We caught up with Charnah Ellessee

Charnah Ellessee is a UK based model, documentary maker and all-round inspiration to her organically growing following on Instagram.

Refreshingly, unlike most influencer pages, Charnah‘s profile isn’t filled with Kardashian-esque selfies. Instead you see a strong female personality offering up positive vibes and a sense of humour in a digital world that is becoming overwhelmingly self-conscious. The message across her platforms is to not take yourself so seriously; “chill, it’s only Instagram guys!” reads a caption on one of her stories.

As a model who has been featured in swimwear campaigns and Elle magazine, Charnah’s manifesto is to inspire others to celebrate being themselves and to provide a positive role model for anybody who has their eye on fashion; an industry not known for providing a healthy, diverse range of muses to young people.

Artists with a clear sense of why they’re doing what they’re doing communicate their ideas effortlessly, no matter what they do. They last longer in the industry and ignore what their competitors are doing, focusing hard on their mission. Charnah is hard on her mission spreading good vibes around and the latest achievement reached thousands of people in the form of a debut documentary film, which was critically acclaimed and promoted by Dazed and Confused magazine. OMG She’s Bald was shot over the course of three years and follows a group of ladies who have chosen, like Charnah, to shave all of their hair off. The doc explores their reasoning, how they felt after doing it and their thoughts thereafter. If you’ve ever considered the buzz cut, we recommend you watch it over on YouTube here.

We caught up with Charnah to chat about her life’s mission and where she sources her garms.

How did you get in to modeling?

People used to tell me that I should try modeling and I was always like “Nah, I’m not like that” but I always took creative pictures for my blog, yet never called myself a model. The first time I considered modeling properly was the start of this year when photographer Ryan Laxton reached out to me and I’d just gone through a big break up a couple weeks before, so I kind of needed that confidence boost and he made me feel so comfortable in front of the camera. Normally I’m doing creative direction work, so I’m behind the camera. After that experience, I was like, oh, you know, I quite enjoy being this side of the lens! People started to engage with the pictures I had made on social media and it went from there. It was really organic.

A quote on your Instagram story read “guys, you don’t know how important it is to have me cast for this job…” Can you tell our readers why it’s so important for people to see a model who looks like you?

For the Weekday brand’s eyewear campaign, I didn’t even have a casting, they just reached out to me on Instagram. They didn’t ask me for my measurements, they didn’t ask me anything, they’d just liked a picture of me smiling with a pair of their sunglasses on. I feel like it was my personality that got their attention and it’s a swimwear brand, you know? It’s not even clothes and for me that’s a big thing because I had body insecurities once upon a time and insecurities about being in this industry in general. Weekday overrode all of those negative mental barriers and said they wanted me just as I was, and that’s the message I want to send out to other people. It’s great that the industry is starting to choose vibes and character over a mannequin.

What is your drive behind modeling?

I’m doing it to inspire other people who may have gone through the same body insecurities as I did, and as pretty much as we all do. I want to show them that they can do it to by being who they are and letting their vibes shine.

Your style is completely unique, like a cross between Sisqo and Princess Diana. Where do you source your outfits from?

Most of the things I wear are from car boot sales or charity shops. I don’t shop on the high street, I don’t shop from big brands, I’ve never owned anything designer. I love digging through charity shops and finding absolute gems. It’s fun when people ask “Oh my gosh, I love what you’re wearing, where’d you get it from?” and I say that I got it in a charity shop for £2. It’s hard to have a unique style if you just shop on the high street, where everything’s been curated by a visual merchandiser. Even if I was rich, I’d still go to car boot sales.

Your documentary OMG She’s Bald got a lot of engagement from the public, how did that come about?

I’ve wanted to make the documentary for three years now, but it was when my best friend shaved her head a few months ago that I thought, hmm, I know enough women with shaved heads now, it’s time to do this. I’ve never received any negative comments about my hair though, I mean, you get people looking, but I don’t really pay much attention because they could be looking at the way I’m dressed or the fact I’ve got no makeup on…

We don’t think we’d suit shaved hair…

You should do it! My mum just did it.

Do you have any advice for young people entering the fashion industry?

Don’t do anything that’s not you because you won’t be able to sustain that image you’ve created. Keep it authentic. One thing I learned and what I always do is not to spend too much time pondering on whether or not you should try this or try that, just DO it. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next. Don’t get caught up emotionally. Don’t be afraid do fail, you will eventually get to your place.


Charnah Ellessee

Bottom Photograph © Lizzy Nicholson

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