Léna Situations: "Keeping myself free is the priority."
Author of a best-selling self-help book entitled Toujours Plus ("Always More") published in 2020, Youtuber and social media star Léna Mahfouf — also known as Léna Situations — is a rising figure in the fashion world. Spotted by Loic Prigent last year, she's been covering fashion shows from the biggest houses with her irresistible sense of humor. An interview.
Printemps.com: Even as a teenager you had a passion for style — you had a blog and regularly stood outside Fashion Week shows to catch a glimpse of the sector's personalities and professionals. Sometimes you even got a seat. Do you remember your first show?
Léna Situations: Yes, it was Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, I was probably 16 or 17 and I published photos and a review of the show on my blog. The guy at the entrance saw me and said, "I see you at every show, you're so cute. Here you go!" and handed me an invitation. I ended up next to Chiara Ferragni. She wasn't as well-known at the time, but I recognized her. I couldn't stop shaking, and I was like, "I love what you do, being an influencer looks awesome!" And that's it. She went about her business and I just sat there thinking to myself, "I want this job, it looks amazing!"
Once you got your high school diploma, you started studying fashion communications at the Moda Domani Institute in Paris. In order to pay for school you had up to five side-jobs at a time. How did that affect you?
It taught me the value of a dollar. It also taught me self-discipline: I had a goal, which meant I had to do everything in my power to achieve it. In a year and a half, I felt like I gained five in terms of maturity. Thankfully I went through all of that before I became an influencer, because otherwise I might be in a very different position today. But even if I tell myself that I deserve where I'm at because I worked hard, I also realize that I come from privilege.
It seems like you've stayed humble even with all your success.
Yeah, I'd be kind of embarrassed if I became a jerk (Laughs). When something's shiny, a lot of people want to take a shot at it, to take it for themselves or be close to it because it'll bring them money or social status, but I really try to stay far away from anything that might give me an inflated sense of myself. All day everyday people are telling you that what you do is great, that you're so pretty, and if you don't take some distance from that you start to believe it and it can become really unpleasant. I don't want that for myself. I came onto the scene quickly, and I might also have to leave it quickly, you never know. Or maybe one day I'll just lose it.
There's a certain amount of pressure, especially algorithmically driven on social media, that pushes people to keep posting, posting, posting, and on the other end, followers who wonder what's up when an influencer takes a break...
That's what everyone says, but at the end of the day I'm not sure how true it is. In fact, sometimes I get the impression that I'm too visible, especially in the promotion of my book. In the world of publishing, it was this very out-of-the-ordinary product, which made me want to defend it even more.
"I came onto the scene quickly, and I might also have to leave it quickly, you never know."
And in the end it was a hit — it even became the top-seller in France.
Yeah, because I really stuck up for it. I really wanted to demonstrate that when you're a girl, and you have a plan and some ambition, you can't give up at the first rejection. In fact, I got loads of them. The book was sold out at first because bookstores didn't order enough, they didn't believe in it. At first, even TV shows refused to invite me for interviews, I didn't get any magazine press, and all the interviews I did were in digital. But I didn't give up and when the media finally realized that it was a hit, I got access.
Alongside your book, you've become more and more invested in the fashion world. Journalist Loic Prigent has been acting as your mentor since he asked you to cover the Balmain show for his Youtube channel in early 2020. How was that collaboration established?
My friend Bilal Hassani put us in contact. He had done a video with Loic and I was like, "I can't believe you, Bilal! I love Loic, I'm such a huge fan!" He makes fun of fashion, he knows that it can be a futile industry, but he also knows that it's art and he does a great job of explaining that. Bilal said to me that Loic had spoken about me as well, that he loved what I did, that he'd watched my vlogs from that past August. I was like, this is incredible. Bilal asked if I wanted to go out to dinner but I didn't know that Loic would be there, and he didn't know I would be either, so it was kind of a blind date. I called my mother after like, "do you get how big this is?" People were talking about him when I was still in school, I went to his book-signings, so it was exciting to meet him and to see how humble he is.
Léna Situations meets Olivier Rousteing at the Balmain Show! by Loic Prigent
After covering Balmain's Fall-Winter 2020 for Loic, you covered the Miu Miu show for his channel and also attended the shows for Dior and Jacquemus... You're very at-home in the fashion world! Seen from the inside, it is everything you expected?
I realize now that there's so much behind-the-scenes work that goes on that I never knew about. With my camera, I now get backstage access. There are so many people involved in putting together a fifteen-minute show! That's what I like to highlight: the people who constructed the set, the make-up artists... After being backstage I love the shows themselves even more. When I collaborate with a brand, I also ask if I can visit their offices, because I love being able to see people, how they work, how they get organized...I'm very curious!
What are you working on at the moment?
I've been wanting to get back into my Youtube channel, because creating videos is probably what I love the most. I started posting every Sunday again, at 8:50pm, like programming for films in TF1 (a French television channel), and I'm also preparing backstage sequences like I mentioned. I want to tell the stories that I get enthusiastic about and put out good content that alternate between fashion, vlogs, and lifestyle. Keeping myself free is the priority. It's been two years now that I've been doing this full-time — so much has happened in that short period of time, and I don't plan on slowing down. I've always gone with my gut and even when it didn't work out I said to myself that at least I'd tried. Better an "at least I tried" than "what if I had."