Stab Magazine | Youth Up In Smoke
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Youth Up In Smoke

Mikey Wright burns through the gates of adulthood!

style // Mar 6, 2017
Words by Words
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Plumes of white smoke billow into the sky of industrial south Sydney, and there is Mikey James Wright, an honest-to-lucifer bastion of flamboyant rawness, cheshire grinning as one hand steers a black ’81 Valiant through a deafening loop.

It might just be a coming-of-age ceremony. 

All the elements of such a thing are there: Scented smoke (burnouts), traditional dress (black trunks), sacrificial materials (tyre rubber, eardrums), an audience (Stab’s production team), two beautiful women (models), two enormous black dobermans (hired), and alcohol (though, not while driving).

Moments before, a minimal cut of lycra had barely clung to the torso of the model named Montana, as she chased the Dobermans past Mikey’s bonnet while he smoked the rear wheels. Why Montana was chasing the Dobermans, why Mikey was spinning the Valiant’s wheels, and why this whole bizarre scene was unfolding in a turning bay in Tempe, is worthy of explanation.

Let us unfurl.

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The necessity of this photoshoot was two-fold. Firstly, because the evolution of Mikey Wright, born 1996 in New South Wales and currently residing on the Gold Coast, is a narrative Stab has watched with great interest for some time. And also, because we’d recently conceived some trunks with Quiksilver, of which we are insanely proud, and wished to capture iconic imagery of Mikey wearing them. Call it sentimentality, call it commerce, call it decadence. We wanted burnouts, nudity, trunks, and Master Wright.

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“Nah, do everything!” Mikey screamed, hours earlier. We’d just reached stop two of a three-location shoot, a cul-de-sac in Kurnell, after being ejected from a parking lot and told that taking photos of a particular oil refinery could be mistaken as a terrorist act. But the photos will be wonderful, we reasoned. And that they are, taken by the charismatic and wild-haired fashion photographer, Jennifer Stenglein. Her energetic shooting style, colourful and freestyled in the capturing, and shockingly polished in the result, was the perfect contrast to Mikey’s stoniness on set. Surprisingly, he is a very good model; The Wright family physique (formidable, in case you’re unaware) is present, but it isn’t until he’s the focus of attention that you perceive Mikey’s resting facial expression. It smoulders. The eyes are ablaze. And, enhanced by the generous and widely-distributed tattoos, and knife-hacked mullet he’s been favouring for some time, the overall impression is spectacular. The two black Dobermans on set and the matte black Valiant don’t hurt, either.

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Aesthetically, the grayscale scene we’ve painted Mikey befits an anti-superstar. Which he very much is. But, looks deceive.

Between shots, Mikey wants to learn about the Dobermans. He happily peppers their handlers with questions about the animals. He is warm, and spirited, and listens well. He doesn’t wait for gaps to speak. He is an endearing presence, evidently well-raised.

And then, there’s the attitude. It was when Montana had climbed onto the Valiant’s roof for one particular scene, and the team had inquired if that was acceptable, if the roof would dent, that Mikey had yelled over the music and electricity, “Do everything!” – a highly fitting phrase for his approach to the day.

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“Normally if you’re taking fashion photos for surfing, you stand there, they take some shots, you change your outfit, they take some more shots… But this was so different to that,” he tells me afterwards. “I thought it was sick. Having smoking hot chicks there, especially them being nude… It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. I didn’t know what to do, like, what the fuck do I do? But Jen was amazing to work with, really helpful, and knew exactly what she wanted, telling me how to stand and stuff. The whole day was sick fun, but the best was doing burnouts at the end.”

Mikey’s delivery isn’t over-thought. There is nothing feigned. One gets the impression, talking to him, that he is an old friend, with whom there is no need for surface-level chatter.

“It’s not an image, it’s just who I am,” he immediately offers when I inquire about the man he’s become. “I do what I want to do.”

And what Mikey wants to do, is be a (very charmed) 20-year-old Australian. He wants to surf. He wants to fish. He wants to drift his 450-horsepower Nissan Silvia on a race track, and go four-wheel driving in his 76 series Toyota Land Cruiser, both of which are lovingly pumped-up. As Scott Fitzgerald said, “Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.” And, Mikey’s just living it.

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“When I was 17 I had a V6 Holden Commodore wagon, I was young and dumb, doing stupid shit…” Mikey really lights up on the subject of cars. “I had a hell time in that, but swapped it out for a Landy, and got a drifter so I can go fast and drift on a track and not cause harm to other people…” 

It’s only been in the last two years, since discovering the joy of independence that comes with being 18 in Australia, that Mikey has really become his own man. All with an impassioned approach, as hard and fast and as engaged as possible. The downside? A reoccurring ankle injury from committing to dizzying airs. The upside? A diverse character of molten exterior that encases bubbling lava.

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“It’s just the risk you take when you’re going hard and trying to go big,” he says of the ankle. And then, more profoundly: “There’s no point doing it half-strength, go as fast and as big as you possibly can.”

That’s Mikey’s approach to everything: Don’t undercook it. He brought this mantra to our photoshoot. I tell him that most pro surf gents bore easily during a Style shoot, and that he was a welcome, engaged, exception. “It’s because I was so interested in it all, especially because Jen was so good to work with. I’d spoken to her about doing a shoot prior, so I wanted to give my full attention and do the best job possible.”

A good job, Mikey always does. As he leaves the scene and heads south, the smoke dissolves into the Sydney sky, and perhaps, his youth along with it. 

“I do feel like I’m starting to become more of an adult. I mean, I still feel young. I like being young and doing fun stuff – I don’t want to do that adult stuff. But I’m probably having more fun now than ever, because I’ve embraced what I like doing. I’ve just… become who I want to be.”

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Photography by Jennifer Stenglein
Hair by Lauren McCowan using evo
Makeup by Casey Gore @ Reload Agency using BECCA Cosmetics
Models @ IMG, Montana Cox and Astrid Holler

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