Former Victoria’s Secret model Shanina Shaik — whose heritage is a unique combination of Saudi, Pakistani, Lithuanian and Australian — landed the January 2020 cover of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.
In her interview with the magazine, the model revealed her struggle with landing gigs due to her unconventional looks. “I remember going to castings in Europe and getting turned away because of my skin colour,” she said. “That was only six years ago.”
Despite the glamour of the fashion industry from the outset, it’s still a difficult world to navigate if you don’t fit a certain mold, she went on.
“We’ve come a long way, and we are moving towards a better future. But there’s still some jobs I don’t book because I don’t fit into a certain category. I’ve had to bang down so many doors for people to understand and embrace me. I had to leave Australia to book jobs in New York because I didn’t look like an average Australian girl, but then in New York they told me I was too sexy and I’d never do high fashion,” she noted.
“Beauty doesn’t just have to be one segment or category — it should be international. Why does it matter what colour your skin is? It should matter who you are.”
Shanina, who has been modeling since she was eight years old and comes from a multicultural family, also shared with the magazine that she was bullied in school for her looks and ethnic roots, to the point of leaving.
“It was emotional abuse, every single day. And once one of the popular girls starts picking on you, it’s like a domino effect. So I became so insecure, my grades dropped, and eventually I just stopped going to school.”
For the 28-year-old model, landing the Gulf edition of the international high fashion magazine was a homecoming of sorts.
“I also have a very good feeling that 2020 is the year I finally get to go to Saudi. I’ve never been before but I have family there and have such a strong bond and affinity with Middle Eastern culture. It’s from my dad’s side — he’s Saudi-Pakistani.”
“My family is really mixed and interracial,” she explains. “My uncle’s from Malta, my step-dad was from Ghana, and I have three younger brothers – all such gorgeous boys – and two of them are part-Chinese. If you took a picture of us, we are a very modern-day family,” Shanina laughs. “I love it because I’ve learned so much about different cultures… but it’s my dad’s that I naturally enjoy the most.”