The face of fashion is finally changing with more diverse model castings reshaping the industry. In doing so, Arab women are starting to get the representation they deserve.
Celebrating the reassuring evolution, Vogue Arabia is honored to feature established faces Nora Attal, and Hayett McCarthy alongside new faces Nour Rizk, Malika El Maslouhi, and Leyla Karim Greiss in a group cover (shot by photographer Dan Belieu and styled by fashion director Katie Trotter) that truly puts Arab models on the fashion map. The five models are the stars of the December 2019 covers, ending the year how Vogue Arabia would like to begin 2020 – with more Arab representation in fashion.
“With Moroccan, Egyptian, Algerian, and Lebanese blood running through their veins, Nour, Malika, Hayett, Leyla, and Nora are bringing the flair of the Arab world to the international fashion scene,” says editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut. “In a moment when ‘diversity’ is such a buzzword, it’s more than about time for Arab models to book major shows and campaigns, as the Middle East is one of the biggest fashion markets worldwide that needs to be represented on a mainstream scale.”
As the tide steadily changes, more Arab models are walking the runways and starring in more campaigns – Ikram Abdi Omar was recently the first hijabi model to star in a Burberry festive campaign. The change may be slow but perceptions are altering the way the rest of the world perceives Arab and also Muslim women. The Vogue Arabia cover stars are a young, new generation aiming to break social and cultural barriers and spark conversations around the region and beyond in fashion.
“No one is unique,” says Hayett McCarthy when asked what makes her stand out as an Arab model. “I see no hierarchy, and I have no pride. No one is better than another. We can empower Arab women by asking them about their stories.”
For Greiss, taking the lead as an Arab woman in fashion means asserting yourself without giving in to standardized conceptions of beauty. “Arab women can feel beautiful and powerful without westernizing themselves or turning their back on feeling proud about being Arab.”
“The Middle East has a bigger influence than ever in fashion, and I’m glad to be a part of it by representing it,” explains Attal, who also graced the covers of Vogue Arabia and British Vogue in 2017. “A lot of Arab women inspire me in what they do, from human rights activism to succeeding as beauty entrepreneurs or filmmakers who are shedding light on women’s struggles in the Middle East.”
Rejoicing in the fact that successful entrepreneurs, designers, influencers, and innovators in the region are starting to get recognition, Rizk adds, “To empower is to self-express. It’s about expressing who you are, where you come from – and all the beauty within all aspects of being an Arab woman today. The more you showcase your diversity in what you do, the more you’re empowering yourself, and all the Arab women around you.”
The December Glamour issue also celebrates the holiday season with glittering shoots, party-prep makeup advice, a guide to the ultimate accessories as well as interviews with designers Amina Muaddi and Tory Burch, Sarah, Duchess of York, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, as well as all the major Arab stars at Cairo international film festival (CIFF). Vogue Arabia’s participation at CIFF was part of a wider digital campaign highlighting inequality in the film industry.
“Our video on Vogue.me highlights the fact that women are still not paid nearly as much as men in Arab drama, and don’t have access to the same opportunities in front of and behind the camera,” says Arnaut. “I was blown away by the incredible reverberation of this campaign – it gives me hope that 2020 will be our best year yet. I’m ready!”