'I want other girls to feel comfortable in their sexuality' - Meet Lauren Bejaoui, Ireland’s answer to Emily Ratajkowski
What were you doing at 22?
Perhaps you were studying hard for your final year of college or staying out all night; maybe you were working as an apprentice or were already part of the working world.
While the rest of us were still figuring out what to do with our lives, one Irish woman is on her way to becoming a one-woman brand: she’s identified her USP, has numbers not to be sniffed at and is starting a conversation by constantly pushing the boundaries.
Enter Lauren Bejaoui, a 22-year-old from Finglas in Dublin. She is among an impressive group of young women who identified an opportunity online and are making a name – as well as big bucks – through their social media channels. She has an agent and is in-demand with brands for sponsored content.
Bejaoui, at 22, is already an old pro at cultivating a loyal digital audience: she began when she was just 17 years old, posting provocative black and white images, which are still the backbone of her aesthetic. She’s drop-dead gorgeous, but refreshingly honest: -she has no qualms about sharing her problem skin in how-to makeup videos and last year, she opened up about getting lip enhancements.
She’s unashamedly glamorous, sharing a seemingly endless array of designer items, brought back down to earth by the fact that she still lives at home with her parents.
“I’m 22. Ideally I would love to out of my home, but it’s not really realistic at the moment,” she says, echoing the mantra of an entire generation affected by soaring rents in Dublin.
“A lot of the stuff I post would be luxury and people don’t really understand where I get the money for these items. Being 22 and living at home, I’m lucky enough to be able to get the pieces I want.”
And she still works full time as a luxury sales assistant at Brown Thomas, a job she is keen to hold onto to avoid the sometimes-isolating nature of freelance work.
“I’ve thought about going full-time in blogging, but it’s a lot of waiting around for money. Even though you’re putting yourself out there, it can be quite a lonely place,” she explains to Independent.ie.
“I’m very talkative, I love interacting with people and I wouldn’t enjoy feeling quite isolated working on my own. It can be lonely sitting ay my computer typing blog posts. I have seen the difference in girls who were doing it part-time in comparison to those who moved into blogging full-time.”
I’m speaking to Bejaoui via a Whatsapp call as she is in Thailand on holidays at the time of our interview. During that trip, her feed is filled with images of her signature aesthetic, which she describes as “minimal, slightly sexual and monochromatic”. I ask her about the suggestive nature of her images, which she says is simply due to a healthy relationship with her body; something she’s keen to encourage other young women to embrace.
“My background has always been to express ourselves. Our parents never oversexualised anything, we were allowed to expressive ourselves for who we are. It’s always been tasteful,” she explained.
“It’s important for young girls to understand as they’re getting older, they’re developing and sexuality shouldn’t be made out to be wrong. “
“I’m very lucky in that I was always allowed to express myself, it was understood. Everyone has sexuality. You shouldn’t be uncomfortable in it.” Her ethos rings familiar of Emily Ratajkowski, the model and actress who is on a one woman mission to change perceptions of the female form and championing a new form of feminism.
Emily, along with a number of Instagram’s most influential users including Kendall Jenner, who are campaigning against the company’s ban on images with women’s nipples. It’s aptly called #FreeTheNipple.
“I’m all for it. To censor something such as the nipples is absolutely ridiculous, especially since men have the exact same part. It’s quite disappointing that such a big platform sexualises nipples. We all came from someone with two nipples, it’s crazy,” Lauren explains.
When I ask does she feel a certain intimacy sharing such sensual pictures of herself, she says: “I’ve grown up in a different generation, not much intimacy in terms of that sort of thing.”
She’s her own photographer, mastering literally all of her angles since she first began dipping her toe in the social media world with a Tumblr account in secondary school.
“I stood out a bit at the time, no one else was really doing what I was,” she says. Which is certainly true. Back when Lauren was showing campaign-worthy close-ups of her body, the rest of us were taking pictures of our crappy lunch.
“I was in school, studying away and in that sense, it was normal as it would be for teen,” she explains of her start. “When I was in fourth year, I realised I wanted to do something a bit more creative and do more. I realised from a young age that I wanted to working with people big in the industry and learn from them hands-on.
“Instead of waiting to get involved, I got to a point where I was sitting in empty classes and doing nothing in transition year. I thought to myself, ‘I can’t just sit here’. There was nothing on offer fashion-wise, so my mum met the principal who agreed to let me do work experience. It meant I would be absent from school more, but I would regularly report back with what I was doing.”
“I worked with magazines and stylists and wound up modelling on a few shoots, it was really productive and I’m really happy I did it.”
Is she ambitious? “Yes. Definitely. I come from a family of doctors.”
With the increasing availability of social media platforms to maximise your digital presence, Bejaoui is sticking mostly to Instagram – which, depending on your speciality, is the most influential and certainly most lucrative of the big three (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
Unlike some of her peers, she doesn’t get lost in the idea of documenting every aspect of her life, which she still believes is for living and not for likes.
“The thing I will say is that I will go a week without posing a picture, which can be a good and bad thing. I’m on holidays now, I never stress myself out or make things difficult for myself,” she explained.
And long may it last.