Salem Mitchell used to be cyberbullied because of her freckles. Then Ford Models spotted a quirky image of her on social media in which she posed alongside a bunch of bruised bananas. Now the 18-year-old beauty has become a Vogue it-model. In spite of her youth, Salem is not getting carried away by her sudden fame.
“I would describe myself as a normal teenager,” she says. “I consider myself to be really fun, optimistic, and a little silly. I was born and raised in San Diego, California. My family and I are pretty close. I’d say I’m closest to my grandparents out of everyone, since I lived with them in San Diego basically my whole life. I’m black and Filipino. My grandma, who I currently live with, and my mom were born in the Philippines and travelled to the United States due to my grandpa being in the military.
“I graduated from high school last year and I began my first year at San Diego State University. But I found it difficult to transition into a full-time student while also taking all of the opportunities coming my way. So I’m taking a bit of a break from college at the moment.”
How does she feel about her appearance? “I’ve always really loved my freckles,” she says. “Growing up, one of my biggest role models was my mom and she is also covered in freckles. So that always made me feel good about them. I would say my confidence in my uniqueness and being able to embrace my differences empowers me.”
How does she see her sense of style? “It’s really fun and bright, almost kind of summery as well,” she replies. “We don’t have very many cold days in Southern California so I definitely take advantage of that with my clothes. I thrift a lot for vintage pieces, I’m really inspired by 1990s fashion as well.
“I’ve been interested in modelling for as long as I can remember. In middle school and high school, I was always scheduling time to have my friends take photos of me and creating my own personal shoots in my backyard.
“I think my biggest obstacle is looking so unique. A lot of shoots that I do, they end up toning down the jewellery or giving me a simpler outfit because I have so much going on with my freckles already. So I fear that some brands and designer might find it too distracting from the clothing or product itself.
“In terms of overcoming, I think that with the use of social media and people becoming more comfortable displaying different standards of beauty, the industry itself will change and realise that my face doesn’t have “a lot going on”, it’s just different than the “normal”. I think social media has had an incredible impact on my career. I probably owe it all to social media.
“Aside from reaching personal success, I hope that within my life I’m able to help others become more comfortable with who they are. I really want to strengthen my platform, use my voice for what’s right, and become an empowering woman spreading light on self-love and self-confidence.”
Photography: Mitchell McCormack
Styling: Suzi Rezler
Makeup: Sara Robey
Hair: Harper at Exclusive Artists Management