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Editor’s Letter: Why Halima Aden’s Comeback is an Emotional One for Vogue Arabia

Editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut with Halima Aden for the cover shoot inChefchaouen

I’m writing this editor’s letter from one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Fully coated in gorgeous shades of blue, Chefchaouen is a tiny village nestled in between two mountains in the northwest of Morocco. We are here to photograph a very important cover, one that represents the return of Halima Aden to the world of fashion. In 2020, the former model decided to abruptly leave the industry, as her mental health and religious beliefs were no longer compatible with daring photoshoots and walks on the runway. When this happened and editors and publications were called out with a series of posts on Instagram, I remember feeling a bit confused and disappointed, as Vogue Arabia was one of the titles mentioned. In my view, I thought we had always been extremely careful and loving when working with Halima.

Three years later, this entire situation reminds me of an important lesson. Even with all the glitz and glamour, we never know how others really feel and what personal battles they struggle with. Like everyone, Halima is a human being who was maybe pushed too hard by the industry – and even herself, she admits. Now, we open a new chapter of collaboration. We were the first Vogue to ever offer a cover to Halima and I’m proud that we are also the first Vogue to feature her again after this three-year hiatus. Besides wanting to thank Halima for traveling to Morocco with us to fulfill this creative fantasy of mine (I’ve always dreamed of shooting in Chefchaouen), I would also like to thank her for the candid interview where we discussed with no filters how she worked on her mental health, the representation of Muslim women in mainstream media, the challenges many models face, and the importance of hope for refugees.

Also an exciting read, in this issue get to know Halle Bailey. The young actress will don Ariel’s tail in the live action remake of Disney’s The Little Mermaid premiering this month. Although Halle was already a Grammy-nominated artist when she earned this part, the announcement created a social media storm, with many questioning why Ariel was being portrayed by a Black actress. In her interview on page 108, Halle says the racist backlash against a woman of color being cast as the fictional mermaid was a shock, although not entirely surprising. However, this isn’t stopping her from embracing the moment and the responsibility of playing this iconic character. This month we entered the magical creative universes of two mesmerizing fashion personalities. In India, we joined Bulgari creative director Lucia Silvestri, as she shopped around for magnificent gems that one day will adorn the necks, ears, and fingers of the most glamorous women in the world. In Paris, we were excited to meet Harris Reed, Nina Ricci’s youngest creative director ever. At the latest fashion week, I was extremely intrigued by his designs. I admire Reed’s unapologetic confidence and his ability to create looks that make us dream and desire. And what is fashion if not this combination of evasion and passion?

Originally published in the May 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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