How Salem Mitchell Turned Cyberbullying Into A Contract With Ford Models

February 6, 2017  |  
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For all the blessings the internet has given us, it’s also taken the human element out of many of our interactions. It’s easy to say mean and nasty things online when you don’t have to bother seeing the person’s dejected face as they read your hurtful comments. Any one who spends a certain amount of time in the digital space will eventually find themselves the victim of it.

18-year-old Salem Mitchell learned this when she began sharing pictures of herself on social media. While attending the San Diego School for Creative and Performing Arts, Mitchell’s classmates would often ask her to pose for their photography projects. Mitchell would post the images on her Instagram page and she started building a following. What started off as a very common and innocent activity, posting pictures of herself, eventually became an issue. You see, Mitchell has a whole heap of freckles across her face and apparently, people on the internet didn’t like that. And instead of just scrolling away, they let their thoughts be known.

In an interview with the San Diego Voice, Mitchell said, “I got popular on social media mostly by people making fun of me. I have a lot of freckles, which I don’t see as a problem, but apparently, a lot of people haven’t seen them before. People would say I looked like a banana or a cheetah or like I had a skin disease.”

But instead of cowering because of the comments or refusing to post any more images of herself, Mitchell embraced them and flipped. She started doing photo shoots with the very bruised bananas they to which they compared her.

“If people are going to laugh at me, I’m going to laugh with them and I’m going to be in charge of the jokes that are about me. [The bananas] kind of looked like me.”

The pictures of Mitchell with the bananas also picked up traction online and it wasn’t long before photographers started contacting her to schedule photo shoots. The images ended up in Paper Magazine. Mitchell was featured for a project for Vogue and Gucci.

“Every time I wake up I ask how this happened to me, but I’m not going to question a blessing.”

And the blessings kept coming. Her photos caught the attention of Beyoncé’s team and Mitchell was tapped to model the merchandise for the Lemonade album.

She said, “You have to learn to love all the parts of yourself. If there are parts of you that you don’t like, you can work on changing them or work on coping with who you are and trying to accept yourself. A big way to love yourself is to ignore what other people say. For a lot of young people, they’re influenced by people around them and put a damper on how much you like yourself.”

Mitchell added another victory to her story when she recently signed with the Ford modeling agency.

Salem took the opportunity to thank both her supporters and detractors.

Bow!

She also shared an inspirational message for people who don’t have the “typical” model physique.

Check out more of Salem’s pictures on the following pages.

a love story about two flowers ♡ #UOLoveStories @urbanoutfitters by @thisismayan

A post shared by SALEM (@salemmitchell) on

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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