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Starring on the cover of *Harper Bazaar Arabia’s *10th Anniversary issue, Australian model Shanina Shaik poses with Hanaa Ben Abdesslem and Hind Salhi, prominently uniting three of the world’s most successful Arab models. Considering the current political climate, the story highlights the models at the most appropriate of times.
The story was shot at the luxurious Royal Mansour hotel in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Photographed by Ellen von Unwerth and interviewed by the magazine’s editor-in-chief Lousie Nichol, Shaik discusses her Middle Eastern heritage and how her roots have impacted her life and career.
The 26-year-old model is of Pakistani and Saudi Arabian descent, and in the article, she discusses her pride in her heritage.
Eagerly anticipating issue release, a few weeks ago, Shaik shared teaser images, taken behind the scenes at the shoot. Here she smokes a hookah with von Unwerth.
I can’t wait for everyone to see the Magic 🙌🏽✨ & the beautiful pictures that were created for the @harpersbazaararabia 10 years celebration issue 👠 photographed by @ellenvonunwerth 📸 Ellen you are beyond amazing and so much FUN!! Had the best time shooting with you and smoking hookah lol in #marrakech
She also took viewers along for the ride, sharing this video.
Shaik took time for a “coffee break in the souk.”
} Also featured in the story were 26-year-old Hind Sahli, who was born in Morocco, and 30-year-old Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, who was born in Nabeul, Tunisia. In a photo from the story, the trio poses with juice in front of a fruit vendor.
Really loved and enjoyed this @hapersbazaararabia photoshoot! Arab girls for the 10th year anniversary @harpersbazaararabia Photographer @ellenvonunwerth Editor-in-chief @louisenichol Fashion director @katieellentrotter Location @royalmansour #Fendi #AlexanderMcQueen #Delpozo @fendi @alexandermcqueen @delpozo
In this photo, Sahli drinks menth tea while lounging on patterned rugs.
Ben Abdesslem loosely allows a sheer scarf to flounce.
Here Ben Abdesslem channels a dance number, holding her hands in the air.
Each of the women serves an important advocate, using their platforms to showcase their heritage. This is apparent in name alone – rather than Westernize their names for ease, what could be considered an arguably hypocritical move, such a move seems out of the question.
For Shaik, preserving her family name is so important to her that she will retain it even after she marries her fiancé (DJ Ruckus) next year, hyphenating her surname.
Despite her fame, Shaik explains that her name has often posed issues of discrimination, even with airport security. In the article, the model explains, “Shaik is an Arabic name, and I always get a full security check. I remember travelling from Barcelona to the US when I was 19, and I was stopped from boarding the plane. I was crying, I was so upset and I felt that they were judging me from my name.” She adds, “It’s my father’s name and I am proud of it.”
The other women have similar feelings, with Hanaa firmly stating, “no” to the thought that “If I want to change my name maybe it will be easier for me.”
Where Shaik’s looks have propelled her to stardom in the modeling world, she remembers being discriminated against as a child based on her name and skin color. She recollects this “really hurt, which kills your soul as a young child.”
Even being a face of the moment in the modeling world, Shaik has found it difficult to find out how she fits. “I’ve always had a struggle with finding my place” and recollects, “I was up for an amazing editorial about diversity and I didn’t get the job because they didn’t know what heritage to put me under. That really sucks.” Still, even being in demand has not prevented discrimination from lingering. “I remember going for a casting in Paris and they just saw my skin colour and turned me away,” she recalls, “of course I cried.”
Each of the women is less than pleased with the results of the 2016 Presidential election. Hind states, “I come from a culture where women are viewed as less than men. So that a developed country should vote for somebody whose views are 50 years behind is a shock for me. This is somebody who doesn’t respect women.” Shaik shares a similar feeling, stating “Every morning when I wake up there is something new and horrible to read about. With Barack Obama we created an amazing place with equal rights and it’s like we’ve gone five steps backwards with Donald Trump. We’re in a place where everyone is so diverse and multicultural and you’re going to separate people? We’re not united right now. It’s really, really beyond sad.”
However, the women are hoping there could be a silver lining, with Shaik stating, “I’ve never seen so many millennial kids so involved in politics. Being more aware is great.” She states that, “At this moment in time, unfortunately, society and governments have created hate and fear towards Muslims. The fashion industry is standing up and fighting for love and equality.”
Therefore, it is important to have women like Shaik serving as figureheads to fight back against negative stereotypes, roles the models appear proud to take on.