Two days ago, a Sunrise presenter intro’d a segment with this:
“We all know sex sells, but how far is too far when it comes to women in sport? Our next guest is making headlines for saying female athletes should use their appeal to get to the top.”
That next guest was Ellie-Jean Coffey, 19 years old and from the Gold Coast.
Ellie-Jean is Instagram famous. She has 234k followers.
Mick Fanning has 194k.
And there is one thing that makes Ellie-Jean, a national champ and 2012 world junior runner up (but beyond that, in possession of no surfing point of difference from her contemporaries), more Instagram famous than three-time world champ Mick Fanning. And that is skin.
Brown, young, and well-documented skin. It’s hardly a difficult code to crack. Sex has been selling since the ad men on 50s Madison Ave realised that cleavage = vacuum sales (hey, I’ve seen Mad Men too). And it’s a formula that Ellie-Jean is, understandably, quick to defend on national morning television. It is a formula that’s afforded her very sponsor dollar, much fame, so lifestyle. Ask her and she’ll tell you she’s just #blessed, but the Coffey fam vibe is a more calculated one. When tanned glute-favouring frames washed with X-Pro II simultaneously land on the Instagram accounts of Ellie-Jean and her sister, Holly-Sue (147k), it is calculated.
“Nowadays it’s a much easier way to brand yourself,” says Ellie-Jean of social media presence. “Having this whole modelling lifestyle and kind of just going off what I do online has only added extra to what I was already doing.”
Play that nonchalance all you like Ellie-Jean, but I see you over there, doin’ your thang.
And why shouldn’t she do it? She is young and she is good looking and she can surf and if Alana Blanchard can have 882k Instagram followers and her own TV show and a Sports Illustrated shoot and a camembert-level phone advert and win the Surfer Poll vote even though she isn’t the world’s best female surfer then why can’t Ellie-Jean have all that too?
What is wrong with @laird_hamo_rox asking for a date beneath a picture of Ellie-Jean *self-consciously* covering a giggle? What is wrong with @mesh3l_alzaid offering in Arabic to indulge Ellie-Jean’s request of #takemeback to Tahiti? Uh, perhaps there is something wrong that that. But there is certainly nothing wrong with little @montana443 saying that Ellie-Jean is her BIGGEST INSPIRATION IN LIFE! and that Ellie-Jean inspires her to follow her dreams <3.
Ellie-Jean’s Instagram account is an inspiration station for surfer girls younger than her. It is a brief escape from the confines of difficult socio-economic conditions for Iranian men. It is a guilty pleasure for male surfers. And it is a shudder of discomfort for Cori Schumacher.
Ellie-Jean’s Instagram account is going nowhere. Get busy living. – Elliot Struck