For the first time in its history of publication, the August 2022 issue of Vogue France featured two Somali women on the cover — and the first hijabi, in spite of France’s hijab ban. This is the first time in over 100 years of its publishing history that there is finally a hijabi on the cover of Vogue France. For a country that has over a million Muslims living within its nation and has the largest Muslim population in Europe, it is about time!
The hijabi woman is none other than Ugbad Abdi, a Somali American model. When she was younger, she lived in a Kenyan refugee camp until she was nine, when her family eventually immigrated to the United States and settled in Iowa. Abdi was spotted by a modeling agency in her teen years, where she encountered Mona Tougaard, a Denmark Somali woman, who is the woman on the cover with her. Abdi has worked for luxury brands like Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Chole. She comments that the hijab hasn’t hindered her modeling career and she is actively sought out by top brands. This is despite France’s hostility towards hijab, as France is a country that bans women from wearing hijabs, burqas, and even the burkini from being worn at many pools and beaches.
Ugbad Abdi was aware of the importance of this cover, stating that the photo shoot, “could open doors for young girls who feel represented by the issues of the magazine.” She says, “I can tell you that the little girl in me is bursting with joy for what it means for her not only to have two Somali women hugging each other on Vogue France, but even more for the representation of the hijab on the cover.”
Eugénie Trochu is Vogue France’s new head of editorial content since September 2021. She had a rocky start in her career when she came under fire for commenting “Yes to the scarf!” on a January 2022 Instagram post depicting Julia Fox wearing a headscarf and sunglasses.
In an article by Ghufrane Mounir, Vogue France was dubbed hypocritical for praising Fox’s headscarf, stating that “The post comes just days after the French senate voted to prohibit Hijabs from being worn during sporting events, following an amendment proposed by the right-wing political party Les Republicains claiming headscarves undermine French values and jeopardize athlete safety.” Vogue France has since taken down the image and comment.
For a country that repeatedly bans Muslim women who wear veils of any kind from participating in society, this photoshoot and cover is a big deal. It is the first time that the country has shown a hijabi on a fashion cover. Might this mean that the tides are hopefully turning towards the hijab having wider acceptance in France? Headscarves have long been a part of couture fashion. We see them used on the runaways or within fashion magazines. What makes Ugbad Abdi different is that she is a woman who actively wears a hijab and practices Islam. She isn’t wearing the hijab to be fashionable — although she is obviously highly fashionable.
Ugbad Abdi is a woman who actively wears a hijab and practices Islam. She isn’t wearing the hijab just for fashion.
On the same note, earlier this year in April 2022, Vogue France named model Najma Ahmed as Miss Vogue. Najma Ahmed is another Somali model who hails from Sweden. She stated that “I’ve always liked making looks and I made the choice to wear the hijab alone. Nobody forced me. My faith is embedded in such a personal part of my life that I find it crazy that strangers can afford to question it. And I regret that the hijab is considered a symbol of oppression for a Muslim woman.” Ahmed says that Audrey Hepburn inspired her to go to Paris and model because she wants Muslim women to be interested in and included in fashion. Posing for Vogue France has always been her dream.
Eugénie Trochu wants to diversify Vogue France. To include a Black hijabi woman on the cover and choose a Black hijabi woman to be Miss Vogue shows that Trochu is moving in the right direction. This should have been done long before 2022. Hopefully, Trochu can continue to break barriers within France — and the world at large.
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