Jet-setting influencer, fashion illustrator, blogger and oft-time Wellington resident Garance Doré surprised many of her followers on Sunday when she shared a politically charged statement to her Instagram account referencing Covid-19 vaccines. But the clues were there all along.
On March 30 2020, beloved French style influencer Garance Doré posted to Instagram. “A view of the Wellington Harbour, the place I am happy to call home in this crazy crazy crazy time,” she announced to the surprise of some of her 700+k followers, which includes high profile names like Drew Barrymore, Jessica Alba, Instagram’s head of fashion Eva Chen and stylist Law Roach (and lots of New Zealand fashion designers and industry figures).
Garance later explained to Stuff - on day 23 of level 4 lockdown in April 2020 - that she had followed love. Elusive about her partner, all she would say at the time was that he “lived in New Zealand. Sort of”. They had met, she said, two months before she came here for the visit that would immediately turn into a level 4 lockdown.
(Said partner is NZ-based Scottish actor Graham Mctavish, who shared a photo taken by Garance on March 25 - the day NZ went into level 4 lockdown - thanking her for “helping me through this”).
On August 10, with LA still under a shelter in place order and residents being asked to avoid all non-essential travel, Garance posted a video of Graham at Kilchurn Castle in Scotland. She went on to regularly post gorgeous photos that made it appear travel was an everyday occurrence, until September 30.
In November she published a letter on her new platform L’Île, joking about luxuriating in conspiracies, being red-pilled and jumping on a plane to Europe.
This is all international travel as the pandemic raged worldwide.
In early January, the peak of European winter, Garance was back in Aotearoa; sharing an Instagram Story about “living one of the strangest experiences of my life as I am coming out of a two weeks quarantine in a managed facility in New Zealand and entering a world that feels exactly how it felt a year ago.
“Had been working on this for a long time, as I needed a visa and didn’t know until the last minute if it would work. I am super grateful.”
New Zealand’s borders are currently closed, with strict restrictions allowing entry only for citizens, residents, people granted an exception or those travelling from a quarantine-free travel zone.
Earlier this month the Herald reported that up to 50,000 of visa applications from the past 12 months had been cancelled.
Immigration New Zealand border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg told the Herald that most applications were for visitor, student and work visas.
RNZ later reported that many of these cancellations were those wanting to reunite with their partners, including those in arranged marriages. INZ has not been processing offshore visitor applications since the start of the pandemic unless applicants have been given a border exception.
An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson confirmed that Garance held a temporary visa that enabled her to travel to New Zealand and met the necessary requirements to be granted entry.
This was at a time when demand for spots in quarantine facilities was extremely high, with TVNZ first reporting that “desperate Kiwis” were turning to computer programmes to book spots, with rooms booked out until March (this is still an issue for those wanting - or needing - to return home).
From January through to the end of March, Garance’s Instagram feed read like a tourist brochure for Tourism NZ - an incredible campaign for a country that no tourists could visit.
The festival updated their schedule and live streamed the event, explaining that Garance had “urgently returned to France for family reasons”.
Instagram Stories showed that Garance had travelled to St Ives in Cornwall via LA, where she’d spent time with friends.
On May 31 she announced she was “back home” in Iles Sanguinaires, Corsica, and on July 1 she said she’d spent a month in Corsica with her family and was “so busy” she “barely opened” Instagram. By July 5 she was in London, where she was still posting from last week.
This weekend Garance took to Instagram once again, this time with an image of Monet’s The Rue Montorgueil in Paris and a caption that referenced freedom of speech, rights and fear - buzzwords of Covid-19 ‘just asking questions’ brigade.
“No discussions about vaccination or no vaccination here. Your body, your integrity. Whatever your choice, I respect it and support it thoroughly,” she began.
But, she went on, pushing back against the Covid-19 restrictions announced last week by French president Emmanuel Macron in a bid to contain the spread of the surging Delta variant, including a health pass showing double vaccination or a recent negative test required to visit public venues, and mandatory vaccinations for certain workers.
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“I simply want to stand, today, with the people of France in peacefully expressing their discontent over the recent restrictions of our hard-earned freedoms. I never took them for granted, and always knew that they would have to be protected with courage and determination when the time would come," she wrote. “This might be the day."
“This is for my brother who is a restaurateur and doesn’t know how he’ll stay open and feed his family, this is for my friend who has a sick teenager that she can not vaccinate and who therefore might be deprived of his right to go to school.
“And this is for me who rarely uses my voice on these types of subjects but who wants to move away from this state of fear. This is for remembering that a divided nation is vulnerable. This is for freedom of speech. This is for the wisdom to discern, in times of such turbulence, what our elders fought for, what systems they created to protect us, and which fundamental values we stand for, no matter our beliefs.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.”
The comments are exactly the mixed bag you’d expect on this subject in 2021. Some supported her call for ‘liberty’, including wellness influencer and vocal anti-vaxxer Shiva Rose.
But many of Garance’s followers, who perhaps hadn’t clocked her numerous movements and disregard for authority and regulations, were taken aback by her stance on free will and individualism in regards to a global pandemic that has killed 4 million people and relies on unified communities for protection.
Several noted her privilege in being able to live in Aotearoa and travel the world throughout 2020 and 2021.
Garance, a white woman of enormous privilege with an eye for the artisanal and a lightly filtered view of nature, fits the archetype of the type of person who subtly uses anti-science language to propagate ‘discussions’ around individualism and freedom.
Prevalent in the wellness and influencer industries, they are also more palatable to the collective consciousness - and Instagram algorithm - than gun-toting conspiracy sharing MAGA folk - but potentially just as dangerous, particularly given stalling vaccination numbers in the US that are seeing Covid-19 numbers soaring once again, and huge vaccine inequity worldwide.
Few of Garance’s followers have enjoyed the kind of freedoms she has over the past 18 months.
Now, she is pushing back on the same science and response that she harnessed to have her ‘freedom’ while living in (and coming and going from) Aotearoa, and dangerously using her platform to encourage others to follow suit.
This story has been updated