Saskatchewan

Documentary about Saskatchewan-born model Elly Mayday streaming on Prime Video

A documentary starring a late Saskatchewan model has been added to one of the world’s top streaming services.

She died of ovarian cancer last year but her story lives on

Saskatchewan-born model Ashley Luther, better known as Elly Mayday, died in 2019 but stars in the documentary A Perfect 14, which was recently added to Amazon Prime Video. ( A Perfect 14 Pictures Inc.)

A documentary starring a late Saskatchewan model has been added to one of the world's top streaming services.

A Perfect 14 shines a light on the plus-size fashion industry. At the centre of the award-winning film is Ashley Luther, a young model who gained fame under the pseudonym Elly Mayday.

Luther, who grew up on a farm near Aylesbury, Sask., died in March of 2019 after five years of dealing with ovarian cancer and related complications. 

After her death, the film was dedicated to her.

Ashley Luther (L) grew up on a farm near Aylesbury, Sask. She was pictured here with her older brother Dustin, who still lives in the area. (Submitted by Dustin Luther)

This summer, the doc was added to Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. and Canada. The streaming service has 112 million users in the U.S. alone, second only to Netflix. 

"It's nice that everybody will get to see her story and share in her battles and in her successes and everything that came along with her life," said her older brother Dustin Luther.

Dustin, who still lives near Aylesbury, said he was extremely pleased with the way the film turned out and hopes people take her message to heart. 

"She set the gold standard for her being positive about yourself and loving yourself just the way you are," he said. "Especially when she took on the new role of modelling with her scars, you know, modelling without her hair.

"We all have imperfections but it doesn't doesn't mean you shouldn't be loved or shouldn't love yourself."

Dustin said Ashley would dress up and get on the family's trampoline to pose when they were growing up on the family farm. 

"She had greatness in her from the get go," he said. 

Dustin says his sister always knew she was going to be a star. (Submitted by Dustin Luther)

Film director Giovanna Vargas saw that same spark while working with Ashley as a server in Vancouver. Vargas said that when she set out to make her first documentary, she knew Ashley had to be the main character. 

"If she wasn't for her, this film wouldn't exist, period," said Vargas. "As a woman, when we have these kind of role models in our lives that are so determined to go out and get what they want, it immediately makes us like really connected."

The film, directed by Giovanna Vargas (pictured) and produced by James Earl O'Brien, is trending among documentaries on Amazon Prime Video, (Submitted by Giovanna Vargas)

Vargas said she became more and more inspired as she followed Ashley's journey.

"I got completely obsessed with this world of body positivity and plus-size modelling," Vargas said.

She said it is still the only film on this topic. She said within a couple of weeks it started climbing the list of most viewed documentaries. 

 "I so wish Elly was alive to see this," she said. 

The plus-size lingerie company Lane Bryant campaign called #ImNoAngel featured Luther (second from the right) along with well-known models including Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine. (Cass Bird for Lane Bryant)

The doc follows Luther as she battles cancer, which she was diagnosed with during the early days of filming. Vargas said Luther thought at first it would stop her from being part of the project, but later changed her mind. 

"This is one of the best things I've ever done in my life, making this film, and especially being able to tell Elly's story," Vargas said. "It inspired me enormously."

"She was so determined to show the world, through her social media, through our film, that what she was going through wasn't going to stop her from achieving her dream."

Luther in Times Square in front of a billboard for the #ImNoAngel campaign. (Elly Mayday/Facebook)

Before she died, Ashley reached her goal of modelling in New York, even taking part in Lane Bryant's #ImNoAngel campaign other models including Ashley Graham. 

A Perfect 14 was shown on the festival circuit. At first, Ashley was feeling good. Then she took a turn for the worse. 

She died the week of the Vancouver premiere. Vargas said she was shocked that Ashley's family showed up, but her brother Dustin said it was a "no brainer."

"When a family loses a loved one I think it becomes very difficult and families can fall apart," Dustin said. "Or families became stronger.

"When we lost Ashley we all became stronger."

On May 8 of this year, Ashley's photo was featured on the world's largest billboard in New York's Times Square for World Ovarian Cancer Day. 

This year, Luther's photo was featured on the world’s largest billboard in New York’s Times Square for World Ovarian Cancer Day. (Submitted by Dustin Luther)

Dustin said things like that still make him emotional, but he's happy the world is remembering her as he always will.

"Her message will continue on," Dustin said. "No matter where you're from you can change people's lives forever for the better."

Ashley Luther, a young model who gained fame under the pseudonym Elly Mayday, is featured in the documentary A Perfect 14. (Submitted by A Perfect 14) 1:40

About the Author

Alex Soloducha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.

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