This month, we start the countdown to one of the biggest sports events in the world being organized in our region, Qatar’s Fifa World Cup. And while this is not a football-dedicated edition, we decided that the timing was right to talk about feeling good about our bodies, while also taking care of our mental health. On this note, we start the issue with a very serious topic, one that I honestly never thought we would still have to discuss in this day and age. Some months ago, British magazine The Economist published a story debating why Arab women are fatter than men, using without permission an image of Iraqi actress Enas Taleb to illustrate its point. This caused a wave of online protests, with hundreds of people pointing out that the feature was not only racist and stereotypical, but also perpetuates very targeted body shaming towards Arab women. Commenting publicly for the first time in this issue of Vogue Arabia, Taleb shares her experience of being thrown into the middle of this bizarre debate. “It is based on completely false prejudices that portray Arab women as gluttonous and undermines their awareness, education, and contributions,” shares Taleb in this month’s Talking Point. “Arab women are among the most educated, and uphold the highest standards of beauty, reflective of one of the most influential and deep-rooted cultures in the world.”
On a more positive note, for this month’s issue we photographed the Bollywood sensation and global fashion phenomenon Deepika Padukone in the rocky mountains of Hatta, UAE. The brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton is the perfect fit for this edition. Not only is she an accomplished athlete – and the daughter of one of the biggest badminton players in India – she is also the founder of The Live Love Laugh Foundation, created to generate awareness on mental health. “I think that my experience with mental illness has brought me to this space today,” she tells us. “I prioritize my mind and my body over everything else. Did it take an illness to bring me to that level of awareness? Yes. But I guess that’s what it is. Sometimes you need to go through those experiences to really come out of something having learned something.”
Making Arabs proud around the globe, Tunisian actress Hiba Abouk and Moroccan Paris Saint-Germain star Achraf Hakimi embody the perfect modern power couple. With booming careers in Spain and France, the duo shared interesting insights about their lives, including how parenthood has impacted their careers differently, the misogyny Abouk has encountered in recent times, and their role representing Arab communities. “We are very conscious that we have a lot of eyes on us and that we represent something in the Arab world, so we try to do our best,” Abouk says.
Having just returned from fashion week in New York, and diving once again into the topic of body image, I was pleased to witness the rise of more diverse silhouettes on the runway, although most brands tend to use the same curvy models over and over again. However, as a consumer, I continue to feel disappointed when I visit the stores of many of these brands and struggle to find sizes that fit more natural figures. My physique included! What we see on the runways still doesn’t really translate into reality. Have you also experienced this? While fashion is trying to be more inclusive, at least from an image perspective, in this issue where body meets soul, I have to ask: when are fashion brands going to really embrace a genuine approach to diverse body types?