Every now and again here at Semaine, we like to remind ourselves that true tastemakers exist not only at the absolute pinnacle of their professions. Often, it’s those clear-eyed souls at the beginning of their careers, who manage to precipitate true change and leave real impact on their industry. Misha Hart is a model and musician who we think is on the verge of doing exactly that.
Since bursting forth into our consciousness with the Mario Testino-shot Burberry SS16 campaign, the Glaswegian 21-year old has refused to bow to the homogenising pressures of the fashion industry and speaks passionately of everything from the love she has for her hometown, to single-minded strong women and the need for more open discussion around mental health issues.
Before getting to all that however, Misha - like every model to raise her head amongst the masses - had to have her ‘moment.’ The chain of events leading up to this moment go as you might expect: the teenaged Misha is scouted on the streets of Glasgow, her home town; the agency takes an interest as it does with hundreds of other hopefuls each year and she travels down to London, where she joins the relentlessly punishing merry-go-round of casting followed by casting followed by casting… At some point though, Misha gets her break, lands the top job with an internationally-renowned photographer and one of the biggest brands in the world. She gets her moment. She has her platform.
What's always less clear-cut than the what however, is of course the why. Why does one tall, attractive model get plucked from the anonymity of an industry populated pretty much entirely by tall, attractive models? How do you explain that?
If you were to look for these answers in the way Misha describes herself during our chat in her hometown of Glasgow, you’d come away with one resounding reason: she’s “weird.” She utters the word no less than six times in relation to herself throughout the course of the conversation. She goes on to say that she likes to think, “people work with me because they see something they like in my character… If people don’t want [a strong character] then that’s fine, I probably wouldn’t want to work with them either.”
It’s striking just how much Misha’s character shows through in even the most unassuming images of her. Visit her profile on models.com and the generically captured headshot staring back at you is one that somehow seems to both adhere to and subvert expectations at the same time. Yes, the flawless skin and pronounced cheekbones are ever present, but so is a look that says don’t think I’m trying to impress you, via piercing, low-slung eyes and firmly pursed lips that seem on the verge of breaking into a wry smile.
You can’t help but put this down to Misha’s Glaswegian upbringing in part, and she clings lovingly onto these roots where others might allow themselves to be swept away in a sea of London-centric hype and cut-throat careerism. “That’s the thing with Glasgow,” she says. “When I’m kicking about, going to the pub and that, everyone sees me in exactly the same way they always did. They don’t really see the Burberry billboards or anything like that, but then occasionally I’ll have a friend say to me, “something popped up on my newsfeed, I forgot you do that.”’ Misha also experiences similar moments, feelings of being ‘a separate entity altogether’ when away from the model life. “I’ll be like, ‘oh shit! I forgot all about that.’ That feels really weird.”
The other overwhelming influence to have shaped Misha so distinctively is her deep love of music, and she is currently taking the first tentative steps towards a career in music to sit alongside her modelling work (for the record, her agency are extremely supportive of this extra dimension that such a step brings to Misha’s profile). “The idea of modelling wasn’t really on my radar growing up,” says Misha before later elaborating on the childhood dreams that still sit front and centre of her ambitions: “I’ve actually been writing songs since I was eight years old. Both my parents were in bands, my sister writes music too… I can’t really imagine what else I’d want to be doing right now that isn’t making music. I’m still the same girl sitting and writing songs in Glasgow that I always was.” Even at this moment, Misha is channeling those years of songwriting into her latest endeavour as front woman of her new band, The Cut.
And so the portrait starts to emerge of someone whose don’t think I’m trying to impress you ‘cool’ comes not from an aloof sense of superiority but simply from an earnest, grounded passion for something beyond images on a billboard. An enthusiastic conversation about our shared love of The Velvet Underground, The Ramones and “that whole 1970s CBGBs scene” threatens to derail the entire interview, and when she starts to eulogise about iconic female musicians - from Patti Smith to Jehnny Beth from Savages - you begin to see where the absolute faith in putting her own character front and centre might have come from.
Not that Misha is content to channel such strident muses purely for her work in front of a camera and behind a guitar. The 21 year old is admirably aware of how lucky she is to find herself in the position she does, with a platform that offers her exposure in a way few of her peers could ever dream of. With that in mind she is determined to start using that platform for a greater good, even if she is still working out just how to go about doing that most effectively. “I think it’s your duty to say something important. So many people [in a similar position] pander to their own ego… It really pisses me off.” Misha talks passionately about issues close to her heart, in particular the lack of awareness surrounding mental health. One can’t help but think this has probably been exacerbated by working in an industry that, whilst certainly far better than it once was, is still notorious for problems in that arena.
For now though, Misha’s activism - like her music and even her modelling career - is very much a work in progress. It doesn’t sound like a bad CV: Model/Musician/Activist, and a fair few of the strong women she holds in such esteem would be proud to call themselves a combination of those things. Misha, of course, sums it up slightly differently: ‘Oh, I’ve just always been a total weirdo! I guess I kind of thrived on being different, I didn’t mind. I got picked on at school but it didn’t bother me because I always kind of knew that all the best people are weirdos. All the people that I’m inspired by, all the people we’ve talked about, they’re all weirdos as well. I want to be a weirdo, that’s fine by me.”
By James Darton for Semaine.