Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. Nothing we haven’t heard before, yet somehow, the seemingly simple concept is one most of can admit to battling with on a daily basis. In a world that seems hyper fixated on the idea of absolute perfection, and where phone filters and beauty apps reign supreme, a group of eight social media personalities have come together to make a case for raw, real beauty with a series of honest and beautiful portraits.
“This shoot has been a vision in my head for a while and it’s about time to be shared,” Hadeel Marei, who both creative directed and produced the shoot, tells us in a special chat. The Egyptian content creator has always been an advocate for diversity, and it was a combination of her effervescent personality, strong beliefs, and incredible communication skills that also found her taking over the beauty pages of Vogue Arabia back in July 2021. While conceptualizing the shoot, Marei’s thought-process was to hold a mirror up to the world, one frame at a time. “Inclusivity was key for the shoot and finding women who represent the females in society, and who feel familiar and close to the heart. In short, people who you’d see yourself in.”
Shot by Mouaath Moh, the photo series brings together eight young women from the world of social media (including Marei), in a series of snapshots that draw attention to the physical features that make them unique, and by default, make them beautiful. You’ll spot Saudi public figure Abeer Sinder gazing into the lens with flowers in her hair, blogger Renee Farah taking the camera head-on, Fatima catching the light with a gorgeous play on texture, and digital creator Rahaf Ghassan proving that freckles were—and always will be—stunning. Joining them are social media personality and vitiligo advocate Logina Salah, model Iman Somani, who has albinism, and dentist-turned-comedian Maha Jaafar. Eight unique journeys and perspectives, one common message: “I am beautiful, just the way I am.”
To extend the message further, the eight women have also come together for a special video, in which they recite lines from a poem penned by Hadeel Marei. “Words have power. And poetry has a way of touching people’s souls,” she muses. “That’s why it was important to me to have a vocal element in the shoot… to make the message stand out.”
Below, we ask the women from the shoot a few questions on beauty. Scroll to check out their answers, and get a closer look at their latest labour of love.
Vogue Arabia: Body image is something most of us—especially women—struggle with all over the world. Can you tell us a little bit about your personal journey with this, and how you have (or still are) overcoming biases and prejudice?
Abeer Sinder: I never had “body image” problems until I had my baby boy. Pregnancy totally changed my body and that affected the way I looked at myself for a little while after hearing things like, “Oh, you changed” or “When do you think you’ll lose this weight?” I am so happy that I have now learned how to ignore all of that, and learned to love and appreciate my body for all it’s given me and all it continues to give.
Fatima: It is indeed a journey! For so long, you get spoon-fed with what beauty is, that you start to criticize your own self, be your own personal enemy, but it’s when you realize that ‘beauty’ in its definition, varies. You start accepting who you are and what you represent.
Hadeel Marei: I’m not going to lie. I find myself in a spiral of condoning to society’s ideation of beauty, and feel obligated to fit within it, which is majorly why I did this shoot—as a reminder firstly to myself, before anyone else.
Iman Somani: When I was younger, I lacked confidence in the way I looked. As I grew older, I learned to love myself and my uniqueness. I realized that there is more to me than my appearance. I still get odd looks in public, but I’ve seen a positive shift in the last couple of years for more acceptance.
Logina Salah: As you said, it’s a journey and practice makes perfect. Practicing to flaunt and celebrate what made me who I am today [helped me move forward].
Maha Jaafar: The problem with body image is that for me, I am completely comfortable with myself, but society isn’t. People start giving opinions about how you look, and suggestions on what you should change about yourself from a very early age. It is frustrating because you don’t know if this is your opinion, or if it’s just an accumulation of the things you hear from people. That’s why I learned to love myself and to not expect validation from anyone else other than myself regarding my body and my image. If I am truly comfortable with myself, no one has the ability to get to me.
Rahaf Ghassan: You can never satisfy everyone. The beauty standards keep changing. When I was young, everyone used to tell me I need to gain weight and laser my freckles. Today, being skinny is what most women are trying to achieve and freckles are becoming a beauty trend. I’m very grateful for the support I got when I was young, and the self-love and confidence I have for my body. Every woman should love and accept her body, as owning your appearance will always reflect something positive.
Renee Fara: To be completely honest, like most of the young girls out there, I was the type of person that cared a lot about how other people perceived me. With time and maturity, I was able to overcome slowly this unrealistic body image that our mind perceives on social media. And until today, this continues to be a daily struggle, and I need to consciously remind myself every day that I am beautiful the way I am.
Vogue Arabia: What are the three things that always make you feel like your most beautiful self?
Abeer Sinder: Taking care of myself and putting me first sometimes. Having positive self conversation. Being who I am—truly and unapologetically.
Fatima: I think happiness is the key to feeling beautiful, so whenever I’m happy. Or when I’m dancing, I feel liberated and just beautiful and definitely when I accessorize.
Hadeel Marei: Music, my smile, and honestly, a good outfit never fails to me feel like my best self.
Iman Somani: When I fill my life with laughter. When I pursue my hobbies. When I spend time with my family and friends.
Logina Salah: When I have my ‘me time’, because I always say you can’t pour from an empty cup. The second would be when I invest in meaningful time with my family and daughter. I feel good about myself internally and externally when my daughter is proud of me. Third is when I give myself a reality check and loosen up a little with friends.
Maha Jaafar: Being true to myself. Being fully comfortable in my own skin. When I love every imperfection I have.
Rahaf Ghassan: My eyes. My confidence. My embracement for my flaws.
Renee Fara: Being surrounded by my close friends and loved ones who always keep it real for me and make me feel loved and well surrounded. Giving love and support in return, and embracing the people around me. Lastly, it is very important that we all embrace a tolerant culture, a culture where we live and let live, where we accept people for who they are and for whatever makes them happy. It is only when we start avoiding peer pressure or enforcing it on others that we reach peace with our true beauty.
Vogue Arabia: Content creators are often considered mentors for the youth. Keeping that in mind, what is the one piece of advice you would like to share with all your followers?
Abeer Sinder: Love and celebrate your unique type of beauty because you are perfect in the way you are.
Fatima: Beauty is way deeper than the surface. Don’t let anyone dictate how you see yourself, you’re beautiful the way you are.
Hadeel Marei: It’s the world that needs to change, not you.
Logina Salah: Not everything you see on social media is true. Nobody highlights their failures. Know that you can do and be wherever you want to be. Hustle, and God will reward you. Don’t wait for something you want to come to you.
Maha Jaafar: I’d advise them to truly get to know themselves and love themselves, because only when you truly love yourself will you stop judging yourself.
Rahaf Ghassan: Never please anyone but yourself! You are what matters and your body is your home.
Renee Fara: The outmost advice I can give to everyone in my social community is not to believe the “perfect picture” they see on social media. Every one of us is going through a struggle and everyone has a story.