Salem Mitchell is the first individual we are featuring as a part of our ONLY HUMAN capsule series. She has been on an incredible journey Her unlikely road to becoming a model, her intentional approach to speaking her mind and her wisdom well beyond her years are represented exceedingly well in the following interview.
How old are you? Where are you from? What album is on repeat for you?
I am 21 years old and I’m from San Diego, California! I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Ocean’s Blonde recently, it’s like I’m going back and now finding new favorite songs and listening to the ones I didn’t give enough attention to.
How did your career in modeling come about?
My career in modeling started because of social media, I started just taking pictures for fun, selfies, outfit of the day pictures, etc. and posting them online, I started receiving more responses some good some bad, I feel like the majority of my followers came after I responded to people making fun of my freckles and telling me I looked like a spotted banana, I found a banana and took pictures with it and that photo ended up on the explore page which prompted photographer Mayan Toledano to reach out to me on instagram and ask me to shoot for PAPER Magazine’s Youth Issue!
Did you ever have interest in modeling when you were growing up? Why or why not?
I was always interested in modeling, I would submit photos of myself to American Apparel when I was in high school because they were one of only companies accepting email submissions for models. I would google agencies and read their requirements but I never really fit the measurements they were looking for at the time. While I was interested for a long time I felt like I couldn’t do it, I thought I wasn’t tall enough, I felt like I didn’t know how to model, and I just made a lot of excuses for myself to not take the risk because I was afraid to fail.
Have you always loved your freckles? And what has it felt like more recently to have your look so incredibly sought after?
I’ve always enjoyed them for as long as I can remember, my mom has them and as a kid I loved my moms style and her look, so I was always proud to have a face so similar. I appreciate my look being appreciated because people are so sweet and always compliment me. I think it’s really interesting how beauty standards have shifted over the last few years, I’ve looked the same my whole life, same skin, I have the same hairstyle I did when I was younger, pretty much everything except my age and confidence is the same as when I was younger. People just do whatever everyone else is doing honestly, 5+ years ago it was trendy to make fun of freckles for popularity on social media and now they’re trendy enough for people to like them.
You’re never afraid to speak your mind. Where does your confidence come from?
My upbringing definitely helped me gain that confidence, my parents are both pretty opinionated people and always had thought provoking conversations with me growing up about all sorts of topics. I also went to the San Diego School of Creative and Performing arts for 7 years and everyone around me was pretty outspoken, my sophomore english teacher had an exercise every morning where we would write anything we wanted and share it with the class or fold the page and no one would read it. I just had a lot of opportunities to express myself in my formative years which has transferred over to what I do now.
How do you think about your platform differently now that your reach is so much greater?
I think I have a small responsibility to keep in mind people are looking up to me and to always be someone I would would want to look up to myself. I also think about being as helpful as I am being cute and fun. Sharing important things or being transparent if something heavy is on my mind. Its always important to use what you can for the greater good and for me I have my platform. I will say it’s really hard to touch base on everything, sometimes you start to feel like you need to be an activist in all forms which is great in theory but I’m also just a 21 year old girl who isn’t super educated in all things and I never want to be spreading the wrong things or sharing my opinion on situations I may not actually even understand fully.
What does the phrase “ONLY HUMAN” mean to you?
To me ONLY HUMAN is everything!!! It means we are only beings being who we are, that’s something I have to remind myself because I have so many voices speaking to me. I work in an industry that can be pretty intimidating and competitive, reminding myself I’m only human and I’m just me doing my best helps ground me and calm myself down.
Where can we follow along with you and keep cheering you on?
I use instagram and twitter which both handles are @salemmitchell! ️