She was the debut cover star of Vogue Arabia when the inaugural Middle Eastern edition of the iconic magazine hits newsstands in March 2017. Clad in a crystal-embellished, custom-created Brandon Maxwell design, Gigi Hadid made headlines around the world with the breathtaking shoot—however, some critics of the cover claimed the 23-year-old model did not boast the heritage to represent the women of the region.
This week, Hadid addressed the issue while in Sydney to promote Reebok’s Be More Human campaign, in which she stars, proudly defending her background. “When I shot the cover of Vogue Arabia, I wasn’t ‘Arab enough’ to be representing those girls, even though I’m half-Palestinian,” Hadid said during the appearance, according to Yahoo. “I’m as Palestinian as I am Dutch. Just because I have blonde hair, I still carry the value of my ancestors and I appreciate and respect that.”
Hadid, the daughter of Dutch model Yolanda Hadid and Palestinian property developer Mohamed Hadid, also revealed that she was comforted by words from her beau, musician Zayn Malik, when the cover was first revealed. “I was taking about this to my boyfriend too, he is half-Pakistani and half-English,” the catwalk icon said, according to the Daily Mail. “And there’s always this thing where you’re mixed race or you come from two different worlds. You see how both sides treat each other. And you become a bridge between both sides.”
The runway icon also spoke of her pride at covering the premiere edition of Vogue Arabia when the cover was first revealed last year, writing on Instagram that “being half-Palestinian, it means the world to me”. “I hope that this magazine will show another layer of the fashion industry’s desire to continue to accept, celebrate, and incorporate all people and customs and make everyone feel like they have fashion images and moments they can relate to … and learn and grow in doing so.”
Hadid also touched on the pressures of her industry, and being a role model to a younger generation, during her appearance in Australia. “Regardless of who you are, or what you do, you always are allowed to give yourself room to screw up and learn and grow,” the model told the crowd. “I’m a human and someone that can make mistakes,” she said. “But I can still learn and grow and be better.”
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