In last week’s Newsweek, writer Robin Givhan profiled two top models who hail from Muslim countries: Hind Sahli, 20, of Morocco, and Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, also 20, of Tunisia.
The women, writes Givhan, represent a diversity that the fashion industry has been trying to cultivate only very recently, under the leadership of CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg. Seeing that runway shows were heavy on tall, blond, Eastern European girls, agencies and designers sought out women that were more representative of the international community.
Both Ben Abdesslem and Sahli were happy to participate; each decided to pursue modeling in part to satisfy their own ambitions, and in part to challenge the homogeny in the fashion industry.
“I want to give a good example of the Arab woman,” Ben Abdesslem told Newsweek. “I think they want me to speak for them as well.”
Added Sahli, “You didn’t see a lot of girls in the shows to make me feel it could happen…Here’s all these blonde girls—maybe they should change that. Women are not only blonde girls.”
Both models have made strides. Givhan writes:
In the last year, especially, both Sahli and Ben Abdesslem have made significant headway—between them, they have walked in shows for labels such as Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Vera Wang, and Phillip Lim. They have posed for Italian Vogue and French Vogue and shot advertisements for Top Shop and Lancôme.