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Editor’s Letter: Why Our Summer Issue Questions Society’s Description of the “Perfect Body”

Manuel Arnaut

Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut. Photo: Ziga Mihelcic

This month was extremely emotional for us at Vogue, as we approached the theme of the body from the rawest and most candid perspective to date. Every year, as temperatures rise and swimsuit season approaches, many of us embark on crazy diets and endless hours at the gym, looking for fast results in the shallowest way – I exercise just to lose weight quickly, not for my health. This could be a consequence of years of brainwashing from the entertainment and fashion industries, who have been promoting harsh patterns of beauty and an idea that the slimmer you are, the more beautiful you are, for decades.

Egyptian comedy Hadeel Marei photographed by Maria Kordzadze

Thankfully, the fashion community – from publications to designers – has been trying to fight this demon, with this reflecting in the visibility of more diverse bodies on covers, runways, and campaigns. This month’s cover star, Precious Lee, is the perfect example, as her glorious face and curves are everywhere this season – from the Versace show to the covers of British Vogue and Vogue Brasil. I met Precious in New York four years ago. She was not yet the supermodel she is today, but I was immediately blown away by her beauty and luminous personality. She had the full package. After I returned to Dubai, I told everyone in the office that the woman I met for dinner was going to be a star. And here she is, shining as bright as a diamond, shot for this month’s issue by Paola Kudacki, a photographer I have been keen on working with for years. Paola, Precious, and the team were in the studio until 3am, completely carried away by their creative process. Their passion is reflected in every single image they produced.

precious lee, July/august 2021

Precious Lee photographed by Paola Kudacki

In this issue, we also shatter further stereotypes around the classic idea of femininity. If sometimes society overlooks women with curves, the same happens with women with muscles. Strong female bodies are considered by some to be manly and not elegant, as if women have no right to a powerful figure. This led us to put together an editorial with three high performance athletes, styled in anything but their gym clothes, reclaiming their right to their femininity and strength.

Being on set with Dareen Barbar, Rania Hammad, and Zainab Al-Eqabi was definitely the highlight of my month, as I was inspired by their stories of perseverance and positivity. When they described to me how they lost their limbs, it put everything in my life in perspective. It makes me proud that we are dedicating a big part of this issue to people of determination, so many times overseen by society – and even more so by style publications. I’m happy to see that fashion brands, from high street to luxury, are also working towards including in their collections pieces for this segment, with Burberry, Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, and Mango normalizing different bodies. But there’s still a lot of work to do around awareness and inclusion. As the Iraqi activist Zainab states, “The more you see my amputation, the more you will stop seeing it.”

Read Next: Precious Lee Stars on Our Body Positivity Issue in an Ode to Real Diversity and Empowerment

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