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. 

 


‘Who is America?’ Cohen splits critics with TV return

Updated 16 July 2018
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‘Who is America?’ Cohen splits critics with TV return

NEW YORK: “Who is America?” is both the title of Sacha Baron Cohen’s first foray into television satire in more than a decade and the existential question on the lips of liberals living through the Trump presidency.
Trailed by a blaze of pre-launch publicity and a furious backlash from public figures who believe they have been pranked, its splashy debut won most attention Sunday for hoodwinking Republican politicians into endorsing a made-up plan to train pre-schoolers how to fire a gun.
The series brings seven episodes to pay-to-view channel Showtime years after the British comedian was last on television with “Da Ali G Show” — his wannabe-rapper character interviewing the powerful and famous.
In “Who is America?” Cohen conjures up four new characters. Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., is an opponent of “mainstream” media who debates health care with left-leaning Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
There is Nira Cain-N’degeocello, a pink-hat wearing, ultra-liberal hippy, who dines at the home of a Trump-voting couple.
Rick Sherman is an ex-con turned artist who works in the medium of human feces and bodily fluids, and who meets a totally accepting California gallery owner who donates public hair to his paint brush.
Finally, Israeli “anti-terror expert” Col. Erran Morad pranks Republicans into endorsing a concocted plan to teach children as young as three and four how to fire a firearm, along with a “Puppy Pistol.”
Teasers for the new series saw US former vice president Dick Cheney signing a “waterboard kit” and Sarah Palin unleash a furious Facebook attack, upset to have been one of Cohen’s pranked subjects.
Palin, the former vice-presidential nominee and ex-Alaska governor who did not appear in the first episode, slammed the comedian’s “evil, exploitive, sick ‘humor.’ “
But if early reviews are more muted, they are also mixed.
The New York Times called the first episode “tepid and inconsequential,” and ill-suited to the times.
If The New Yorker waxed lyrical about “sporadically excellent conceptual art,” trade magazine Variety warned Cohen’s nihilism can “itch and irritate more than enlighten and entertain.”
The Guardian praised “one moment of viral gold” but otherwise lamented “mostly a frustrating experience.”
After “Da Ali G Show,” which transferred from Britain to America, Cohen found success with hit movie characters such as bumbling Kazakh reporter Borat and gay Austrian fashionista Bruno.
His 2012 movie, “The Dictator,” starring himself as a Muammar Qaddafi style tyrant was less well reviewed.