He teeters on the brink of our exploration. At 20 years old, Joel Mignott at AMCK Models is a prime representative of the liberal and engaging boys of today. Bleached hair and fringed lounge pants - it’s an aesthetic we’re totally here for. The exchange is overflowing with cute giggles and magnetic smiles, even following the statement, ‘I’m a cold bitch’, and we find it hard to believe.
With a childhood spent in the rural countryside of Leeds, he is still a being wholly made up of exciting cultures and experiences, some even unbeknown. We dabble in discussions about his at this time. Popular culture does little to impact Joel’s inklings of the world, a creative driven mostly by the inspiration of close and passionate friends.
Romantic relationships are a far away prospect, not to be considered now, there are more freeing things to be dealt with first. Joel welcomes you into his mind, seeps wisdom into your conscience and reminds you, a thought is just a thought. He is aware. Switched on. "The lows prepare you for the highs, and if you’re just shotting at the highs, you can only go back down real low."
Compelling fortunes are beckoning him away from London. He plans to be a gypsy traveller. Perhaps. Spend a while by the ocean. Embracing the balmy sun, soaking up its generosity for as long as it will allow. A canal boat will help with that, right? Humble curiosities for someone who's already made his impact with high end designers like Vivienne Westwood.
What was it like growing up in Leeds?
I think it was interesting. I speak to all my friends from high school and they talk about how much they miss it, but I didn’t really enjoy it. It wasn’t really for me. My mum lives in the countryside and every time I go back, it’s great for a week, but then I can’t deal with it any more. I feel I need to get back to civilisation.
What do you think are the differences growing up in London and in Leeds?
I feel like a lot of Londoners are naive and blind to the rest of the country. I took some of my friends who have lived in London all their lives to Leeds and they were gobsmacked - they had never seen the countryside. They came to my house for New Years and it was literally like they’d gone on holiday, packed their suitcases and gone to Butlins or something, surrounded by sheep, cows and fresh air. My friend has lived here all of his life, but he has only just been to see Big Ben. So many people live in this beautiful place and just take it for granted. I feel like I have a wholesome understanding of the country and they don’t.
We are talking about Generation Z. How would you describe it?
A mess. I feel like there are so many different splinter cells of our generation, but as a whole, I think we’re a bit lost. We seem to say a lot about nothing.
What do you think are the good things?
I like the communication aspect. With the internet we’re all very linked in to one another. You meet people in the craziest places and have mutual friends on social media, I feel you always have some point of reference with whoever you meet.
What about the challenges for this generation?
Everything has become so easily and readily available, and within our generation we’ve lost the intimacy of meeting somebody and the cute, quirky things of interacting with and meeting new people. That’s something we need to learn and overcome. I don’t know how, but we need to go backwards or make things more personal. Nowadays you have to brand and sell yourself on the internet, and you can either buy into it or not, and if you don’t you’re kind of screwed. You have to play the game.
Who is Joel?
A work in progress. I wake up every day and I feel like an imperfect beauty. I accept all my flaws and every day I’m just accepting them more and more.
What sort of words would you use to describe yourself?
Crazy. Too much. Extra. It’s bad because I know I’m extra, but I don’t see it in myself. It’s only when my friends call me out and then I’m like; 'oh, again'.
What sort of things are you passionate about?
It changes from time to time. I’m quite a passionate person, but it takes a lot for me to get revved up in to something. One of my downfalls is if I don’t like something I won’t give it an ounce of effort. I’ve always been a creative person, love designing and art - I have some projects coming out soon.
How would you describe your current lifestyle?
Currently? Fabulous. Actually no, that’s a lie. Sometimes I feel like Hannah Montana; it goes from partying with the craziest people to doing castings and going home to the country side - boring shit.
How would you want that to change in the next 5-10 years?
My friend just got a canal boat and I really want to buy myself one. That’s within my 5 year plan. I see myself being more self-sufficient. I’m independent anyway because I’m just travelling all the time, but I want to be more grounded. London is my favourite city, but the winters here are just tragic.
Who do you see as influencers of your generation?
For people my age - I don’t really like them. There’s no one that I look up to at my age and think; ‘wow, you’re doing so much for us’. You look at all these influencers that are always on these campaigns, billboards and interviews and I don’t understand why people rave over them.
What would you be inspired to see from your generation?
It’s a really good question, but I really don’t know. It’s a hard one, because it’s a flash in the pan kind of thing; there’s not much consistency. One of my good friends, Shaun Ross, not in my generation though, paved the way for something new. He was one of the first models who was just himself and made a career on wholeheartedly being himself - the first albino male model. That is inspiring to me. Wearing the freshest shoes and posting on Instagram every two days, that I just don’t get.
Have your parents’ cultures had an effect on your upbringing?
My dad is Jamaican and my mum is Polish and Irish. My mum is white and she wasn’t brought up around black people, but since being with my dad and whatnot, she has immersed herself in the culture and she’s got the personality of a black woman. I definitely identify with that side, but I don’t know so much about my Polish side of the family, so I probably connect more so with the Jamaican side, while connecting a lot with the white side too. Being black isn’t just about the colour of your skin. It’s about how you were brought up, your culture, and people have got to remember that being black comes on a spectrum. It’s what you identify as.
Who personally influences you?
I feel lucky, because all the people I look up too tend to be my friends. I’m very inspired by the people I hang around with. My family too; my mum is a massive influence on me. People put all these others on pedestals before they even meet them, and they’re leading themselves up to be let down. I feel a lot of the influencers of this generation are talentless.
What role do you think social media plays in this generation?
It’s got so many pros and cons. I think for me, my career wouldn’t have been half of what it is if it weren’t for social media, but at the same time you’re selling yourself to the devil once you buy into it all. It’s an easy route to get what you want compared to how it used to be. Ot’s a positive, but at the same time it’s a negative, because you get people that don’t deserve the recognition as well. I find it very artificial. I like organic situations, but I’m being pushed more and more by people encouraging me to post every day - I feel inundated. I had social media before, because it was something I liked. Now I look at myself, thinking about how many likes I’m getting, and it’s turned into something I loath. I’m over it.
What do you do to make yourself happy?
Party. I feel like happiness is one of those weird things that come and goes. I don’t think you should go out and do stuff to make yourself happy. I’m happy with the lifestyle that I have and I know there’s ups and downs to it, so I just ride the wave of emotions instead of trying to control them, seeing how it goes.
Would you say you were an emotional person?
All my friends tell me I’m cold. On the outside I show that I’m not that emotional, but the people I’m loyal to I get emotional over and I’m passionate about that. Day-to-day business: I’m a cold bitch. This is why I can’t be in a relationship, I just don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with it. Emotions are a similar thing with respect to me; you’ve got to earn that kind of availability with me.
Do you cry?
Not often. Every now and again though, when I’m drunk, it all comes out and it’s the ugliest thing. It tends to be tequila that does it and I’ll be crying over the stupidest things. I don’t normally cry, maybe every six months there’s one meltdown. I’m not really a negative person, so my emotions just tend to fly out. When I’m pissed off I don’t harbour it and tell people. I don’t feel like I need to be more emotional or need to cry more, I don’t feel like I have anything pent up inside of me. A lot of male people have an issue with crying and they do harbour it in and it makes them angry; they’re told men are ‘supposed’ to be masculine, ‘supposed’ to not cry, ‘supposed' to be the bred winners and the strongest of the family and that’s why so many more men commit suicide than women, because they’re so pent up.
How do you handle stressful situations?
I don’t handle them well. I always get into arguments with people and realise I’ve said things I shouldn’t have. In the moment I just go all out and then regret it. Work load stress, I’m the kind of person who leaves everything til last minute and backed up in the corner till I have to do it, which stresses me out even more! I don’t manage my stress levels very well. My worst nightmare is working in an office being inundated with paperwork.
When you’re in these situations, do you find you’re able to forgive yourself and let things go?
Yeah, I’m very 'forgive and forget’. I don’t harbour anything and I’m not unapologetic either; if I know I’ve done something wrong, I’ll be the first person to say sorry. A lot of people our age have an issue with that. They all feel entitled. It’s hard to control your consciousness in that way, because you do need to be aware and be a bit more righteous than right all the time.
With mental health being such a prominent thing these days, is it something that is close to your heart?
Everyone is dealing with their own mental health every day, and I feel as I get older I am more aware of how easy it is to be tipped over the edge. I feel like the more you think about your mental health, the more it can spiral out of control, so that’s why I find it easier to ride the wave than try and control things. Your consciousness is something you’ve got to work on your whole life and it’s your brain, nobody else’s. A thought is just a thought.
In modern society gender is a lot more fluid than it was. How do you feel about gender identity and fluidity?
I like the way it’s going. I’ve always been happy to express myself and I feel it’s important to express yourself. If you suppress yourself, that’s when you become depressed. You’re suppressing all these emotions and feelings and things that you need to exude. I love dressing up crazy, putting on make up, I love wearing high heels sometimes, stomping through London every now and again. I feel a bit rude sometimes. I like it, but there are still some obviously close-minded people, but each to their own.
Do you think the views on masculinity are changing?
I think so. I feel things a little bit more accepted now. Maybe I’m quite closed off to it, because I’m in fashion and surrounded with open-minded people, but I do go home sometimes and come into contact with people who aren’t the same. I’ve heard stories from my friend of people that are shocked that we have transgender friends, gay friends, and when I hear things like that I’m like; ‘what the hell?’. I feel like I am in a bit of a ‘la la land’ thinking everything is going in the right direction. Fashion has such a big hold on the world through campaigns and films with gay leading roles, so it’s becoming a lot more widely available for men and women to connect with the opposite sex and merge the two. I hope over time it gets more and more accepted.
Are you spiritual or religious?
I don’t believe in religion. I would like to think that I’m slightly spiritual, but I’m not fully into it at the moment. I believe in the universe and I believe in myself and my own spirituality, but it’s something that I need to work on and educate myself on for sure. I need to enlighten myself, but it’s a constant process. It was my New Years resolution to read more books and I got onto them. I feel like before Christmas I was in a low mood, so it was my resolution to enlighten myself and be more positive. I read this book called 'The alchemist', and it had a really good message.
What is your dream?
My dream is to follow my dreams. I never want to succumb to society. I never want a 9-5 job. I want to stay creative and I want to live off me being myself. I think that’s the most free thing. It’s a journey and you find happiness within that journey. If you got handed everything you’ve ever wanted straight away, there’s no fulfilment with that. The lows prepare you for the highs and if you’re just shooting at the highs, you can only go back down real low. It’s a constant valley of highs and lows.
Photography by Cecilie Harris
Introduction and interview by Brogan Anderson
Special thanks to IMPOSSIBLE.