Generally, it’s fair to say that a life juxtaposed between A levels and the A-list is not the average week of a student. But then Nora Attal is anything but average. “I would fly to Milan after school to do the Prada show and then fly back to London the next day so I only missed one day of class,” she says about combining career success with classroom convention.
While this is the 18-year-old’s first solo Vogue cover, she represented the next generation of models on Alexandra Shulman’s last issue of British Vogue alongside Stella Tennant, Edie Campbell, and Kate Moss. She’s also walked the runways for Valentino, Tommy Hilfiger, Loewe, Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Sonia Rykiel.
Whereas the life of an international model might seem a terribly fun backdrop for your school years, the Moroccan– born beauty admits it wasn’t as easy, or glamorous, as it might sound. “It was actually very hard,” she says. “My agents would always have to decline jobs due to them clashing with my school schedule. I would only do shows on the weekends and then fly back on Sunday to be in school for Monday. And I would have to study during fittings, backstage, and in my hotel. I remember always having so much schoolwork. In the end, thankfully, it would always work out. I managed.”
Despite her success, Attal’s only been working as a full- time model since June, after leaving school. “I’m taking a gap year,” she says – but don’t expect to see her backpacking through Asia. She is fully focusing on her career for the next 12 months. “But after the year I will return to studying, starting a criminology and psychology degree in London.” Not that this will signal early retirement from the runway, of course – she plans on continuing modeling while studying.
Attal’s pragmatic and mature approach to her career is admirable from someone who started working at just 14, when she was cast in the JW Anderson SS14 campaign. The “mystery girl” with the serious eyebrows and even more serious beauty got major industry attention, and was quickly booked for more brands. “I was 12 when I was spotted for the first time but my dad felt I was too young so we didn’t pursue it,” she explains. “A couple of years later, when I was 14, photographer Jamie Hawkesworth was doing a casting at my school for the JW Anderson campaign. I was chosen along with two of my friends. I was super-excited when I found out because I used to watch America’s Next Top Model and I wanted to do what they did.”
Her maturity and ambition can be attributed to her support system: her parents, agent, and two best friends, who she speaks to every day. “It’s nice to have people who’ve known you for a long time. They take my mind off things and remind me that modeling isn’t the only thing to focus on.” Her father is protective over her, and “wouldn’t be too happy” if he felt she wasn’t being treated right.
Attal was raised in London, yet she’s still connected to her parents’ Moroccan roots, and visits the country regularly. “I picked up the language and can understand it, but my Arabic is quite broken. But because I visit so often, I feel connected to the culture. I often talk to my Moroccan friends.” She still adores her North African homeland, with Tangier and Larache her favorite places. “I would recommend going to the Old Medina in Tangier and to the markets there. It’s beautiful, very traditionally Moroccan-looking.”
In an industry often criticized for a lack of diversity and, conversely, discrimination, Attal is quick to point out that her Arab heritage hasn’t seen her face any prejudice – a fact she credits to being surrounded by supportive people.
For such a young rising star, Attal is remarkably con dent and secure. Then again, her idol is former US First Lady Michelle Obama. “She’s not afraid to say what she thinks. She’s unapologetic. Her message is that women should grow up believing that they can do anything, and that every girl should be able to pursue what they want to do.”
She, for one, is pursuing her dream to the fullest – including this cover, which is “a dream come true.” As one of the year’s standout faces, does she have a plan B? “I’d probably do something in criminology or go into law,” she reveals. And with that, the face of the future jets off to her next dream.