Shanina Shaik: “Why I’m standing up for the women in the Middle East”

The Victoria’s Secret show-stopper shares her feelings on the startling reforms in Saudi Arabia, and why diversity in fashion is a lesson for America
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Shanina Shaik: “Why I’m standing up for the women in the Middle East”

This year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is its most ethically diverse yet. And according to Muslim model Shanina Shaik, the rest of the world should take note. Speaking to Grazia backstage in New York the day it was revealed that more women were voted into congress than at any point in US history following the first election of the Trump presidency, Shanina insists, “It’s really important we show diversity, especially now, because there’s a lot of racism and hate in the world right now, so when we have the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, we can show the world we should come together, support one another and unite with diversity.”

The Australian model – who wed DJ Ruckus in an idyllic ceremony in the Bahamas earlier this year – has Lithuanian heritage on her mother’s side, and her father is half-Pakistani and half-Saudi Arabian. On witnessing the ban being lifted on women driving in June, she reveals, “I think it’s really exciting to see the changes in Saudi Arabia. Women have to be super-careful and honour the culture and religion, but in this day and age, we have to honour and respect women. Women have to be equal to men, and we should have the same rights. There should be equality for everyone.”

Shanina sees her participation in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show as an example to women that they can achieve their dreams, whatever their background. “I’m showing women all over the Middle East that I’m supporting them, because I have an Arab background and we’ve been told that we can’t do a lot of things, so I’m standing up for the women in the Middle East,” she reveals.

“I’m a huge feminist,” she admits, and when the cameras stop rolling, Shanina works to support and inspire young girls coming into the industry, encouraging them to continue their education and to not be afraid of asserting their boundaries. “It’s OK to say no. It’s all about taking care of yourself and respecting yourself.” A true role model.

Photo: Instagram @shaninamshaik and supplied