The future is starting to look brighter for women across the globe, whether it’s showing a stronger united front via the #metoo movement or celebrating new legislations in Saudi that saw women granted the right to vote and also to drive. There has been a sequence of pioneering moments in the past decade that have made the global focal point turn to the Middle East and realize a greater balance of diversity across style and culture.
As we come closer to the date of the second edition of the WILL Summit, which will take place virtually this year, Vogue.me highlights some of the inspiring Arab women who have helped signal a seismic shift in girl-power status…
One to Watch: Shadia Bseiso
Need-to-Know: Bseiso made history by becoming the first Middle Eastern woman to sign up to professional wrestling organization, WWE. The Jordanian athlete was selected from 40 competitors to join the WWE’s international roster following UAE tryouts in April 2017.
One to Watch: Raha Moharrak
Need-to-Know: Moharrak became a household name in May 2013 after she claimed the title of being the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest. “Climbing was never a decision, it was a calling.” That was a declaration Raha Moharrak made in conversation with Vogue Arabia way back in Fall 2016. In 2017 the Saudi record-making climber joined ranks with the likes of Bella Hadid, Tom Brady, and Cristiano Ronaldo as a ‘friend of the brand’ at Tag Heuer; making Moharrak the first Arab brand ambassador for luxury label.
One to Watch: Nora Attal
Need-to-Know: First discovered by designer J.W Anderson, British-Moroccan model Nora Attal splits her time between studying and starring on the fashion week runway circuit for Burberry, Versus, and Loewe. In December 2017, she made her debut solo Vogue cover for Vogue Arabia, having starred alongside Stella Tenant and Kate Moss on the British Vogue November 2017 cover. The model is set to redefine success as a young Middle East talent with global pulling power. Her Instagram following may be 36k at present but it’s only to set to double in the months to come.
One to Watch: Salma Abu Deif
Need-to-Know: The rising Egyptian actor and model made waves for her starring role in the Amr Salama-directed drama Sheikh Jackson, about a young imam who finds himself preoccupied with Michael Jackson’s music after the pop star’s death. The movie, which made its international debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, went on to be selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. Considering that her role as the main character’s teenage crush was her first movie stint, the 26-year-old’s budding career is undoubtedly on the up-and-up.
One to Watch: Lara Scandar
Need-to-Know: The Egyptian singer and songwriter Lara Scandar has a loyal fan base across her social media platforms. This year holds promise for the Cairo-born singer, who has been putting in the hours at recording studios in Lebanon and LA with JMR music producer Jean-Marie Riachi. After tying the knot in a Zuhair Murad creation in Lebanon, the star is set to soar in 2020 with her positive message of self-affirmation and girl-getter talent. Read the Vogue exclusive on her wedding gown.
One to Watch: Ahd Kamel
Need-to-Know: Jeddah-born Kamel is one of the first female Saudi actors to score a leading role in a Netflix series. She played the role of a Muslim refugee named Fatma in the series Collateral, which premiered early 2018. The show revolves around the mysterious shooting of a pizza delivery man in London. Kamel starred alongside Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan and actors John Simm, Billie Piper, and July Namir.
One to Watch: Huda Kattan
Need-to-Know: After landing major investment for her beauty line Huda Beauty, expect to see an increased presence of the beauty influencer and global beauty sensation Kattan as she roles out the next phase of her empire with a full-fledged skincare line. After topping the charts as one of the most influential Arab women in social media, and bagging herself a Vogue Arabia cover, one can only watch as she blazes a new trial for generations to come.
One to Watch: Saba Mubarak
Need-to-Know: After The Guest: Aleppo-Istanbul won the best national feature film award at the 5th International Bosphorus Film Festival, Jordanian actor Saba Mubarak, who starred in and co-produced the movie, spoke to Vogue exclusively about her win and the cause behind the project. “I chose this film because I deeply care about the refugee crisis, particularly the children.” She added, “Art can leave a lasting, positive mark in the ongoing issue. A lot of movies have already shed light on the refugee crisis and took part in finding a solution. This movie was able to ease my feelings of helplessness.” Watch this space. Here stands a woman of substance, style, and ambition.
One to Watch: Zahra Lari
Need-to-Know: As a Nike Pro Hijab ambassador, the first Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari has already succeeded in breaking the obvious #ArabFirst of being a professional ice skater hailing from this Middle Eastern country, and becoming a global household name to boot. Using her sphere of influence to send out positive messages to girls the world over to pursue their dreams no matter what obstacles they experience, we look ahead to see what Lari does next.
Launched in 2019, the WILL Initiative was established by our publisher Nervora with the support of UN Women and the General Women’s Union, and was hosted in November 2019 in Abu Dhabi. The second edition of the empowering event, held in collaboration with Mastercard, will bring together entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, educators, and politicians from the region for four distinct panel discussions.