On the 1st of March, Vogue Arabia released their highly anticipated first cover, but it was a big disappointment. Vogue decided to put Gigi Hadid on their first cover. Hadid is known for disrespecting and appropriating a lot of cultures, so it wasn't a surprise when she appropriated the Islamic culture on Vogue Arabia's cover.
On the cover, Hadid was dressed in a veil which symbolises niqab (an Islamic wear, which requires being covered from head to toe except for the eyes) while her shoulders and arms were bare which really conflicts and disrespects the idea of niqab.
Fun fact: not every Arabic woman wears hijab/niqab as they are only for Muslim women, even those who aren't Arab. Hadid is not a Muslim, which means she has no right to wear hijab/niqab, especially when hijabi models rarely land gigs because of their hijabs. Add to that fact that there are a lot of Muslim models in the industry who aren't veiled and a lot of Arabic models working both locally and internationally, which means Vogue had a lot of choices but decided to choose one of the worst ever. Not just that, Vogue Arabia had the guts to call her "All American" with her photo in hijab on their website.
Maybe, Vogue thought that Gigi was a good fit because she was born to a Palestinian father, but Gigi never mentions being a half Palestinian except in times when it will benefit her like when she posted about being on the cover of Vogue Arabia, or when she was attacked or criticised for using henna. She never talks about the struggles Palestinians or any Arabs face in their country or the struggles refugees and immigrants face on a daily basis.
Vogue didn't only disappoint by their choice of the problematic model, Hadid was shot by Inez and Vinoodh, two Dutch photographers who have no connection to neither Arabic culture nor Islamic culture, to give us the very cheap and stereotypical concept of the shoot that disrespects the Islamic culture. While there are millions of Muslim and Arabic photographers who could have been a better fit for the shoot, they also would have made it feel ethnic as it was initially intended.
Another big let down is the designer who custom designed the clothes Hadid wore: Brandon Maxwell. I, personally, am a very big fan of Brandon's work and brand, but like every other thing on this cover, Brandon has no connection to either culture. Furthermore, there are a lot of Muslim and Arabic designers out there, some of which have been dominating the fashion industry for years, while others are still struggling to make a breakthrough, and just imagine how life changing a Vogue cover would be for a person who is struggling to break into the fashion industry.
The funniest part of the cover is that most Westerns always talk about how oppressing hijab must be and how we, Muslim women, need to be freed from such oppression, but the first thing they decide to put in a photo-shoot to look artistic and ethnic is our hijab.
Any model, photographer and designer are welcome to work on Vogue Arabia, as long as they don't misrepresent us or disrespect any of our cultures, considering the fact that the Arab world has a lot of diverse cultures.
The first Vogue Arabia cover was supposed to represent us and make us feel connected to the world, but it failed tragically to do so. I wish the upcoming covers will achieve everything the first one has failed to achieve.