Evelyn V.Woodsen

Salem Mitchell Is Changing The Modeling World One Freckle At A Time

Alot can change in a year. In 2015, Salem Mitchell covered our magazine. Merely a year later, she graduated high school,”I went to a performing arts school for 7 years called the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts where I was totally immersed in creative activity. I studied dance for my years there and I wasn’t very good,” she laughs. While in San Diego, Salem was introduced to the people and things in her environment that shaped who she is today. “There were so many types of people who were so passionate about expressing themselves whether it was through their art, their sexuality, their personal style, [or] just being in that environment from age 11-18; [it] positively influenced me so much”. With the help of people in her school, Salem was able to get a head start in beginning her modeling career.

“Being at a school with creative resources, I was able to start working with photographers from my school in the photo studio for their projects which eventually sparked a fire in me to continue at it”

Oyster #110: The Club Issue by Rafael Martinez

Now Salem is the face of Converse and signed to FORD models, “It honestly feels unreal that I’ve had the pleasure of working with Converse so many times. The first time I shot with them I was nervous.” Salem has now worked with Converse five times, “when I left, I was wondering if I met their expectations and since that first shoot in August we’ve worked together several more times.” In such a short time, Salem has become a social media star with a global campaign, “I never expected to be doing Converse campaigns and seeing my face all over social media advertisements, or blown up in stores across the world. It makes me feel so warm, special, and almost even overwhelmed with joy.” This was a dream Salem had since she was little. Due to society’s beauty standards, she never thought being a model was realistic for her,

“I thought you had to have the perfect body, gorgeous height and other traits I simply didn’t have”

She continued, “Modeling was a personal dream that was always in the back of my head but as soon as someone else suggested it, I would immediately shut them down.” One of her biggest supporters has been her boyfriend who gave her the extra confidence to pursue the things she wants, “My current boyfriend had a heavy influence on me. I was at a place during my senior year in high school and I was stressing about how I wanted to live my life, how I wanted things to go for me after I graduated” she says. “He really instilled the idea that the world was mine, anything I wanted I just had to go for and be confident while doing so.”

Byrdie Beauty shot by Kat Borchart

How did she make her dreams a reality? “I spent a lot of my time before I was on the radar of some brands and photographers working with local photographers, having my friends come over and take pictures of me in way too many outfits to count.I also asked my friends from school to shoot me in the photo studio.” she continues.”You have to create opportunities for yourself that are in your reach and see where it leads to.” The most important thing she emphasizes is that opportunities don’t come to you, you have to go out there and get them.”When you’re trying to get involved in modeling you have to go for it yourself and not wait around for someone to give you a break.”

Photography by Prince and Jacob

Although it may look easy from the outside, Salem still faces a lot of adversity since she is a model of color.  Runways lack black models and so do a lot of global campaigns for big fashion brands.”The fashion world does have a diversity problem. Parts of the fashion industry are definitely becoming more inclusive which is really admirable but what we’re seeing is younger brands and newer brands including more models of all ethnicities, all shapes, all sizes.” she continued. “Meanwhile, In the higher fashion world, there’s a bit of a disconnect. I want to see the same diversity in things like American Vogue and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show as we’re seeing in so many young, new, evolving brands.” Although Salem has been modeling for a while, she hasn’t experienced any mistreatment as a black model, but she does worry about the lack of black hair material.”I don’t think all hairstylists have the proper tools and products for black hair Edge Control!” she screams.

“Any opportunity I’m given to speak about the things I feel strongly about I’m going to take it and I’m not going to hold back.”

Beyond being a black model, Salem has distinctive freckles that cover her whole face. It is her signature that sets her apart from other models. Her beautiful freckles have caused her a world of woes on social media, “As soon as I started posting myself on social media, people would try to get retweets by calling me out for looking like anything with spots like bananas or poppyseed bagels. It never really took a toll on me, but I did try to make an effort to shut down all negativity as best I could.” 

Not everyone is strong enough to stand up like Salem, so she makes it her priority to do so. 

The model also hopes to give back to the community.”In addition to just speaking up, in the future I have some ideas about potential workshops I could create when I’m more established in order to help young girls.” In these workshops, she hopes to teach confidence, “People say it’s best to ignore it but it was important to me to let everyone know that what they said wasn’t beneficial nor funny because there are going to be girls with freckles who aren’t as comfortable in their skin as I am, there are going to be girls getting torn down on social media who aren’t going to be able to ignore it and keep it pushing.” Salem says she will be using her platform to speak up,”I plan on making an impact by being a notable face and voice, any opportunity I’m given to speak about the things I feel strongly about I’m going to take it and I’m not going to hold back.”

“I would tell girls who don’t feel confident to really take a moment to shake off any negativity that has been thrown their way.”

“It’s important to realize that just because someone feels a certain way or says a certain thing about you, you don’t have to feel that way about yourself,” She continued. ”You’re as strong, beautiful, and smart as you believe yourself to be. Block everything else out and take a moment to let yourself know who you are and how important you are.”

Salem is definitely changing the modeling world and at a young age, she has already learned so much. “I would say it’s really important to be yourself, every model is different, every career is different, you can’t lose yourself trying to become the picture perfect model or “it-girl” because at the end of the day you’re taking photos but your personality and who you are has to find a way to shine through as well.”