about and ensures that her photos remain true to her own world view. From her vintage finds and homemade protein balls, to major editorials for Free People or simple beach shoots with a friend, to her picturesque film shots of great escapes – Mimi shares the memories founded on her journeys. It’s her magnetic energy and refusal to tick other people’s boxes that keep her followers wanting more. Sharing her life and story has now become a part of her everyday routine. “I think I’ve started to notice lately, I’ve committed to sharing every day of my life, for however long, with 700 000 or however many people it is. I guess I’ve come to an organic and natural flow of telling stories through my photos. I think that’s why people have connected to me and continued to follow me because I’m not forcing things on them and I’m not forcing things on myself.”
At 770 000 followers, John and Mimi have worked creatively and cleverly to find loopholes in the path to traditional modelling. They’re proving that a tangible connection with real people is worth much more than chasing after an industry standard image. But when John and Mimi were first looking for work, they were consistently met with rejection. Meetings with top agencies always reached the same outcome: “every time they kind of just measured me and would wait for me to grow.”
John was particularly frustrated by the prevailing narrow-mindedness of these agencies. On one occasion, he received a call post-casting: “they said ‘look, she is amazing, but she’s not tall enough. We need tall girls.’ Then in the next meeting, the owner came in. She looked at Mimi and said ‘you’re very beautiful, but you’re not a model. I think you should focus on dancing and acting’.”
At the time, Mimi was quietly discovering her own place in online fashion’s wonderland. John said he was wary at first: “I remember her saying, ‘someone wants to pay me to do a post’. And I was like ‘do not take money from strangers! This is weird, what the hell is going on!?’.” But he also sensed that Instagram had a nourishing quality that could turn a platform for self-expression into a legitimate business model. Mimi had already interested a 3000+ following in a brand she had unknowingly curated. John realised two things: “if I can find 100 more Mimis, I will have a new business”; and that by tapping into Mimi’s budding social media influence, they could position her as a serious model with a unique reach to a young audience, a specific group others are forever failing to engage.
Even as John and Mimi embarked on honing a modelling career, Mimi’s work was not always well received. Mimi heard everything from ‘she might be a model, but she’ll never walk in a fashion show’; to ‘she might get some work in Australia, but she’ll never work internationally’. Since then, David Jones specifically requested Mimi to walk for them in Vogue Fashion’s Night Out. Major Australian retailers Glue and General Pants sought after her to hand pick her favourite items and star in national campaigns. Mimi is represented by Next Models, one of the leading modelling agencies in Los Angeles. John says he loves those challenges. “The more I get the more determined I am to prove that this industry is full of outdated paradigms that were expressed in that meeting with that agency, where people said ‘you’re beautiful, but’. To me, that is rubbish. You cannot tell a human being, ‘you’re beautiful, if only’.”
What’s beautiful to Mimi are the people and places that ground her. Flicking back through her Instagram feed, it’s adorned with sweeping landscapes and natural beauty from around the globe. “Travel and spending time with my friends is what inspires me the most.” Her style changes depending on where she is, opting for black in Sydney and something a little more reminiscent of Woodstock ’69 when travelling. She’s more inspired by beauty in the ordinary rather than over-thought content filtered within an inch of it’s life.
Mimi is easy to connect to because she feels like a friend. Her brand is fresh because it’s intimate and familiar, and her path encourages her followers to publish their art forms on their own terms. “I see this time as almost the renaissance of creativity for humans,” John says. “Nowadays, people have this huge opportunity to say ‘wow look at me, look what I did with my hair, look what I did with my nails’, whatever it is. That’s one aspect of it. But then the other thing is ‘look what I made, look at this photograph, this is how I see the world’.”
User generated content is a powerful movement that now dominates our screens, and Mimi’s at the forefront. She’s active in the creative direction and production process of much of the content that appears on her feed. As video content grows and consumers continue to find innovative ways to use relatively underdeveloped apps like Snapchat, businesses and audiences alike are looking for a breath of fresh air, an individual stamp that seeps originality.
Mimi’s success comes down to the fact that she has strived to remain true to herself. She’s self and grateful for the experiences she’s encountered on the way, “I think the fact that I’ve been given the opportunity to travel to different places and meet people and work with photographers and designers and all that sort of stuff… that’s the thing I love about it the most. I wouldn’t have that opportunity otherwise.”
When you book Mimi, you don’t just book a beauty. You book a mermaid with her own song to the sea. You book someone on a spiritual search, a young woman with an open mind and a certain kind of sparkle in her style. You book Mimi Elashiry.
Jordan Keith, @JORDENKEITH