THE OUTNET’S Head of Content, Claudia Mahoney, got to reunite with model, actor and one of the stars of our new holiday campaign Ella-Rae Smith. In case you missed their live conversation about The Stranger, working with Jennifer Saunders and Richard Armitage, and where she wants to take her career next (while also being THE OUTNET’s number one fan), we made sure to save some of the best bits…
Claudia: Welcome, and thank you so, so much for giving up your evening to talk with us. I’m just going to introduce you to the people who may or may not know a bit about you. Very obviously you are incredibly genetically blessed and a model, but you’re also an actor and if people are thinking ‘oo, where have I seen you?’ If you had a binge, Netflix fest earlier in lockdown when you were in The Stranger. I’m gonna confess that I haven’t quite finished it, but I think I’ve got 3 episodes to go.
Ella-Rae: How can you live though not having finished it?
Claudia: I am on edge! But I want to ask you about that experience and about what it must have been like to be working with such…. The great and the good! You had everyone in there from Jennifer Saunders to Dervla Kirwan, what was it like being on set?
Ella-Rae: I’m not gonna lie, I got so starstruck. I only saw Jennifer Saunders once at a read-through and my heart fluttered and I didn’t quite know what to do, I got too starstruck to even say hello because she is just a legend. Richard Armitage was fantastic. One day he brought an ice-cream van to set, everyone got an ice cream.
Claudia: You sort of form these intense relationships when you’re on-set with the cast and crew that you’re working with. And then, being separated from them must feel sort of… you must be a bit bereft afterwards.
Ella-Rae: It’s so sad. I feel like you have like the special actor’s mourning process after you finish a job. You get a job and you’re surrounded by this community of people and you’re with the same people every day for however many weeks or months and you become a little family and one day it just ends, and that’s it. And you, well I at least, have a little cry.
Claudia: We have just worked together really recently. You are one of the faces of our holiday/Christmas/festive campaign. And it was the dream day, I’m not just saying that, we had you on set, the exquisite Francesca Hayward the ballerina and iconic model Nadja Bender who is hilarious. And there was just such a wonderful energy on the set with three really inspiring hard-working women of substance and we all really, really loved working with you!
Ella-Rae: It was just joyful wasn’t it? That was kind of the feeling of absolute joy and I feel like we were all, I mean, I can’t speak for everyone else but for me I was so happy to be around strangers again and working together and just to be doing something and doing something so fun and lively and cheerful, you couldn’t not have a great day. It’s almost like, you know, the world’s been so dark and difficult at the moment and now Christmas is coming along and we’re getting that little bit of sparkle that cheers us all up and I feel like we just had a big dose of that in one day. Magic.
Claudia: Are you one of those people, sort of super ambitious that you thought ‘right, I’m gonna be the next super model.’ Or, did you think back then, this is going to be a great stepping stone into the acting world?
Ella-Rae: I definitely knew I wanted to, I think I had like a big love and like this fantasy idea about modelling. But I always wanted to act more than I wanted to model so for me it’s just two things that went hand-in-hand. And, I started doing them both at the same time and have continued to do them both throughout my career. So, it’s not at all like one came before or after the other, they’ve always been beside each other and they help each other in so many ways, definitely.
Claudia: And you’ve seen yourself grow up on film. Do you have a dream brand that you haven’t worked with yet? Obviously other than THE OUTNET, you’ve reached the pinnacle, but is there a brand or equally, is there like a role or way of acting like theatre or Hollywood on your agenda? Where are your aspirations, where are they leading you to?
Ella-Rae: I feel like throughout my whole career I’ve been open to whatever comes. Kind of how I try to be because there’s only so much you can pin on like wanting a specific thing, you know what I mean? There are so many opportunities that open doors to other opportunities which might open doors to other fantastic opportunities. So, I kind of don’t have a set ‘I want to do that.’ I mean, I know that I want to make more films, I love making films, but I don’t know like the exact thing that I want, do you know what I mean?
Claudia: You know, effectively what you are is a portal for telling stories, aren’t you? But do you like the idea of being the person in control of the stories, writing the stories, directing or anything like that? Or are you really happy bringing to life different people’s characters and work and being part of a collaborative process?
Ella-Rae: Well, that’s the thing, I love being part of someone else’s work and I feel like that’s what modelling and acting is. You’re kind of a muse in both of those situations and I love that, I love, especially with modelling because you don’t get a brief a lot of the time before a job. You just walk into a space and you’re transformed into something else and just on the spot you become this fantasy of whatever it is. And I love that with acting I get to do that for a long time and I get to devote a period of my life to that. But, as an actor there’s only so much that you do, everyone has their specific part, and you’re only involved in actually a really, really small process of making something I’m really interested in all the other processes and I definitely see myself doing some of them…
Claudia: Don’t want to jinx it!
Ella-Rae: Not that I don’t want to jinx it, I’m just, I don’t know, I’m not ready. Storytelling is the most fun thing ever, I love it, I love that films have so much power. You know, everyone has seen Jaws, everyone has seen Star Wars, someone just said collaboration is key, that’s so true. That’s what making a film is. This perfect community where everyone, and being on set modelling, perfect community, everyone has their role. No one can make this thing without anyone else all working together, perfect strangers.
Claudia: You’ve got the makeup team, to the hair to the sound, lighting, everything.
Ella-Rae: Even to the guys who bring the porta-loos and like, you know what I mean? The forgotten heroes, the location scouts, security guards, there’s just so… that’s why I’m so angry about how the arts have been treated by the government because it’s not a small industry that only employs a few people. It employs so many people, there’s the most insane amount of work that goes into creating a production and cutting support for the arts means that a lot of people will be affected.
Claudia: I’m going to ask you about fashion and how you are our biggest, our possibly, would you say top 5 of THE OUTNET’s fans?
Ella-Rae: Probably number 1. I mean, I was talking to someone about THE OUTNET the other day, it was you! And you said, ‘are you on our sales team?’ I should be! I talk about you all the time. I’ve loved you for many years now.
Claudia: Yeah, you are a shopper, but you are, and this is a really good thing, and on that Gen Z thing of being very conscious of the way that you shop. And, I know that you like THE OUTNET because we’re past season and so we’re sort of extending the life of the product in that slightly sort of circular-economy way. But you tend to buy really purposefully don’t you?
Ella-Rae: I do, I really do. I just feel like, I think it’s something that my grandma taught my mum and my mum taught me, if you’re gonna buy something, you may as well invest in it. I feel like shopping like that is a much smarter way of using your money and that’s why I love THE OUTNET. I would rather buy a beautiful coat that means something… like my McQueen coat. My McQueen coat, from THE OUTNET, which I bought for my 21st birthday and I took with me to New York when I went to New York for the first time, and I wore it in a helicopter going over New York. I have sentimental attachments to my clothes and I don’t know, I just like buying special things, buying purposeful things, looking at something and thinking ‘do I love this, do I need this, does this need to become part of my collection?’
Claudia: I’m so glad that you are such a fan and long may that continue. So, I wondered, speaking of nasty consumerism, is there anything on your Wish List for Santa this year that is a considered purchase that you have longed for?
Ella-Rae: Do you know what? Maybe some knee-high boots, I would never buy that for myself but if this is like fantasy Christmas. Like those Jimmy Choo boots that Nadja wore in the shoot! Ah!
Claudia: So, what’s next? What can we look forward to seeing you in next? What’s in the pipeline for Ella-Rae Smith?
Ella-Rae: Ok, first up THE OUTNET Christmas campaign, obviously. And then I have two films, one of them is called Séance, which stars Suki Waterhouse and Inanna Sarkis who is a Vlogger, youtuber and Madisen Beaty and me. Yeah, it’s a really cool horror film. And, secondly a film called Sweetheart which is my favorite film experience ever, so excited for it to come out. It’s an LGBT love story, coming-of-age film and it’s just pure joy!
Claudia: What a note to finish on! That is really exciting, listen Ella, you have been and are a complete joy!
Ella-Rae: Can I be part of THE OUTNET family now?
Claudia: You are 100% inducted into THE OUTNET hall of fame, family. You passed, it’s fine, flying colors, we all love you. Thank you so, so much. We can’t wait to see Séance and Sweetheart as well.
Ella-Rae: Lots of love! Bye!
“I’ve just been so obsessed since I first watched it. I talk about it probably on a weekly basis and I think I’m ready to re-watch the 7/8 seasons, it’s just perfect.”
I was kind of daydreaming about them earlier. I realized how good they’ve been for me during lockdown because, it’s just a reason to get out of the house every day and go for a walk and just these really, really happy animals. Just seeing happy little animals playing, being excited about sticks and balls that just rubs off on you as well I think.
There is this Max Mara bag… I can’t remember what it’s called. It’s big, it’s brown, it’s crocodile leather, it comes in three different sizes. I saw it like two years ago at an airport in like Denmark.