Whether it’s due to the cultural norms in the Middle East or the lack of opportunities in the region, there is a shortage of Arab models on the international fashion scene. In recent years, however, a number of promising faces with Middle Eastern roots have been picked up by agencies. These young beauties are redefining the narrative and proving that Arab women can venture into the world of modeling—and be successful. With their smoldering features and striking physiques, these models have walked the runways in major fashion capitals, landed editorials, fronted international campaigns, and graced magazine covers.
While some have captured the attention of top brands, such as Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Stella McCartney, others have even made appearances in the pages of Sports Illustrated. Get to know five Arab models that have risen to the top on the international stage.
It girl and model of the moment Gigi Hadid is the daughter of Dutch-born TV personality Yolanda Foster and Palestinian property developer Mohamed Hadid. Following her debut modeling gig at the tender age of two for Guess, the blond bombshell has gone on to front campaigns for Balmain and Versace and walked the runways of Giambattista Valli, Chanel, and Marc Jacobs. The 20-year-model is currently making headlines for having walked the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
The young model inherited her striking eyebrows, wild hair, and buttery complexion from her Moroccan mother and Egyptian father. Following the pivotal moment of opening the Givenchy Spring 2014 show during Paris Fashion Week at the age of 16, she has since walked for Proenza Schouler, Fendi, Balenciaga, and Prada. She also had a brief movie role and graced the cover of American Vogue.
Hailing from Morocco, model Hind Sahli always dreamed of becoming a model. At the age of 18, she signed on with a modeling agency in her home country before being picked up by DNA Model Management in New York. She made her runway debut in 2009, walking for BCBG Max Azria, and has gone on to grace the catwalks of Marc Jacobs, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Oscar de la Renta, and Kenzo. In addition to her runway appearances, she has been featured in editorials for Vogue Italia and W magazine.
Tunisian model Kenza Fourati signed on with Elite Model Management at the age of 15. The agency groomed her to walk on the international runway for high-profile brands, such as Valentino, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, and Céline. She has also appeared in editorials for Vogue Paris, Elle, and Marie Claire, as well as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 2011, making her the first Arab and Muslim woman to be featured in the magazine’s pages.
Hanaa Ben Abdesslem
The second Tunisian beauty on our list, Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, was picked up by IMG Models and made her runway debut in 2002 for Vivienne Westwood. Since then, she has walked the runway for Givenchy, Oscar de la Renta, and Ralph Lauren, as well as landed editorials for French Vogue. Notably, she was the first Arab model to be chosen as the face of Lancôme.
—Nouriah Al Shatti