Sarah Ellen: Model who has worked with Chanel, Prada is taking on Hollywood | Neighbours

As one of Australia’s original influencers, Sarah Ellen made her name alongside fashion’s elite at international runway shows, while documenting her every move on social media.

She saw and heard plenty that inspired her along the way, but Sydney-based Ellen –

who also works as a model, actor, content creator and artist – says that one pinch-yourself moment stands out. On her way into the Prada show at Milan Fashion Week, Ellen tells Stellar, “Wes Anderson was walking in behind us. I know that doesn’t sound like a crazy moment, but I’m the biggest Wes Anderson fan.”

Forget the models, the designers and the swath of actors swarming in alongside Ellen and her close friend Margaret Zhang, a fellow influencer who is now the editor of Vogue China.

For Ellen, the Hollywood film director was the celebrity sighting: “Margaret and I took a secret selfie with him in the background. We still laugh about it.”

At 26, Ellen is already a fashion industry veteran. As a teenager growing up in Sydney’s western suburbs, she launched her social media career on the now-defunct video app Vine and has amassed a following of 780,000 on Instagram since then. She left school at 16 to study fashion business, where she met Zhang. “She kind of took me under her wing, and that’s where it all began,” Ellen recalls.

Soon she had signed with IMG Models, and within a year, modelling and influencing had become her full-time career. She and Zhang would go on to make the fashion week rounds in London, New York, Milan and Paris. Ellen defines that period as a time when she developed her work ethic, and is candid about the way in which social media – then still

in its infancy – gave her a leg up. “[It] was such a different landscape back then. It was very new. I was a small-town girl who grew up in the western suburbs [of Sydney]. For

me to be sitting front row at Chanel and Fendi with some of the biggest stars in the world was … wow.”

Ellen has since worked with luxury fashion houses such as Valentino, Celine and Tiffany & Co. Her latest collaboration pairs her with the Italian-born drinks brand Peroni, as she prepares to be the special guest when it takes over Sydney’s Bondi Icebergs this Thursday, February 29, to launch its new beer Peroni Stile Capri with a party set against a backdrop inspired by La Fontelina beach club on the Italian island of Capri.

But while fashion, content creation and influencer work are now second nature to Ellen, they were never her end game. Instead, it was acting. In 2016, she made her debut on Neighbours playing Madison Robinson, the daughter of Charlene and Scott – the characters made famous by Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan in the 1980s. “I had just left school and it was my first acting gig,” Ellen tells Stellar. “What a dream to be able to play Kylie Minogue’s daughter. And then I met her. I went up to her, she was lovely. We took a selfie.”

After pressing pause on her acting career, she’s planning her return. At the AACTA Awards earlier this month, Ellen looked the part as she walked the same red carpet as Margot Robbie and Cate Blanchett. “I have a couple of projects in the line,” she reveals.

“It’s safer for me not to say anything just yet. My last role, I was still a teenager. I’m excited to play some more mature characters.

“In modelling, a lot of acting goes inherently with that. [But] a lot of acting is about life experience. You have to understand what makes people tick, emotion, what it feels like to have your heart broken, what it feels like to really want something and not get it. I think that’s why I took a bit of a hiatus from acting, so I could get some life experience under my belt.”

Asked how she’s achieved longevity in social media, an industry where fame can be short-lived and appeal can prove fickle, she replies: “I’ve always wondered why people like to follow my life. Margaret and I were some of the OG fashion bloggers, back in the day. We were both creating – not just photos to post on Instagram …

I think people enjoyed hearing about our experiences overseas. Everybody wanted that inside scoop. It wasn’t as accessible back then as it is now.”

With such a public profile comes scrutiny, and Ellen admits she “had to form thick skin from a young age.

People didn’t have the same internet etiquette as they do now. You’ll always find trolls online, whenever you’re in the public – you expect it. Back then, people were having field days in the comments. I don’t even want to repeat some of them. I grew up with it. The internet is a really weird place. I never thought of it as too real – it’s not like somebody is standing in front of you saying these things to your face. I always remind myself: these people don’t know who I am or know my heart.”

Ellen is still taken aback by the attention. Case in point: the stir she caused by her chopping her long hair into a pixie cut last year. “I highly recommend everybody, at one stage in their lives, cut their hair off,” she says, matter-of-factly. “It’s the most cathartic, liberating feeling to rebel against societal norms and actually not give a f*ck.

“I had this moment of, what the f*ck have I just done? And I know … it’s just hair, it grows back. As I was doing it, I knew I’d have nothing to hide behind. Now, having lived with not having anything to hide behind for the past five months, I can confidently say I’m a different person. I left a relationship I needed to get out of. The hair helped thrust me into a new version of myself. And there’s no going back.”

As summer draws to a close, Ellen says she plans to relocate to New York for a few months to pursue acting opportunities; she recently studied under Sydney-based acting coach Les Chantery, whose past students include Saltburn star Jacob Elordi. “I’ll be back and forth,” Ellen says. “I don’t think I could ever really leave Australia.”

And on Stellar’s coastal cover shoot set, she savoured the last few days of summer with a bottle of Peroni Stile Capri (which is brewed with summery notes of lemon and olive leaf) in hand, and looked ahead to seeing the season out at this week’s party. “I’ve always thought Australia is missing a good European-style beach club,” Ellen says.

“So when Peroni told me they’re turning Bondi Icebergs into one, I thought that was the best idea. I grew up coming to the beach. Now that I live here,” she adds, “that itself is a dream come true.”

Experience the Peroni Capri Beach Club at Sydney’s Bondi Icebergs this Thursday. Free entry from 11am, courtesyof Peroni Nastro Azzurro. This cover story was producedin partnership with Peroni.

Listen to the latest episode of Stellar’s podcast Something to Talk About below:

Originally published as Sarah Ellen: The Aussie ‘it’ girl taking on fashion’s front row

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