The Vogue Arabia Body Positivity summer issue is an ode to real diversity and empowerment, questioning the traditional notions of what society once described as the perfect body.
Wearing a show-stopping dress by Saudi label Ashi Studio, supermodel Precious Lee announces the Vogue Arabia July/August 2021 issue with verve and attitude. In an issue that celebrates body positivity, the cover star and trailblazing curve model salutes women of all shapes. The Body Positivity issue is a call to arms for all women to love and appreciate their bodies with confidence and style, to draw their inspiration from those who have shattered stereotypes, to look towards women of character who refuse to compromise and comply with the expectations of society.
Lee was photographed in New York by Paola Kudacki in a joyful series of looks underscoring her feminine power. In an insightful conversation with the Arab world’s first curve model, Ameni Esseibi, Lee talks about the serendipitous start to her career and her rise to the top. “I was a very confident child; I always felt I could do anything.” A wise and assertive woman, Lee lists her heroes in fashion as, “People who didn’t compromise their personal values to be successful. People who stood firm in the storm; the indomitable women who are brave.”
On working with Lee for the July-August issue, Editor-in-Chief Manuel Arnaut says, “This month we approached the theme of the body from the rawest and most candid perspective to date. Every year, as temperatures rise and swimsuit season approaches, many of us embark on crazy diets and endless hours at the gym, looking for fast results in the shallowest way – I exercise just to lose weight quickly, not for my health. This could be a consequence of years of brainwashing from the entertainment and fashion industries, who have been promoting harsh patterns of beauty and an idea that the slimmer you are, the more beautiful you are, for decades. Thankfully, the fashion community – from publications to designers – has been trying to fight this demon, with this reflecting in the visibility of more diverse bodies on covers, runways, and campaigns.”
The Body Issue goes further than skin deep by shining the spotlight on three extraordinary women of determination from the region – each of whom has lost a leg. They have suffered trauma, overcome adversity, and showed tremendous courage and today they are athletes, record breakers, and inspirational speakers. Shot by photographer Sandra Chidiac, they front Vogue Arabia’s digital covers: Lebanese athlete Dareen Barbar, Egyptian mother Rania Hammad, and Iraqi pharmacist-turned-athlete and TV presenter Zainab Aleqabi. “I would tell my 15-year-old, post-operation self to be patient, not to care what other people think, and believe in myself,” reflects Barbar, while Hamad recalls her life lessons: “Be brave and strong because this life is so difficult. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.” Aleqabi, who set up a Facebook page called Disabled and Proud, speaks of her desire to “break that barrier between myself and society.” She believes that the more people see her amputation, the more they will stop seeing it. These women’s journeys of hope and resilience show that every body has a story.
The July/August 2021 issue also explores the changing perceptions of femininity, with three muscle-building Arab women who talk about strength, beauty, and crushing stereotypes in the Middle East. Saudi fitness athlete Somaiah Al Dabbagh says, “You can be a feminine Arab woman and also be physically strong,” while Jordanian-Filipino strength coach Angelica Yassine believes that the Arab world is becoming more open to the idea of women with muscles, and that “the relationship between physically strong women and femininity is about feeling confident in your own skin.” Palestinian-Jordanian engineer and CrossFit athlete Dara Kayyali shares, “Women are pushing boundaries of what it means to be feminine. Women with muscles also want to feel beautiful.”
The beauty pages showcase Egyptian content creator and performer Hadeel Marei in an effervescent shoot that celebrates her unique style. While modeling the season’s bold beauty looks, the TikTok influencer says, “There is a certain mold that holds women – our jokes are expected to be about our age, looks, shape, or being ultra-fem. I’m steering away from that reductive concept, and defying the cultural norms that tell me to be more docile and calm.”
The Body Issue is a testament to Vogue Arabia’s commitment to showing different kinds of bodies in a true tribute to diversity, celebrating the power and perfection of every single body.