Written by Muslim Girl Staff Writer, Nermeen Ileiwat
On Wednesday, the first Vogue Arabia cover was revealed. There was an instant reaction, mostly positive, but also negative.
Vogue Arabia is a major step in legitimizing and expanding the fashion industry that has been developing in the Middle East for quite some time.
The magazine had already run into controversy by appointing Saudi Arabian Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz as their editor in-chief. Princess Abdulaziz was appointed to dictate style and fashion that women in her own country are not permitted to wear by law. Regardless as a fashion icon of the Middle East, to industry elitists she seemed to be the right choice.
For those that live under a rock, Gigi Hadid was chosen to be the first cover model for the premier of Vogue Arabia. Where there is Gigi Hadid, there is controversy. Accusations of the model being “selectively Palestinian,” and profiting from an identity that is not truly hers has run rampant. But, at the end of the day, Gigi Hadid’s father, Mohamed Hadid, is Palestinian. That identity cannot be taken away from her.
While her silence against the violence and terror against Palestinians living under occupation speaks volumes, it does not change the fact she’s half Palestinians. Her silence also does not erase the victory for Palestinians; her cover is in fact a form of representation, as all her magazine covers are.
The same can be said of Kim Kardashian and her sisters. The Kardashians are in fact half Armenian, yet they are only recognized as White. It is not fair to erase the heritage of these women, especially when they belong to an occupied people.
However, to put Gigi Hadid in what seems to be a hijab for the spread was not the best call. This is Vogue Arabia; there are models who are in fact hijabis. What does it say when the magazines of the Middle East won’t feature a hijabi model, but Kanye West and Max Mara have a hijabi model walking their runways?
The argument has been brought up that the pink scarf Hadid is wearing in the spread was never called a hijab; not to forget Christian women do cover their hair in some instances, and the magazine is geared towards all of Arabia, not just Muslims.
That argument is pretty weak in such a politically tense time. There are women who wear the hijab that are being attacked on a daily basis. Yet Gigi Hadid can wear one in a magazine for the sake of “art” and “aesthetic.” Representation is more important now than ever.
Vogue Arabia can become an important platform to showcase the essence and diversity of Muslim and Arab women in fashion – so why not use hijabi models for hijabi fashion? I think this is in fact less about appropriation, and more tham about representation. This magazine can be such a huge step in the right direction for the Middle Eastern fashion industry, especially the modest fashion industry. That opportunity would be a loss if the magazine does not make more of a conscious decision to use figures that better represent just that.
Now more than ever is the time to STEP UP. Worrying about public opinion and appealing to the West should not be the main concern of this publication. It is time to be less Vogue and more Teen Vogue. It is time to be political, and it is time to take a stand. With such a large and revolutionary platform, it would be waste to keep using Western models to represent Middle Eastern culture and trends.