Selma Nicholls talks Looks Like Me

Tottenham local Selma Nicholls has dedicated everything she has to her business and her passion for her work is infectious. Looks Like Me is a talent and casting agency which aims to raise the profile of under-represented groups in the advertising and fashion world. They currently focus on children from a few months old up to the age of 10.

Selma explained that it all started when her daughter, who was three at the time, came home from nursery one day saying that she wanted straight hair. Selma stayed silent hoping it was a phase that would soon pass. ‘A month later she came home saying she didn’t want to be brown anymore.’ This concerned Selma and she wanted to show her daughter that there were other children out there like her.

Photo inspired by Black Panther

They watched the film Annie together, and when her daughter Riley-Ann saw black actress Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie Bennett, she said ‘Mummy, look – Annie is beautiful… I am Annie and Annie is me. She looks like me.’ Selma started to do some research into the advertising and fashion industry and she realised that it was lacking in diversity. She wants to use the agency to help children to see others in their own image and change perceptions.

Since Looks Like Me started two years ago, they have worked with 100 children. Selma has been mentored by Dr Karen Blackett OBE, first UK Country Manager, of creative agency WPP and has received a Virgin start up loan. Looks Like Me have worked on campaigns with Sainsbury’s, Tesco and #sowhiteproject (raising awareness of the lack of diverse imagery in marketing and advertising).

LLM_ Selma and Riley-Ann Shot 4_016
Selma and her daughter Riley-Ann

When we met Selma, Looks Like Me had just finished a video casting for June Sarpong’s book Diversify. ‘It’s a really beautiful cast of young people from all different backgrounds, speaking about different subjects like love and relationships, that makes you feel that life is a lot simpler through the eyes of children.’

The agency’s biggest success is its global reach, which Selma says was achieved from producing some images based on the film Black Panther. ‘That really got us on the map in many different places… in regards to championing for good.’

Selma explained that the kids that she works with are chosen because of their personality – it’s not necessarily about being cute. ‘It’s about putting people forward who you don’t normally see… We have some children on our books that have different disabilities, who have visible and non-visible conditions.’

Photo inspired by Black Panther

Selma says the drive she has is from her daughter. ‘Through doing Looks Like Me the world has changed through her eyes. She acknowledges everybody as beautiful, and she acknowledges even herself as beautiful. She sees everyone as awesome in their own rightful self as they are, but before she didn’t, she thought one particular group was beautiful and that everyone else should be like that particular group.’

Her plans for the future include a photo book for children which she aims to distribute in nurseries so that when babies are picking up books they see another baby that looks different to them. ‘The first book is of BAME children, all different shades of brown from albinism, who have very white skinand light eyes, to children that have very, very dark skin… We have lots of babies that are just doing what babies do… Rather than asking why it’s creating something new and needed, putting it out there and being part of the solution.’

Selma wants to continue to do great casting, gain more visibility and connect with studios that are already in Tottenham.

This article first appeared in the Fashion & Beauty issue of Discovering Tottenham which was released in September 2018.


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