An Irish woman who was told she would never be a model as she is the ‘wrong shape’ is enjoying success thanks to her determination and huge popularity on social media.
Lauren Bejaoui had dreamed of working in fashion and becoming a model since she was 14. It seemed as though those hopes would be dashed when she was turned down by every agency in Ireland that she approached, as she is just 5′ 5″.
One even bluntly told her: “No one is going to hire you.”
However, the 21-year-old Dubliner didn’t let those setbacks hold her back and has developed a promising career as a model thanks to support from her social media fans.
Bejaoui has already appeared on billboards in some of the most vibrant cities in the world and has thousands of fans on her Instagram account.
She told the Irish Mail: “In secondary school I knew that’s what I was interested in, all my money went on magazines like Kiss and Stella.
“And I got to intern with Bliss Magazine when I was 14 but I suppose things properly kicked off when I was modelling for Stellar. Loads more stuff came in then.”
As Bejaoui got older, she made the decision to pursue a career in modelling as a professional.
However, her height was a problem for many modelling agencies who refused to take a chance on her.
She met with agencies all over Dublin but was repeatedly turned away.
She said: “Me and my mum went to a number of well-known Irish agencies and every one turned me down.
“One in particular turned to my mum and said, ‘Look, she’s far too short, she doesn’t have the right look. It wouldn’t be right for us to hire her because no one is going to hire your daughter.’
“I was so hurt because I was so young, I was about 15. They’re supposed to be a well established company.
“I just think it was irresponsible, to turn around and say: ‘No one is going to hire your daughter.’ It was unnecessary and insensitive.
“It made me realise I didn’t want to be part of the establishment.”
Despite the insensitive comments, Bejaoui refused to give up. She sent her photos directly to one of her favourite fashion companies, American Apparel.
She said: “I was always crazy about their stuff, it was a vibe I liked, so I figured I’d chance my arm and send them in pictures via their website.”
It’s just as well she did as the clothing brand loved her look and got back in touch with her six months later.
She has since taken part in a successful photoshoots and appeared in advertising billboards on highstreets in in New York and Berlin.
She said: “I was so excited, I did my first shoot with them at their store on Grafton Street, they used a local photographer and it went really well. So they asked me to do a second one.
“To think a girl from Finglas is on their posters. It was so funny but it also taught me something, it showed me that having a bit of initiative was really important. Put yourself out there, you don’t know what will happen.”
Bejaoui has used social media to her advantage and with a following of 28,000 and counting, it is now the companies who are approaching her with requests to be the face of their products.
She said: “I’m very fussy with what I post so I do turn a lot of stuff down.
“I want to get as many followers as possible and build myself up as a brand. I’d love, in the long run, to work for myself completely.”
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Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling