Lena Mahfouf, best known as Lena Situations, has quickly become the fashion world's favorite "it girl." The 24-year-old French content creator regularly collaborates with brands like Dior and was one of the leading voices in luxury fashion in 2021, according to LaunchMetrics. Needless to say, her massive influence in the industry is clear.
A quick look at Mahfouf's Instagram—which is followed by over 3.5 million people—shows just how busy she is, and why scheduling an interview with her was no easy feat. From attending major Paris Fashion Week shows to publishing a self-help book for Gen Z called Toujours Plus (Always More), Mahfouf is challenging what it means to be a social media star.
Born and raised in Paris, Mahfouf knew from a young age she was nurturing a love for fashion and entertainment. This passion led her to pursue a semester abroad at Baruch College in New York City, a goal she achieved by taking on multiple student jobs. "I was like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada," she says while remembering her gigs as a community manager for a fashion brand, a team member at a movie theater, and a nanny. "I was running everywhere with everyone's coffee in my hands."
Mahfouf's YouTube channel started gaining popularity while she lived with six roommates in a small Manhattan apartment. When she returned to France, she says people started recognizing her on the street. "I didn't know people actually liked my videos," she tells me.
Mahfouf's global appeal as an influencer has led to incredible opportunities like being included in French Forbes' 30 Under 30 list and profiled by The New York Times. Below, she talks about the importance of diversity in the fashion industry, the power of social media, and what she loves most about being part of Gen-Z.
When did your interest in fashion and entertainment begin?
My mother used to be a designer. I'd come home from school, and there were scraps of fabric everywhere in the living room because she was designing big dresses or outfits for circus elephants. However, my journey started with blogging. When I was in high school, bloggers became trendy so I started my own blog. I wrote in English because I didn't want people in France to see it. I was embarrassed.
Then, I moved on to YouTube. I used to do fashion hauls, styling ideas, etc. But talking about fashion was complicated. [Fashion brands] didn't want to be associated with YouTubers. It wasn't classy enough for them and it also meant their art would be accessible to all. The platform eventually started changing and luxury fashion houses started changing their way of communicating.
What have been some of the most memorable moments of your career?
I enjoy all the fashion shows. We often used to skip school to try to get a spot at the Dior fashion show or watch the VIPs go by outside to see how they were dressed. Sometimes, we were able to get in to see a show. So, to now be receiving invitations with my name on it… I'm loving it.
What do you appreciate most about being a part of Gen Z?
I love the conversations this new generation is having on social media. There has been discussion around diversity, gender, sexuality, freedom of speech, and thought. These conversations are more than necessary because traditional media, managed by an older generation, wasn’t bringing them forward. Freedom of speech is something we’ll never be able to take away from social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. They have allowed underrepresented communities to have a platform.
How has Gen Z helped redefine the fashion and the entertainment industry? What changes have you noticed in your lifetime?
Designer brands have had to open their doors to other markets because they only catered to rich white men and their wives before. They weren’t interested in the youth because they thought they wouldn’t buy anything.
Many designers thought, If we show our brand to everyone, it won’t be designer anymore. This sort of condescending tone is starting to dissipate. This new generation is beginning to see the elitist aspect of fashion and changing how we view luxury. This would have never happened five years ago.
Where does the fashion industry need to go from here? What do you hope to see in the future?
There’s still so much to do regarding diversity and how women are being treated in fashion. These are things that need to happen inside the workplace. I don’t want to see an Asian and Black model in a campaign if there are 400 white people in the office.
It’s a seed that needs to keep growing until it’s no longer a topic of discussion, and it just becomes obvious. As a transplant into this world, I see that things are changing, and it’s a good thing, but there’s still work to be done.
How do you hope to continue impacting the fashion and entertainment industry?
As soon as I arrived in the fashion world, I started thinking, What will my place be? Physically, I don’t fit in. I am not a size 0, with straight blond hair and blue eyes. I think my place in fashion is to help young women and men feel less insecure. When Elle France offered to put me on the cover, I asked them if we could shoot without makeup and retouching. I wanted to show that all of this is very fake, just like social media.
Another goal is to highlight the behind-the-scenes of Fashion Week and show the many people who work backstage that don’t get the spotlight. I ultimately want to make fashion accessible and remove feelings of self-consciousness.
What does fashion mean to you?
It's a form of self-expression and self-care. I like that my outfit can act as a shield when I don't feel confident. Sometimes you need to feel strong, and that can come through what you look like before how you feel. I also see fashion as an art form. I find it fascinating to learn about a designer's history and see their inspiration from different eras.
When it comes to working with brands, what is important to you?
The first thing I do is check to see if I like the product. I have a responsibility only to promote things that are useful and work. I also always ask the brand if we can make creative content, not just a picture of me holding the product. I want to do this long-term because making videos is my passion. My goal is to respect my audience because they respect me and take time to look at the content I put out. It's a relationship built around mutual respect.
What are some of your favorite beauty products?
I buy products I can't find in France when I go to the States. I recently discovered Patrick Ta, Gigi Hadid's makeup artist, who launched a makeup brand. I can't go out without eyeliner and usually use the KVD Beauty Tattoo Liner Vegan Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($23). I also recently received Kylie Jenner's products, who just launched her brand in Europe. I buy my skincare products at the pharmacy in France and love brands like Avene and La Roche Posay.
Which of your peers inspire you and why?
My number one inspiration is a New Yorker, Casey Neistat. He's the godfather of daily vlogging. I always wondered, How does he shoot such beautiful videos in a loud city? No matter what microphone he used, I went and bought it. No matter what camera he used, I went and bought it too. He brought his camera outside, told you stories, and showed you New York. He makes fewer videos now, but he entertained me during my childhood.