Will Taleedah Tamer be the first Saudi supermodel?

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Taleedah Tamer has some encouraging advice for Saudis looking to break into the fashion industry: ‘Just go for it.’
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Taleedah Tamer has some encouraging advice for Saudis looking to break into the fashion industry: ‘Just go for it.’
Updated 03 July 2018
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Will Taleedah Tamer be the first Saudi supermodel?

  • Major cover shoots, modeling deals and a Paris runway debut: It’s easy to see why Taleedah Tamer is turning heads in the fashion industry.
  • Jeddah-born teen model shares her hopes and hardships — and her dreams for all Arab women .

JEDDAH: Taleedah Tamer, 17, will break barriers as the first Saudi couture model to hit the Paris runway when she makes her debut in the capital’s leading fashion show this week.

After landing her first contracts modeling for Karloff jewelry and Rubaiyat, the Saudi model continues to make fashion waves by gracing the latest cover of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.

The July cover story coincides with her Paris Fashion Week debut, where she will open for Antonio Grimaldi’s Italian Haute Couture brand. 

Arab News gained exclusive insight into Tamer’s life as she discussed the factors that led her to pursue a career as a fashion model, her modeling aspirations, the challenges she is facing — as well as her take on the rapid changes within the Kingdom relating to women, the fashion industry and Vision 2030.

Born and raised in Jeddah to a Saudi father and Italian mother, Tamer enjoyed the support needed to pursue a career in an industry that is under-represented with Saudi runway models. Her father, Ayman Tamer, is chairman of Tamer Group, a leading health care, pharmaceutical and beauty company, while her mother, Cristina, is a former model who worked for Giorgio Armani, La Perla and Gianfranco Ferre. 

Reflecting on the factors that motivated her to pursue a career in fashion, Tamer names her mother as her chief influencer and motivator. “She has taught me so much. I remember seeing all her photographs and hearing about her modeling experiences, and wishing how one day I could replicate such beautiful pictures.

“If it wasn’t modeling, it is photography I really appreciate. I love the stories that beautiful photographs tell, and I love working with creative people,” she said.

“I also have many models who have influenced me. Each one brought something special in their own unique way. I’ve always admired Gisele Bundchen — she is the epitome of modeling. I also really love Imaan Hammam; she is a Dutch model of Egyptian and Moroccan descent, and I really connected with that mixed Arab heritage.” 

 But life is not all sunshine and rainbows when you are hailed as potentially the first Saudi supermodel. There is a stigma attached to this that requires a thick skin to weather the storm of ultra-conservative critics. Tamer understands this and is steadfast in refusing to allow the naysayers to deny her vision.

 “I’ve just started my career, but I know there will be many obstacles ahead,” she said. “The fact that I’m from a conservative country like Saudi Arabia, I know there will be people that would not 100 percent agree with me modeling and I respect the right to their opinion. That applies to any place in the world, though. At the end of the day, if there is something you want to do that you love, I believe that’s something very personal to that person.

“It’s great to be one of the first, but it’s tough to take on a position where you represent a larger public because there is so much diversity, so many different people. I think to have one person represent a whole community is a bit unrealistic. But the fact that I’m Saudi shouldn’t be a limiting factor. It can’t be all that bad if it’s what you love and it is done in a respectful way, of course.” 

 Tamer’s hard-line approach to detractors has carried over into her fashion taste as she favors a more masculine style in both her personal and professional life. “I really do enjoy a masculine fashion style. I get a kick out of it, and always feel confident. I can appreciate the feminine style, but masculine even more so because it is similar to how I dress personally. I also enjoy a very eccentric, alternative style.” 

 When asked about her thoughts regarding the rapid changes in Saudi Arabia, Tamer revels in the equal rights and opportunities for Saudi women.

 “I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia my whole life and whenever the topic of women driving came up, I always had faith that it would happen. I’ve always felt that in my heart. All my Saudi friends, even though they are conservative, they are liberal with their thinking in the sense that they are accepting of others. I always knew in my heart that we would move forward positively.

“Seeing all these videos of women driving brings me so much joy because I believe everyone has been waiting to see that for some time — men included — for women to have that liberty. I’m 100 percent going to get my license when I return to Jeddah. It’s great. It’s an amazing step forward.”

 It’s also an exciting time for the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia, with Riyadh hosting Arab Fashion Week in April this year. 

Tamer has encouraging advice for Saudis looking to break into the industry. “I would say to just go for it. I know that there is so much beauty out there and I think there should be so many more faces to represent that beauty. For me, diversity in fashion is one of the most important things, one of the most beautiful things. You see a culture within a person.

“There needs to be more diversity in fashion and Saudi Arabia should be a part of that. Arab women need to be a part of that because there is so much beauty out there that hasn’t been seen. There shouldn’t be anything stopping them as long as they follow their conscience, what they believe in.” 

 Tamer’s fashion goals? “I do have professional and personal goals in many different fields within the fashion industry, but in regards to publications, being able to grace the cover of any of Vogue’s ‘Big 4’ — the French, Italian, British or American Vogue — would be such an honor.

“On the runway, I’ve always wanted to walk for Armani since my mother walked for them when she was younger, so that would be special. In photography, I would love to work with Steven Meisel. Some destinations I would love to visit and work on in location are Bora Bora, India, Croatia and Japan.”

 Tamer is a recent graduate of the British International School of Jeddah. While continuing her modeling career, she aims to further her education in business marketing.

Along the way, though, she will continue to combine her Saudi heritage with an Italian fashion perspective. It’s a recipe that is certain to cook up a more inclusive and tolerant dialogue — with a stylish twist. 

 


How the Middle East reacted to the Game of Thrones finale

Updated 21 May 2019
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How the Middle East reacted to the Game of Thrones finale

  • Arabs join fans around the world at marking the end of the HBO series
  • The show became engrained in popular culture over eight epic years

DUBAI: After eight epic years, 47 Emmys and two dead dragons, “Game of Thrones” has said goodbye to devotees worldwide after having redefined weekly “event TV.”

Having been shown in 170 countries, “Game of Thrones” was the most expensive show ever, with a budget of $15 million per episode. 

The blood-spattered tale of noble families vying for the Iron Throne wrapped up on Monday with the 73rd and final episode of one of the most popular shows in TV history.

The final episode had some emotional and surprising scenes, so it kept me hooked.

Mohammed Mansour, an Egyptian student in the UAE

“I watched it on my phone as it premiered. Honestly, the show had kind of written itself into a corner, so I didn’t really think we’d go any further than what we already expected,” Ali Tirkawi, a 22-year-old American who lives in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News after watching the final episode.

“The finale pretty much boiled down to a horribly depressing epilogue about what the main characters want to do next. I feel that the show kind of robbed us of what we had grown to expect from it,” he said. “The whole sense of danger and anxiety, who’d perish, all that really just disappeared. If I could sum up my feeling toward the final episode: Disappointment.”

Both the show’s name and its now-famous tagline, “Winter is Coming,” spawned a plethora of memes that made their way into the global political discourse. 

US President Donald Trump famously alluded to the show in a warning to Iran last year. He posted an image of himself on Twitter with the line “Sanctions are coming” above “November 5.”

The TV-watching habits of millennials have undergone a radical transformation since the first episode aired in 2011. 

Streaming services have appeared on the scene to rival cable services, and the number of shows available to watch has nearly doubled.

One of the darkest and most controversial primetime series ever made, “Game of Thrones” has been the target of criticism over the years for senseless violence as a dramatic device. The scriptwriters brutalized women and killed children, all in glorious close-up.

The adult themes deterred neither the show’s fans nor the industry awards circuit, which saw fit to make the HBO show the most decorated fictional series in history. Season 6 was the first to move beyond the source material, George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, and carve its own path. Critics said it marked a return to form, but the shortened final two seasons have been more of a mixed bag, with many fans furious over what they consider poor writing and a rushed conclusion of the plot strands.

“The show meant a lot to me, spanning eight years of my life. I can easily recall each and every time I watched an episode,” he added.

Elia Mssawir, a UAE-based entertainment company executive

The Season 7 finale set an all-time US record for premium cable TV, with 16.5 million people watching live or streaming on the day of transmission, and 15 million more tuning in later. The biggest question of all, who would be sitting on the Iron Throne, was answered — sort of — on Monday.

While thousands of viewers aired their gripes on social media, as they did all season, plenty of others thought it was a fitting end.

While millions watched at home, thousands celebrated or mourned the show’s denouement in public places and backyards from London to Dubai. Among them was Mira Kerbage, a 22-year-old Lebanese student of marketing communications in the UK. 

“I felt overwhelmed with everything. I don’t know if this was just because it was the end of one of my favorite shows, or because the story ended but didn’t really end,” she told Arab News.

 

 

“It was bittersweet, so I felt sad and disappointed. It was like the end of an era. You feel empty,” she said.

“I watched it at 4 a.m. in my room, went to sleep at 6 a.m. and woke up at 8 a.m. to go to university.”

Cries of joy, sobs and applause followed the peaks and troughs of what many regarded as a poignant but so-so finale. 

The episode proved to be as divisive as the rest of Season 8. Chief among the controversies was the rapid descent into the mass-murdering madness of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, arguably the lead character in an enormous ensemble that has called on the talents of such luminaries as Charles Dance, Sean Bean, Jim Broadbent and Diana Rigg.

OSN, which aired the show in the Middle East with English and Arabic subtitles, had marked the arrival of Season 8 with a social media competition calling on fans to unleash their creativity. 

“From fashion or design to baking, braiding or painting, use your talents to show your love for the Throne,” an OSN press release said in March.

Mohammed Mansour, an Egyptian student in the UAE, was surprised and happy, but also a bit disappointed after watching the finale. 

“Happy because it gave closure, disappointed in the way some characters met their fate. It doesn’t do them justice. But the final episode had some emotional and surprising scenes, so it kept me hooked,” he told Arab News.

“It was one of the best shows I’ve seen in my whole life, although the last two seasons weren’t as great.”

A petition calling for the final season to be remade has now passed 1.1 million signatures. 

In China, the show’s rights holder triggered outrage among legions of die-hard fans — some of whom took the morning off work to tune in — by mysteriously delaying its broadcast just before it was due to air. That did not stop fans from flocking online, with one dramatic twist provoking a discussion on the Twitter-like Weibo platform that was viewed more than 230 million times.

“It was even more intense than a football finale,” said Ewald Klautky, 52, one of about 200 fans who watched the final episode together in Los Angeles.

Elia Mssawir, a UAE-based entertainment company executive, watched the episode alone at home. “I really kind of enjoyed it, and it was mostly because of the unexpected turn of events. I loved the fact that they put every character in their place without wasting any time,” he told Arab News. “This was something many ‘Game of Thrones’ fans felt uncomfortable about, but I really enjoyed it. Not every series or movie has to have a happy ending,” he said. 

“The show meant a lot to me, spanning eight years of my life. I can easily recall each and every time I watched an episode,” he added. “I lived in three different countries during this time, and I took the show with me on the road. One time I was touring with an artist, and I made it my mission to get data to stream it on the bus while going to the next gig.”

The ending of “Game of Thrones” was all too much for its stars, including Sophie Turner, who first appeared as Sansa Stark as a young teenager. She wrote on Instagram of her character: “I fell in love with you at 13 and now 10 years on ... at 23 I leave you behind, but I will never leave behind what you’ve taught me.”