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Model Sharon Rose Benson (@rose_xxvi) of Haifa never intended on entering the fashion world. Born to a Palestinian mother and a father of Irish-Swedish descent, she was encouraged to find a stable, secure career. “That is why there is a joke about Arabs being doctors. They don’t just choose those roles,” says the 24-year-old, explaining that their careers are rooted in finding stability in a precarious living situation.
From a young age, Benson felt more creative and expressive. “I’ve always gravitated toward different things and characters and dressing up,” she says. “But I didn’t know I could make money [modeling].” Eventually, Benson found her way in the local modeling industry, first through an agency and then pursuing opportunities privately via her social media channels. For Benson, modeling is an act of representation. She recalls while growing up that she never saw anyone who looked like her—not even in the advertisements of her local Arab shops. “It seemed so far away. If you look at the traditional marketing that Arabs do here, they always bring a Russian girl, and that’s okay,” she says. “But when you don’t have that representation even where you shop and it is an Arab brand and they aren’t using an Arab face, you don’t see yourself in that working space.”
Over the years, she connected with fellow young Palestinian designers, noting that there is a “renaissance” of creative youth entering design schools. “Every year, there are more and more Palestinians enrolling,” she says. “It is cool to see that they are finding their way there.” One pivotal moment—and source of pride—was when Benson modeled the clothes of Dar Noora, a designer who works to create traditional Palestinian garments. “People are creating art, not just fashion. It adds a lot to the community and creates solidarity,” says Benson. “It is fashion that brings us together. Without fashion, we might’ve never crossed paths.”
For Vogue, Benson wears pieces by local Palestinian designers. Her corset is by Hanna Hamam, while in another shot, she wears a white dress with spine-like three-dimensional embroidery down the front and leather pants by Ayham Hassan, who is studying at Central Saint Martins and based in Ramallah in the West Bank. The third shot sees Benson wearing a red dress by George Nasser with cut-outs at the stomach and trailing down the arms. “Every generation brings something new,” says Benson, adding, “I want everyone who has something to give to the world to give it.”
Originally published in Vogue.com