'I said to myself, let's see if he's a real life Viking and he was' - Influencer Natasha Grano on meeting actor boyfriend Elijah Rowen
"We are all portraitists, Insta-artists now," the historian Simon Schama recently wrote. Certainly, Elijah Rowen is.
For while he may be one of Ireland's hottest young actors - he recently starred in Vikings - as well as minor Irish pop royalty - he is the son of Guggi - Rowen is also, lately been tapping into his hidden talents as official photographer, to his girlfriend, British influencer Natasha Grano.
She has more than a million followers on Instagram and, unlike anyone over the age of 30, has learned how to make money out of being popular on the internet; her life online is a gauzy dream of perfect settings, hair on fleek and her milkshake brings all the brands to the yard. Well, not quite all of them, but the good ones like Estee Lauder and Sisley.
Natasha grew up in Oxford where her father was a famous doctor who helped develop a type of inhaler for asthmatics. After boarding school, she modelled for a while, got married to a designer and had a son, Rio, now aged three.
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Her marriage broke down and now she says that social media was a salve for some of the psychic wounds.
"I felt like I lost myself", she recalls. "I got this illness, an overactive thyroid. It gave me social anxiety and I barely left my house for one year. In that time all I had was social media. I'd go online and look at people and think 'oh my god maybe one day I'll be able to take pictures of myself and look that good.'
And lo, it came to pass. Natasha began taking pictures of herself with various brands somewhere in shot and once her followers began to stack up, so did the commercial interest.
"Influencer wasn't such a common word then so I looked to the girls who were doing it successfully and tried to do what they were doing. I was pregnant, I felt I lost myself. I could have done it with high street brands, I told the brands that I was using them, whether they were this season or ten years ago, and some of them got back to me and said I looked good and they'd like to work with me. I was coming out on Instagram as a single mum trying to show it is possible to be a mum and run a business. I just liked the time, money and freedom and it gave me all that."
The numbers bandied about - 20 grand a month on clothes, for instance - are slightly dizzying - and the Riad in Marrakech that Natasha recently bought - and named after her son - sounds quite Kardashian adjacent (she is, she says, ''empowering the world, one post at a time''.) But beneath the froth and self-promoting puffery, there is also quite a sweet love story.
"We met through a mutual friend at a dive bar in East London where another friend was having his birthday", Natasha recalls of the moment she met Elijah. "The friend said, here is Elijah he's a really cool actor and I said to myself, let's see if he's a real life Viking and he was. Usually I take a lot of time to trust someone to tell them about my son but with him I knew I could right away. Is he is the love of my life? Yes, he's very important to me."
While he has been pressed into photographic duties, the symbiosis works both ways; she is investing in a television series in which he is due to star. She is also trying her hand at old-fashioned journalism and has recently interviewed fashion icons Jimmy Choo, Malan Breton and Joshua Kane.
"I want to develop my own platform interviewing celebrities and stars,", she says. But in the meantime there is a lot of posing to be done. When you have this kind of Insta-fame the whole world becomes a set, she explains, and it's all hands on deck.
"Elijah is super busy on set a lot of the time but on a day off I'll grab him and he takes the shots for me," she says. "He's actually really talented so we usually get the look fairly quickly, but when I started I could take easily 50 photos for one perfect image. Now I don't care as much I've learned to love my imperfections."