Monday, July 15, 2024

Elaine George: Model & Model Mentor

Q&A with Elaine George

Elaine George made history as Vogue’s first-ever Indigenous cover model, and her journey since has been nothing short of remarkable. After years dedicated to child protection, Elaine has returned to the runway with a new mission: mentoring the next generation of Indigenous models. We chatted with Elaine about her groundbreaking career, her passion for mentorship, and her inspiring return to the fashion world. 

What was a highlight moment for you in AFW 2024?
There are two highlights for me. The first was walking in two runway shows for Australian Designers (it’s ‘the time time’). The second, was the girls completed the mentoring program and walked in their very first Australian Fashion Week for Jordan Gogos.

Elaine George on the runway
Elaine George walking the runway during the Ikuntji Artists show, AFW 2023. Photo by Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images for AAFW

Other than modelling some beautiful designs on the runway, what does the Elaine George off-the-runway style include?
Given I work in the child protection sector it’s normally jeans and pumps. Sometimes the young people I work with can’t believe it’s me on the runway.

What have been some of the most memorable moments in your career so far?
I do have to say the second Vogue Cover in 2022, to have mob shadow on the set and three beautiful strong Aboriginal Women being on the cover. Vogue really went out of their way to make sure we were culturally safe.

Vogue Cover (B&W version), Photographed by Jess Ruby James and Styled by Philippa Moroney for Vogue Australia

What changes have you seen in the industry over the years, especially regarding diversity and inclusion?
We are slowly closing the gap when it comes to diversity with different looks and what is normal. I do think it’s still a long way for First Nations people. I would like to see not just on the runway but behind the screens. For example, with photography, makeup and hair artists.

What was it that brought you back into modelling after your work as a child protections officer?
I’m in my 30 years in child protection and still have the passion to make an impact on just one family. But I came out of retirement to be a mentor for the First Nations Fashion Design show in Brisbane. This led to Edwina from Vogue sending me emails and I thought they were scam so didn’t reply. TJ from Blaklist found me and next minute, I’m shooting another cover within two months of saying yes.

Elaine George

What inspired you to become a mentor for aspiring models?
At first I was a little hesitant to come on, this old duck. What could I offer young people with all this social media? But when you meet these aspiring models, and they grow up knowing about you from their parents who have the (Vogue) first cover, it brought tears to my eyes. Now they name me Aunty Vogue or mother.

Can you share some of the key lessons or advice you give to young models?
Listen and take everything in. Ask questions, if not from the designers, then your mentor.
If you need a guardian, TJ and I are there, not just Blaklist models for all the babies who don’t have parents with them.

Modelling for Potirakis
Modelling Next Gen Winner Potirakis

How do you help young models navigate the challenges of the fashion industry?
We do it in three ways.

BlakList mentoring program goes for 12 months. The best tip is for them to reach out through skype or zoom anytime through those 12 months. 

We talk to the models about  social media and what you put out there. Remember, the designers will check your socials.

The designer is your client and no matter what, you are a canvas.

Featured Image: Elaine George by Vogue Australia, supplied by Elaine George.
See more Indigenous models at: Top Aboriginal Models and more about model mentor Charlee Fraser

About the Author

Rosaria Rita Daniel

Elaine George spoke with Rosaria
Daniel, a content creator and art
director from South Australia, who
has a passion for fashion and
aesthetics. Her work includes
photography, videography and social
media. Rosaria values Australian
fashion, small businesses, other
creatives, sustainability and making
noise in the creative community.

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