After a three-year hiatus and an abrupt departure from fashion, Halima Aden returns to the spotlight in Vogue Arabia’s May 2023 cover
The May 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia celebrates – in spectacular fashion – former model Halima Aden’s return to the cover of the magazine following her departure from the world of modeling in 2020. Against the glorious blue backdrop of Chefchaouen, a magical village in the northwest of Morocco, Aden sets about etching a new story – one that sees her firmly in the driver’s seat.
Aden is no stranger to Vogue Arabia, having first graced the cover of the magazine in 2017, becoming the first-ever veiled personality on the cover of Vogue globally. The project was met with unparalleled acclaim around the world, with hijabi women finally feeling represented on the front page of a publication with the impact of Vogue. But within a few years, Aden made the decision to quit due to her religious beliefs, a move that coincided with the model hitting out at the fashion industry with a series of posts on Instagram.
In a candid conversation with editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut for a cover story that sees her swathed in looks from Chanel to Schiaparelli and Dior, Aden addresses the reasons that led to her choosing faith over fashion. These include a lack of privacy via changing rooms for models, a schedule that saw her hop on 45 flights in a month, and an overarching internal conflict. “Towards the end of my career, in my photoshoots, my hijab became more adventurous… It was very experimental, and I confess I also had a part to play in that,” Aden says. “Nobody forced me to put jeans on my head instead of a traditional veil, to do a shoot being fully decked out with jewelry, and very sexy even though it was modest…”
In the interview, Aden discussed her regret on how she delivered her statement. “My message resonated with people because I was honest, but I was also young. If I could go back, I wouldn’t have delivered it on Instagram. I really wouldn’t have.” Aden also gives insight into being a refugee and a contemporary Muslim woman, and talks about future projects in both the fashion and humanitarian realms.
The May issue is also a celebration of another trailblazer – The Little Mermaid star Halle Bailey. Reinventing Ariel for a new generation, Bailey wasn’t ready for the racist backlash that followed the announcement of a woman of color playing the mermaid on Disney’s live-action remake. “I initially expected everyone to be as excited as I was, but the reality of it all hit me later as I realized the world that we live in,” she says. “I just hope that people who aren’t sure about it, go and watch the film and realize we did the original justice.”
In this edition we also look at fashion through the bold lens of Harris Reed, the new creative director of Nina Ricci. The rising star has always championed unapologetic self-expression, and intends to continue doing so, he says in the interview. “I’m not an understated, quiet European. I’m a half-American-bit-of-Mexican-bit-of-English, multi-hyphenate – and loud. That’s just who I am.” The issue also follows Bulgari creative director Lucia Silvestri around Jaipur, as she hunts down some magnificent gems that will soon make their way to the jewelry boxes of some of the most glamorous women around the world. Our fashion pages also put exquisite craftsmanship and opulent drama in the spotlight, with shoots in Tunisia, Cape Town, and Milan that celebrate new-season trends. In Arabia, we speak to Jordanian actress Rakeen Saad for a feature on her relationship with her mother, jewelry designer Rawabi Abughazaleh. We also meet with Syrian actress Karess Bashar, as she returns with Ramadan hit drama El Nar Bel Nar.
It’s not just film that Arab women are enjoying success after success in – the world of diplomacy has been seeing them make great strides too. In a feature focusing on history being made, we explore all the challenges and triumphs GCC ambassadors all over the world – including Her Excellency Ambassador Hend Al Otaiba, the UAE’s first female ambassador to France, and Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud – have faced. In culture, we reconnect with the spirit of the cultural capital of Mosul, delving into the reconstruction of Iraq and its historical landmarks. Our edition this month also comes packaged with Vogue Living, where we spotlight the world’s most charismatic interiors across pages of spectacular homes and hotels, along with all the latest decor trends of 2023.