by Rabia Toor
Supermodel Gigi Hadid is possibly one of the most in-demand models at the moment. So it’s no surprise that she was chosen to grace the cover of Vogue Arabia at its launch issue, set to be released March 5th 2017.
The cover was shot by Inez and Vinoodh, an accomplished photography duo, and was complimented with the jeweled veil that Hadid wore created by Brandon Maxwell.
Although Hadid may seem like the perfect choice, simply due to her fame, for a launch issue of the new Vogue edition, her background as a half-Palestinian had also played a role in her landing the cover. Hadid’s father, Mohamed Hadid is a Jordanian-American business mogul, with Palestinian origins. So, although the executives at Vogue went in with good intentions, it seemed to have misfired.
The intention, as made clear by their headline “reorienting perceptions,” was noble. The magazine wanted Vogue Arabia to ‘capture the creativity of a distinctive, evolving and often misrepresented part of the world.’
I think the beautiful thing about there being international Vogue’s is that, as a fashion community, we are able to celebrate, and share with the world, different cultures. Being half-Palestinian, it means the world to me to be on the first-ever cover(s) of @voguearabia, and I hope that this magazine will show another layer of the fashion industry’s desire to continue to accept, celebrate, and incorporate all people & customs and make everyone feel like they have fashion images and moments they can relate to… & learn and grow in doing so. ? Thank you @deenathe1st for your vision and for having me on this cover… by the incredible @inezandvinoodh – so much love.
However, the controversy was created, not due to their intentions, but due to the delivery of their message. Hadid, being half Palestinian, has never commented on the turmoil that the people of Palestine are currently going through. On top of that, culturally appropriating the ‘hijab’ when it seems convenient to her, upset many as it was interpreted as a non-Muslim model using the cultural practice as a way of appealing to the Arab consumer.
It’s an accomplishment, and in all honestly, a victory that Vogue would want to have a representation of the hijab in today’s politically charged world. And it’s very commendable. Many Arab women do not wear the hijab nor do many Muslim women, so Vogue Arabia did not need to have an exclusive hijabi model to grace the cover. However, that being said, using a model that has never worn the religious garb, simply as a means to appeal to the masses does seem out of touch with the discriminatory reality that Arabs and Muslims, in general, are facing. Vouge Arabia could have asked an Arab model or influencer or an actual hijabi star to be on the cover and yet they asked Hadid, a non-Muslim western supermodel to use the hijab as a fashion accessory.
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Through social media, many have expressed their opinions about the cover ‘appropriating’ the hijab and Hadid ‘using her background to justify wearing it.’ One twitter user stated, “Why is Gigi playing dress up when there are so many beautiful ACTUAL hijabis? I am tired.” Another one said “1) ur not mMuslimstop using the hijab for “art.” 2) stop using the title “half palestinian” for ur benefit when u dont even fight for ur people.”
Although Hadid is facing backlash, many have come to her support saying, “People, she is one of us she has every right to embrace our culture…. she is just as much of a Arab as the other Arab models… at least she ain’t ashamed of it,” wrote one Instagram user. “I love that you’ve always been proud of your heritage. Beautiful cover girl!” wrote a twitter fan.
It seems as though Vogue Arabia could have and should have been more sensitive towards the culture they are trying to appeal to with their inaugural edition. Women are fighting for their rights to wear the hijab in places like France and are constantly being questioned about oppression when they choose to practice their faith. When there have been politically charged attacks on hijabi women, practicing their face, it may have been better suited if Hadid did not use the garb as a fashion statement.
With the hijab being a constant topic of debate, with the politics and turmoil in the Middle East, and with Islam being a religion that is under scrutiny, hopefully Vogue Arabia will understand and be more sensitive towards their Arab and Muslim consumers.