Occasionally, you stumble across a random girl on Instagram who just seems cool. She doesn’t use loads of filters on her photos or even wear much make-up, yet somehow emanates a sort of pristine glow right out of the screen. Her clothes – classic monochrome t-shirts, skimpy slip dresses, oversized jumpers – are enviably normcore-chic, while her wavy bob haircut is on just the right side of un-styled.
Almost every one of this girl’s photos shows her and her alone, but they’re not embarrassing selfies. Rather, they all seem to have been taken by someone else, and each shows another snapshot of what looks like a fun, glossy dream-life: trips to the beach, European city breaks, meals out and drinks with friends.
Louise Delage is one of those cool girls – and since opening her Instagram account just two months ago, the 25-year-old from France has racked up almost 60,000 followers and 50,000 likes.
There’s just one hitch: Delage isn’t real.
‘Louise’ is, in fact, the fictional face of a very real campaign for alcoholism awareness, and the woman in all the photos is a model. Take another look at her apparently enviable Instagram feed, and you’ll notice that ‘Louise Delage’ has a drink in her hand in virtually every picture.
If Louise isn’t literally drinking in a photo, you can guarantee that alcohol is never far away – even if you don't spot it at first.
Louise’s Instagram feed was created by French brand BETC for Addict Aide as part of the ‘Like My Addiction’ campaign, which challenges us to spot the warning signs of addiction on social media.
A video shared on Louise’s Instagram revealed the true purpose of her feed, reminding her followers: “It’s easy to miss the addiction of someone close.”
It’s a hugely clever campaign, not least because many people present their alcohol consumption in a positive light on social media. Instagram is full of flattering photos of people posing with a cocktail in hand, after all – not pictures of the same people vomiting in an alleyway at 4am.
The campaign also invites us to question our assumptions about what someone with an alcohol addiction ‘looks like’. Many of us, upon hearing the word ‘alcoholic’, will imagine someone dishevelled and distressed; a person whose life is falling apart as a result of their addiction. Louise – youthful, beautiful and chic – doesn’t fit the mould. And yet her creators are clear: she has a problem.
In the UK, high-functioning alcoholism – described as addiction to alcohol which apparently has no adverse effects on a person’s day-to-day professional or personal life – is a significant national problem. In 2007, the most recent statistics available, 33% of men and 16% of women were classed as hazardous drinkers by the NHS, and a high proportion of these were likely to be high-functioning alcoholics.
“We all know a Louise Delage,” said Michel Reynaud, president of Actions for Addicts Foundation and co-founder Addict Aide. “The Addict Aide platform offers tools to help all of those who ask themselves questions on their consumption or that of someone close to them.”
If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from alcohol addiction, you can find support here.