Being asked to write a little opinion piece on Gigi Hadid’s new Vogue Arabia cover seemed super simple – as a young Muslim woman who loves fashion (and loves drama even more), I thought I knew exactly what I was going to say.
But as I started really thinking about how I felt about the veil and hijab that Gigi wears in the cover story, I started going in circles. On one hand, I loved it, I felt empowered, represented, and beautiful. Jelena (Gigi) Hadid does have a right to be able to represent a part of herself that isn’t always highlighted; the fact is she is half-Palestinian. But then I hated it, because just like those who are criticizing the shoot, I can remember the awful moments of having to watch my grandmother remove her hijab at the airport for beyond ridiculous reasons. While I myself do not wear one, I am more than aware that it’s still fight to wear a hijab – not a fashion statement.
I’ve read a lot of articles that have outlined the fact that the hijab is first and foremost a religious symbol and the Vogue cover discredits that symbolism by trying to make it have an alluring, chic sense about it. I think that this argument is true; styling a bright pink and purple hijab and a totally jewelled veil does alter the symbolism of it, but by the same logic that prosecutes Gigi for wearing it, means that the YouTube gurus who profit off of hijab tutorials and selling accessories for scarfs shouldn’t get off scot free either. These acts alter the spirit of the hijab as well, and so I think that it's fair to say this conversation is somewhat bigger than Vogue.
"I am more than aware that it’s still fight to wear a hijab – not a fashion statement."
Being a white (which adds even more complexity to this) Muslim 20-something woman, there are two things that I am actually certain of after all this reflection. Firstly, I appreciate that representation is trying to be shown, however flawed as it was - the fashion world has spent years shadowing everyone with even the slightest difference, and so a bumpy ride is to be expected while trying to right that wrong. Secondly, any opinion that a Muslim woman hold about this debate is valid because the hijab is their narrative, and no one is to take that from them.
I guess that I ultimately feel a little bit guilty for not loving it, but not hating it either. I see the flaws, I understand the pain, and agree with arguments on all sides, but in all honesty, there needs to be recognition that Gigi does have some credibility in this shoot - moreso than if her friend Kendall Jenner were the model, for example. Vogue tried but didn’t nail it this time. There is always room for improvement.