January 02, 2019

From the 2018 Winter Issue in Purist Magazine.

Models have obliterated the archaic notion that they are just pretty faces over recent decades, first through empire-building (Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum) and then through acts of activism (Ashley Graham, Ebonee Davis). With the evolving presence of the Model Mafia, a global collective of 200+ models who work individually and together to elevate social causes, their impact continues to grow.

“I found modeling to be fun, but intellectually unstimulating and lack- ing community,” says Model Mafia co-founder Áine Rose Campbell, who started community mobilization as a teenager in London, where she organized a talent competition to raise funds for students in need. Later in New York, she organized events to bring models together around issues they care about, as an answer to the industry’s intrinsically isolating stan- dard where “your friends are your competition.”

The guest speaker at one of these events was environmentalist and #MeToo activist Cameron Russell, and together they launched Model Mafia in 2016, hoping to bring together working models under the banner of social impact, as well as “to support each other’s voices while helping them all become leaders for their causes.”

Among the ranks are Ebonee Davis (representation advocate), Leyna Bloom (transgender-awareness activist) and Anne Therese Bengtsson (eco-warrior), who got involved with Model Mafia after marching at the People’s Climate March in DC last year. “I started modeling to have a voice but quickly realized you don’t get to have one,” says Bengtsson, who advocates on behalf of environmental orgs Rainforest Alliance and Lonely Whale. “To me it felt like a huge disconnect, having this platform but not being able to have that voice.” Bengtsson, who is based in San Francisco and was once a model on Project Runway, has a podcast called “Hey Change” and runs Role Models Management, an agency that pairs cause-driven brands with issue-focused models. “Models can use their social media platforms to promote important progressive change to their followers and inspire others to share their stories, too,” she says.