Gisele Bundchen fires back in feud with Brazilian Minister

Brazilian supermodel turned environmental activist Gisele Bundchen is pushing back against the agricultural minister in her homeland. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Gisele Bundchen fires back in feud with Brazilian Minister

  • Minister Tereza Cristina Dias accused Bundchen of tainting the country’s image abroad
  • The public feud underscores the enormous international attention being focused on the Amazon basin

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian supermodel turned environmental activist Gisele Bundchen is pushing back against the agricultural minister in her homeland, along the way wading into a growing debate about the future of the Amazon.
The brouhaha began Monday when Minister Tereza Cristina Dias accused Bundchen of tainting the country’s image abroad. During a radio interview, Dias called the supermodel a “bad Brazilian” for denouncing deforestation and said the model should be promoting Brazil’s agriculture and industries.
Late Wednesday, Bundchen wrote a measured response, saying she would “be happy to announce positive actions” taken toward sustainable development.
In her letter, Bundchen said she was surprised by the derogatory mention. She said her criticisms, which included a series of Tweets last year, were based on science and came from a “worried Brazilian citizen.”
Citing a 13 percent increase in deforestation in Brazil, Bundchen said those behind illegal land occupations were the “bad Brazilians.”
The public feud underscores the enormous international attention being focused on the Amazon basin and fears that Bolsonaro’s administration is geared to roll back environmental protections.
Home to the lion’s share of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, Brazil is seen as a key piece in fighting climate change. But Bolsonaro, a close ally of the agro-business caucus, has garnered the wrath of environmental advocates around the world for his views that the Amazon should be less regulated to make room for agriculture and other industries.
Bolsonaro has spoken out against environmental regulators, who he says have created an “industry of fines,” and has promised that he will not give indigenous tribes “one more centimeter” of land.
During the radio interview, the agriculture minister, nicknamed the “queen of poison” for pushing for legislation in Congress to loosen rules for pesticide use, was asked about the “PR problems” that have come from the model’s activism.
“It’s absurd what they do today with the image of Brazil,” she responded. “For some reason they go out and paint a picture of Brazil and its industries that is not true.”
“Sorry, Gisele Bundchen,” she continued. “You should be an ambassador and say that your country conserves, that your country is on the global vanguard of conservation, and not go around criticizing Brazil without knowing the facts.”
In her letter, the model described over 12 years of environmental activism, which earned her a spot as a UN environment goodwill ambassador.
She said she has visited the Amazon several times, has learned about the reality of Brazil’s vast northern rainforest and has collaborated with leading scientists, academics, activists and companies on the issue of climate change.
Bundchen encouraged Dias to use technology and scientific knowledge in Brazilian agriculture to avoid further deforestation that could lead Brazil “past the point of no return.”


Why Bollywood can’t get enough of fashion from the Arab world

No major red-carpet event in India is complete without at least a couple of leading ladies wearing a gown from an Arab designer. (AFP)
Updated 31 min 13 sec ago
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Why Bollywood can’t get enough of fashion from the Arab world

  • When Indian cinema’s leading ladies need to slay on the red carpet, they are increasingly turning to Middle East designers.

DUBAI: Bollywood has long been popular in the region. The Gulf is Indian cinema’s largest overseas market, and — in return — Bollywood has fallen in love with fashion from the Middle East. The two have plenty in common: not least a passion for opulence, (melo)drama and craftsmanship.

No major red-carpet event in India is complete without at least a couple of leading ladies wearing a gown from an Arab designer — and designers from, or based in, the Middle East are increasingly becoming the “go-to” for Indian actors at international film festivals too. At the most recent edition of the Cannes Film Festival, for example, Priyanka Chopra wore a white strapless gown from Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika, Aishwarya Rai wore a white gown by Beirut-based Ashi Studio, Kangana Ranaut opted for a sheer embroidered gown by Dubai-based Filipino designer Michael Cinco and Diana Penty was spotted in a yellow dress with feather details by Oman’s Atelier Zuhra.

Priyanka Chopra wears Georges Hobeika. (AFP)

Mohit Rai, one of India’s leading celebrity stylists, started his career with Harper’s Bazaar India and made the switch to working with Bollywood several years ago. His client list includes Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Shilpa Shetty. He says, “The Middle East is the only other region apart from India that really appreciates a high level of couture and craftsmanship. Their common aesthetic is a major reason for Indian stylists looking to Middle Eastern fashion. Plus, Arab designers are able to combine the Parisian and European flair for pattern cutting while retaining the Indian love for embellishment.” 

With many designers from the Middle East showing at Paris Couture Week (this year, Maison Rabih Kayrouz became the second Arab designer after Elie Saab to be authorized by the French Couture Federation to use the tag haute couture), they understand silhouette and tailoring, and because the region has a heritage of handcrafted beading and threadwork, they are able to marry the best of East and West.

Dubai-based Syrian designer Rami Al-Ai recently worked with Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor Khan. “We both appreciate the same beauty, and there’s a lot of similarity in the way they celebrate life. Both have this kind of dramatic celebration when it comes to weddings and functions.” Indeed, when Deepika Padukone married Ranveer Singh last year, she turned to acclaimed Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad for one of her wedding looks.

Aishwarya Rai wore an Ashi Studio gown on the red carpet at Cannes this year. (AFP)

There are designers in India who specialize in red-carpet fashion, and while their surface embellishments are impeccable, their fit often is not on par with their embroidery. Historically Indian fashion is more about drape than construction, as Rai points out.

“I do not think India has enough designers catering to the Western evening wear segment in a very couture category such as the Middle Eastern ones,” he tells Arab News.

His favoured Arab designers include Beirut-band ased Saudi Arabian designer Mohammed Ashi of Ashi Studio, Kuwait’s Yousef Al-Jasmi, Dubai based Atelier Zuhra. Whereas Hollywood tends to go with the region’s best-known designers such as Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad — who both have a strong international retail presence — Bollywood is happy to work with both seasoned and emerging designers.

Diana Penty wears Atelier Zuhra. (Via Instagram)

A shared aesthetic is what makes Arab design appeal to Bollywood’s stylists, but there is also a more pragmatic reason for the synergy between the Bollywood red carpet and Middle Eastern fashion: Their geographical proximity.

Ami Patel is one of the best-known celebrity stylists in India and works with stars including Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt and Kananga Ranaut. She finds it easier to work with the Middle East than Europe, she says.

“I think Middle Eastern designers understand the Indian body type and silhouette very well. They know exactly what Indian celebrities want and cater to them. Since the countries are in close proximity working with them becomes easier.”

Patel adds that she finds designers from the region can work on quick turnarounds and are able to tweak designs when needed. Indian women do tend to be curvy, so regular European sample sizes are often just not an option for many of India’s leading ladies. And whereas European fashion houses may have only heard of Indian actors who have done international work — such as Priyanka Chopra or Deepika Padukone — designers from the Middle East are familiar with the landscape of Indian cinema, meaning they are easier to approach. As Patel says, “Middle Eastern designers follow Bollywood films and stars very closely and it’s a great amalgamation which has some really great outcomes.” 

Deepika Padukone in a wedding outfit from Zuhair Murad. (AFP)

One recent look of which Patel is particularly proud is Alia Bhatt’s appearance in a midnight-black Zuhair Murad gown at the Indian International Film Academy Awards in New York.

“It was a really special look for me,” she says. “The gown was stunning; it had such beautiful delicate embroidery which gave an illusion as if the entire constellation of stars had descended onto Alia.”

Alia Bhatt in a midnight-black Zuhair Murad gown at the Indian International Film Academy Awards in New York. (AFP) 

The fact that the region is so close to India also means that Indian celebrities regularly visit the Middle East.

“A lot of Indian celebrities are doing a lot of events in the Middle East, and that plays a big role in picking what kind of outfits to wear,” says Rai.

Priyanka Chopra in Dubai. (AFP) 

Dubai designer Rami Al-Ali agrees. “Bollywood stars are also celebrities in the Middle East world,” he says.

“Since the Middle East is actually aligned with the industry, they are definitely keener on dressing Indian stars and even willing to customise and size outfits for our actors,” says Rai. And so, for Indian cinema, it is Arab designers who rule the red carpet.