Style.com/Arabia, Interview (January 21, 2013) — Moroccan model, Hind Sahli, is one of a few Arab women making waves in the fashion industry on a global scale.
In December, BBC News reported that she was among a new group of Arab supermodels that – at a time of broader changes for Arab women and in Arab society — are breaking stereotypes and changing the way Arab women are perceived by the rest of the world.
Joining her first modeling agency in 2008, she has since graced the catwalks of Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, and Kenzo to name a few. Here, she speaks to Style.com Arabia about her industry experiences and breaking cultural taboos.
Did you always want to become a model? How did it all begin?
When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a model. I used to watch a lot of fashion shows on television and knew that one day I would be there, too.
How did you get into the industry? What difficulties did you face?
It was actually quite simple. I first signed with an agency in Morocco and then shortly afterwards, I was signed to DNA Model Management in New York.
How did your family react to your choice of profession?
My family has always been extremely supportive of my career; in fact, my sister is so proud that she shows my magazine work to her friends. My mother was a little worried, but only as much as any other mother would be about her daughter doing something so unknown to the average person.
How did you find leaving Morocco for cities like New York and Paris and taking part in shows for some of the biggest fashion houses?
The first time I left Morocco I was 18 years old and had no idea what to expect from such places as New York or Paris. I was fortunate to have the support of my agency, DNA Model Management, throughout the entire process. They really took the time to teach me everything I needed to know in order to become and remain a successful model. When I booked my first runway show I was so excited—it had been a childhood dream to walk the runway and it was actually happening. I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe it was true!
Being one of the few Arab, Muslim faces in the industry, did you face any discrimination?
I had no issues of discrimination then, nor do I now; it’s quite the opposite, actually! I get tons of support and encouragement from the other girls; very few are negative. But I will say that you have to be very strong-willed in this industry. Everyone is going to have an opinion so it’s important to be comfortable enough with yourself and respect that not everyone is going to be positive.
How do you view the world of fashion and beauty in the Middle East, looking at it from the outside?
I think Middle Eastern beauty is extremely feminine and strong. The fashion is more commercial than other places. High fashion doesn’t really exist, but hopefully one day that will change.
Where is your favorite place in the Middle East?
What has been a defining moment in your career so far?
Being shot by the legendary Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue and scoring an Estée Lauder cosmetic campaign for the Middle Eastern market, which was shot by Dan Jackson. There are two things that girls dream of when starting in this industry: being shot by Steven Meisel and landing a cosmetic campaign. It was especially humbling because it was a campaign specifically representing the women of my culture. I am extremely blessed to have experienced both, for truly, they have both been responsible for my success in this industry.
What do you do to take care of your skin?
The most important thing is to be good to your body because at the end of the day, it’s all you have. I make sure to always eat well, stay active, and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
How do you stay in shape? Do you follow a specific diet and exercise regime?
I don’t have a specific regime to stay in shape. I exercise for peace of mind and because it makes me feel good. It’s always changing. I enjoy running and biking, but mostly, I stick with running.
How would you define your makeup style? What’s your favorite look?
I don’t wear makeup every day, but for special events I use Estée Lauder’s More than Mascara and Double Wear Stay-in-Place Eye Pencil. I also love lipstick, so I wear any one of my many shades—depending on the event and what I’m wearing.
What’s the one item you can’t live without?
I’m very passionate about reading and music, so it is be a tie between a good book and a great playlist.
Who is your beauty icon?
Audrey Hepburn is a huge icon of mine. She was extremely elegant while having such a strong attitude and dedicated work ethic. She always stood up for what she believed in and never followed what everyone else was doing. For that, I will always admire her inside and out.
Any resolutions for 2013?
In 2013 I would love to enroll in a fashion degree program. I’ve always wanted to become a women’s wear designer. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by such inspirational designers throughout my career as a fashion model, that it has led me to desire a career in that field.
When you’re not modeling, how do you like to spend your time?
I enjoy reading books and learning languages. I also enjoy exploring all of the museums that New York City has to offer.
What would you do if you were not a model?
I’m extremely interested in the history of fashion and becoming a designer myself.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment, I am very focused on my modeling career but on top of becoming a fashion designer one day, I would love to be able to volunteer my time and give back to the community. Whether that be as a mentor to younger children, community service, or a special cause. There are always people that need support and guidance and I think it’s really important to give as much as you can.