Bella Hadid believes she would have been less successful had she spoken about Palestine at a younger age
Bella Hadid has often made headlines for being vocal in her support for her home country, Palestine. The Palestinian-American model has suffered through consequences for it too in the form of brands dropping her and close friends cutting her off. Her experience makes her believe that had she started speaking up about her views at an earlier stage in life, she would not be the world renowned model she is today.
In an interview with Noor Tagouri’s the Rep podcast, Hadid said everything she says is backed up by the research she has done. “I have this overwhelming anxiety of not saying the right thing and not being what everybody needs me to be at all times. But I’ve also realised that I have done my education enough, I know my family enough, I know my own history enough. And that should be enough.”
She elaborated on the backlash, “I really do believe that if I started speaking about Palestine when I was 20, I would not have gotten the same recognition and respect that I have now. I had so many companies stop working with me. I had friends that completely dropped me, like even friends I had been having dinner with at their home on Friday nights, for seven years, like now just won’t let me at their house anymore.”
Tagouri brought attention to an ad that was posted to malign the model. “Even one of the world’s most prestigious journalistic institutions engaged. On May 22, the New York Times published a full page ad paid for by a right wing American organisation. The ad featured the faces of Bella, her sister Gigi and popstar Dua Lipa, over an image of a rocket strike, covered in bold and inflammatory text. The intention was clear — the ad attempted to link the three women to terrorism, genocide and antisemitism.”
Hadid felt like that disregarded so many years of work and so many lives that have been lost all because they reduced the trio to the leaders of a terrorist organisation. “It was really disappointing for me because we all really have taken time and money subscriptions to read something that we really felt was powerful, had integrity and [was] educational. At this point it was just, they sold their soul,” she said of the publication.
The Victoria’s Secret model also shed light on how the official account for the state of Israel on Twitter came for her, and the double standards when she speaks about other injustices in the world. “And I think that was really, the word is disappointing, but the entire country of Israel, and I mean, Israel on Twitter tweeted at me. And what’s interesting is that when I speak about Palestine, I get labelled as something that I’m not but when I speak about the same thing that’s happening there, happening somewhere else in the world, it’s honourable. So what’s the difference?”
Hadid noted in the interview that she realised very young that people are not accepting of this part of her identity. She recalled being called a “terrorist” in eighth grade. “I was being called names and being immediately blasted as a person of hatred for another people, but all I was talking about was freeing my father’s people — people who are deeply hurting.”
In a separate interview with GQ Magazine, Hadid dove deeper into her childhood and mentioned the “separation from her roots” that made her feel a sense of unease growing up in Santa Barbara. She was often the only Arab girl in her class and while she says her upbringing was mostly fine, she has long felt that there was something missing from her life. “I was never able to see myself in anything else, so I tried to just sit back,” the model said. “For so long I was missing that part of me, and it made me really, really sad and lonely.”
One of her greater regrets is that she wasn’t raised around Muslim people, particularly after her parents separated. “I would have loved to grow up and be with my dad every day, studying and really being able to practice, just in general being able to live in a Muslim culture,” she says. “But I wasn’t given that.” Nevertheless, she spends a lot of time thinking about her family and what they endured: “I speak about [this stuff] for the elderly that are still living there that have never been able to see Palestine free, and for the children that can still grow up and have a beautiful life.”
A recent interaction with an Israeli woman in the streets of New York City made her realise she’s not afraid to speak up anymore. “I was just leaving lunch, and this woman came up to me and was like, ‘I just moved to New York from Israel recently, and I told myself that if I ever saw Bella Hadid I would walk up to her and ask why she hates me so much,’” Hadid narrated on the podcast.
Adding that she actually welcomed the conversation, telling the woman that she didn’t hate her, she invited her to speak her mind. “I’m not scared of anything, but I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to combat whatever she had to say to me. But I realised in that conversation, it never had to be combative. All it had to be was two girls talking about their history and hopefully finding a common denominator, which is that we want nobody to die.”