Backstage at the Fashion Awards with TikTok sensation Elsa Majimbo
The internet comedienne shares her photo diary of British fashion’s biggest night of the year, and talks money, Kim Jones and chess.
Photography Uwakokunre (Kokie) Imasogie. Images courtesy of Elsa Majimbo
Few figures have defined our collective experience of the internet over lockdown as memorably as Elsa Majimbo. Even if you don’t know her by name, you’ll know her videos. Armed with little more than a front-facing camera, Matrix-y sunglasses, a bag of crisps, and her equally salty brand of observational humour, Elsa took TikTok and Instagram by storm from her Nairobi bedroom, becoming a key face of a new genre of lo-fi URL comedy.
As the world has opened up, though, Elsa's rise from obscurity has translated to the real world. She’s now a bonafide celebrity, as her increasingly regular appearances at some of the most glamorous events prove. At the beginning of the week, she was invited by the British Fashion Council and TikTok to present at one of the fashion industry’s grandest soirées, the Fashion Awards. Taking to the red carpet in a custom look by Kim Jones’ Fendi, the 20-year-old comedienne rubbed shoulders with the cohort of A-listers that turned out for the night, dazzling them with her firebrand wit.
For the occasion, we sat down with Elsa to talk looks, money and chess, and got her to share her photo diary of the night exclusively with i-D.
You came to prominence during a global lockdown; how does it feel pursuing your career now that the world has emerged?
It's great! I do what I want to do, and no one dictates how I do my job, which is amazing. I get to travel to all these amazing places, meet different kinds of people… I'm enjoying being young and still having a career -- it's the best thing I could ask for, really.
Yeah, you sound pretty blessed! But what did you want to be growing up? You’d started studying journalism before the pandemic, right?
Well, I never actually knew what I wanted to do. I just chose journalism because it was easier than everything else! Well, it was when choosing between that, medicine, engineering and law. I was just like, fuck that! Hell no! So I took journalism because I knew I would pass the whole course. Still, I never knew what I wanted to be – just what I didn't want to be.
You know -- white picket fence, golden retriever running around in the yard…
Gotcha! Tell us one thing that really speaks to who you are.
[Responding immediately] Money.
Money. It drives me to do almost everything. Oh, and my family! [chuckles]
Well, money and family are two good causes for motivation, I guess. But let's talk about why we're here today -- the Fashion Awards. How did you end up presenting on the red carpet?
Well, I was sleeping, and my manager called and told me that the British Fashion Council wanted me to host. I was like, “That's really cool, but it's 11pm right now — let's talk about this in the morning?” So we discussed it the next day, and it altered my plans a bit – I was meant to be in Dubai – but I was really excited to come.
What excites you most about fashion right now?
I feel like designers who are coming up always have the best looks – they’re always doing things that are really unexpected. And I obviously love African designers, too. They're not necessarily seen as much, but seeing them grow and turn themselves into great things is always amazing.
Tell us a bit more about the look your look for the night. It was pretty bold!
I mean, it's an amazing Fendi look. When I was trying to figure out what to wear for the Fashion Awards, I immediately went to Kim Jones -- he's just exceptional, and he has such a great mind.
What is it about his vision for Fendi that you’re particularly drawn to?
He's always proposing something new. And he's always working with other people, which I really respect. It means that you're an easy person to get along with, and that really matters a lot. I think that comes through really strongly in his designs – you can just see his brilliance.
Was there anyone you were particularly excited to see at the Awards?
I was excited for people to see me! I was like, "They are gonna die!"
When you're not wearing Fendi at the Fashion Awards, what's a quintessential Elsa look?
Oh my goodness, it's so boring! I'm so basic! I just wear trousers, a T-shirt — probably from Target to be honest — and a pair of sneakers. It’s weird considering how much designer stuff is sent to me — for free! And I just walk into Target and buy T-shirts.
I’ve heard you’re a keen chess player. When did you start playing?
In high school, because I was bored. But it keeps my mind running, and it helps me think critically through situations and calculate everything. I treat my life like it's chess, basically! It really helps me put my life together.
What’s your most niche interest?
Maths. I love doing maths problems in my free time, which is so weird, but I love it so much.
What sort of maths problems?
Everything! Calculus, algebra, anything you can think of. Just getting them correct is so satisfying.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now?
In a mansion somewhere. I mean, I'll have a few around the world hopefully, but I’ll just be having a good time with my family. And trying to make my next investment and figure out how to make life better for other girls, especially in Africa. I want to help them to rise and be their best.
One last thing I have to ask — what's your favourite crisp flavour?
Salt and vinegar.
Any particular brand?
[laughs] Hell no! You will not trap me with that question! Until they're paying me a seven-figure check, I'm not saying anyone's name!