Lionel Messi once said, “It took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success”. With our ever-decreasing attention span, it is easier to judge someone from first impressions instead of knowing the story behind them. Sem Graham is one such case – a young Instagram model who seems to have found both fame and money quite easily. But the story behind that young woman is one of determination, sacrifice, and an indomitable will.
A Tragedy Struck Young
Growing up in Florida, Graham always wanted to become a model. But fate, apparently, had other things in mind. Graham met with a horrible car accident when she was 7 that also involved her newborn sister and mother. While the two girls were mostly unharmed, their mother was left with a crippled spine.
From that moment, her life took a turn towards worse. Her father neglected the family and instead promoted her mother’s alcoholism. Her mom grew bitter and vented her frustration on the two sisters. Both of her parents were addicted to drugs. Even as a teenager, Graham tried her best to shine in her studies while also taking care of her sister at home.
She got her first real opportunity at the Miss Delray Beach Teen when she was just 16. While this would have opened more doors for her, but the conditions at home affected her mental well-being. At one point, when she could no longer tolerate the abuse, Graham decided to take the big step and leave her home.
A Second Innings of Hardships
Sem Graham moved to Utah in search of modeling prospects, but she was soon met with disappointment. Most agencies in Utah were not keen on hiring new models. Any offer that she did receive involved moving to another state, which she was unable to do. For a young girl in a new city, surviving is never easy. Graham found a job at a fast-food outlet which only gave her the minimum wage. She barely earned enough to survive, often only eating energy bars and tomato juice as her meal. For months, she had to live in her car because she couldn’t afford a room or a motel. Ultimately, her uncle and aunt in the city took her in. But despite all the hardships, Graham never lost sight of the future she had in her mind. She continued her studies, making time to learn and excelling at her school.
Graham’s stars turned one day thanks to a video that went viral. She had been active on Instagram since 2016, and her fame as a teen model had earned her a few thousand followers. But the viral video made her a rage on the platform. In a matter of days, she had gained over 25,000 followers. Meanwhile, Graham only ever depended on an iPhone on which she shot all her photos. Now realizing the power of social media, the young girl decided to seriously pursue modeling online.
This is Business
Graham’s follow count kept increasing over the next few years, crossing 250,000 in 2019. In 2020, when the world was struggling with a pandemic, Graham decided to create a model business model. She partnered with creator platforms like OnlyFans and Patreon that allowed creators to share content only with paid subscribers. By sharing provocative pictures with her subscribers, Graham managed to earn thousands of dollars per month.
But it is not exactly easy money, as many might guess. Graham has to constantly think of new ideas for photographs, scout new locations, and buy new costumes so that her subscribers keep getting fresh content. Graham confesses that a life of an influencer is not really easy. Her followers have certain expectations from her, and she has to smile and fulfill them every day – no matter how she is personally feeling. But in turn, she is also grateful to her followers whom she considers like a family in its own right.
A lot of people tend to judge women who earn by sharing provocative pictures of themselves. But Sem Graham has frankly crossed the point where she could care about what society thinks. She has bought a house for herself – which she considers one of her proudest achievements. She also managed to not only survive, but thrive, without ever taking money from her parents. Because of all of this, Graham takes pride in what she does, and let others be damned.
A Medium For Change
While most influencers are happy with the attention and sponsorships, they get from social media fame, Graham always wanted to be different. A life of struggle and hardships has made her more sensitive to issues that plague millions like her. Graham has been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. She also suffers from trichotillomania, a related anxiety disorder where a person compulsively pulls his/her hair. While she battles with her conditions, she also tries to use her influence to help others who also face similar mental issues. While mental health has been receiving more attention in recent years, it still hasn’t been normalized in society. With her reach and caring words, Graham tries to do her bit for society.
Looking At the Future
Sem Graham is only 21 right now, and she has already tasted what many would call “success”. With more than 810,000 followers on Instagram (@semy1122), she is only a clear rise. But Graham has no plans of doing this for the rest of her life. She still wants to transition towards mainstream modeling and maybe one day become a supermodel.
She is also equally focused on her academics, currently pursuing graduation. She wants to start her Ph.D. by the time she turns 26. Regarding her family, she stays in touch with her younger sister and wants to one day take complete care of her. With such clear goals in mind, the only way for her seems to be forward. The story of Sem Graham could be aptly summed up as “never judge a book by its cover”.