Nimue Smit: Meet The Brains Behind The Dutch Model Mafia

The latest in our interview series features model activist Nimue Smit who tell us more about Model Mafia and their collective mission to empower models to fight for change.

With 10 years of international modeling experience under her belt, today Nimue Smit is using her voice and platform to fight for good. She is the Founder of Organic Campus, a food cooperation at the Amsterdam university, and is launching the Dutch hub for global initiative Model Mafia.

Model Mafia is a community of model activists working towards a more equitable industry and world. The community serves two purposes: it provides an empowering non-competitive space for models, and activates their collective voice to promote issues around sustainability and justice.

The Mafia is the brainchild of American model Cameron Russell whose Ted Talk “Looks aren’t everything; trust me I’m a model” deconstructs how beauty is a construct. She plainly states that those deemed “beautiful” by society are merely the benefactors of this. She says:

“It was difficult preparing for this talk as I had to unpack a legacy of gender and racial oppression, only to state that I am one of the biggest beneficiaries.

For Nimue, meeting Russell, and watching this Ted Talk helped to inform her decision not to chase another magazine cover, but instead, use her privilege and voice to help others.

Nimue met Russell while in New York, and Russell - who had heard about Nimue’s grassroots food cooperative - invited her to be part of Model Mafia. Today, Nimue is leading the Dutch Hub of this collective.

Some of the key achievements of Model Mafia to date include:

  • Raising early $20,000 to support activists on the front lines at Standing Rock and sponsoring young healers to travel between tribes to talk about addiction and healing.
  • Rallying support and hiring a bus to transport 50 models to participate in The People’s Climate March in Washington DC.
  • Immediately following the explosive Times report on Harvey Weinstein, the mafia launched the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse to allow for the quick collection of #metoo stories to highlight the size and scope of the problem.

Speaking of the Mafia and its purpose Nimue says:

“As models,we’re solo workers, and this can be a lonely, and at times a frightening experience. Model Mafia is about creating a non-competitive space for models to air concerns and share stories, and help each other out - like how to find a good accountant in New York!”

By coming together in 2016 and collectively engaging in a ‘resource mapping’ exercise, the community of activist models realized they had much more potential.

“Collectively we realized that we have great access to strong networks, wealth, and media, so we thought - why not put this to use and use our resources for good?”

“We started to see ourselves not just as models, but women in media, women with access to media, and women with powerful stories, passion and a hunger for change.”

Summing up, Nimue says:

“With Model Mafia I now have the feeling that there are others that think about the issues we’re facing critically, not only as an industry, but also outside in the world. I’ve realized that I’m not alone and together, I feel braver to speak up!”

While other big cities seem to attract more working models - Milan, Paris, London, New York, Nimue is working to engage models in Amsterdam in the cause.

If you’re a model and would like to get in touch, reach out to:

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