Grazia meets Shahira Yusuf, the new hijabi model who’s haute on Halima’s heels

"I know it's hard to flip through a magazine and not see anyone that’s dressed like you,” Halima Aden once told Grazia. “I know that can send a message about what the standard of beauty is.” Two years on, now signed to IMG Development in New York, not only has she dominated the catwalks of Max Mara, Alberta Ferretti and Yeezy, Halima’s redefining those standards on her own terms, and paving the way for others.

Enter Shahira Yusuf, Storm Model Management’s latest signing, who’s set to rock the fashion world. “I ain’t no Kendall Jenner but I’m a black Muslim girl from east London that’s about to finesse the modelling industry,” she announced in a Tweet that’s already clocked up 122K likes, and 57K retweets – not bad for someone who “never aspired to be a model.”

Halima Aden on the Alberta Ferretti AW17 runway

The 20-year-old tells Grazia, “When I was 17, I was stopped with a friend in central London, and asked whether I model and if I’d ever considered it. I wasn’t interested at the time but took the scout card for Storm, and didn’t think anything of it. Having been scouted a few times by other agencies, I was beginning to consider it more and more as a viable option. And finally, three years after first being scouted by Storm, I signed up.”

Originally from Somalia, Shahira continues, “My family have been very supportive, and I have a huge family, so there’s always something to say. They are mostly happy that I’m pursuing it as it is an amazing opportunity. Modelling just isn’t viewed as a traditional career path, not only in my culture but also for most cultures, so it’s something very different.” 

A post shared by Shahira Yusuf (@shvhira) on

Shahira attributes her big break to the momentum of the modesty movement. “I wouldn’t be modelling if there was no modest-fashion market to cater to. I always make sure that I explain how I want to wear outfits beforehand. It’s just about making sure that you’re comfortable. All clients that I’ve worked with have been interested in learning more about the hijab and my religious background in itself. They have been very understanding.”

Christopher Yianoullou, Shahira’s booker and New Faces Agent at Storm, observes, “I’m seeing much more diversity in the industry. The fashion scene is so creative and also pushing the boundaries by demanding different types and looks of models – which I have to say, is definitely more interesting.”

Meanwhile, Mariah Idrissi – the first hijabi model to front campaigns for heavyweight high-street names H&M and Zara – who has now become one of the leading voices in modesty, tells Grazia, “I feel with Storm signing Shahira under the common requirements that they would sign any model, such great bone structure, slim and tall [Shahira is 5ft11in, while Halima is 5ft5½in], this has shown a level of normalisation when working with people of diverse backgrounds.” Mariah, who was signed to Select Model Management from 2016 to 2017, notes, “It pleases me to know that she’s not just signed as a gimmick but as a real model.”

Photos: Supplied