Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life
Amira Al-Zuhair walking for Giambattista Valli in Paris Haute Couture Week on July 4, 2022. (Getty Images)
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Updated 19 August 2022

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life

Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair talks Paris catwalks and London student life
  • The in-demand model is killing it on the catwalk and in the classroom

DUBAI: It’s been a breakout year for 21-year-old Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair. At last month’s Paris Haute Couture Week, she walked the runway for some of the world’s most renowned couturiers, including Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika and Giorgio Armani, attracting international headlines. A couple of weeks before that, she picked up her Bachelor’s degree (with first-class honors) in philosophy, politics, and economics from King’s College, London. 

Al-Zuhair signed to the prestigious Elite Model Management agency aged just 15. “I was having lunch with my family at a restaurant in Paris, and I was spotted by a former Elite agent who told me I should go to the agency and that they’d really like me. So I went, and within 10 minutes I got a contract, which was pretty surreal,” Al-Zuhair tells Arab News. 




Amira Al-Zuhair backstage prior to the Alexis Mabille Haute Couture Fall Winter 22-23 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on July 5, 2022. (Getty Images)

But she didn’t become a model full-time until she was 18. Instead, she had a gradual introduction to the industry with test shoots and editorials.

“School and my education have been a top priority,” she explains. “I’ve always been a bit of a nerd — I represented my school in national math competitions, I was head of the math team, and a member of the UK’s Youth Parliament. And then I focused on my degree. It’s still my goal today to become a lawyer.”

Al-Zuhair was born in Paris to a French mother and Saudi father. She was raised in London, however (“My father wanted me to follow his steps and graduate from a UK university,” she says). The family traveled frequently between the UK and Riyadh, so Al-Zuhair feels a strong cultural and emotional attachment to the Kingdom. 




Al-Zuhair walks the runway during the Alexis Mabille Haute Couture Fall-Winter 22-23 show at Paris Fashion Week. (Getty Images)

“I love Saudi. It’s a big part of who I am and I really appreciate everything that’s going on at the moment — the advancements in culture, education, economy, and infrastructure,” she says. “The current leadership has done an amazing job at putting the country at the forefront of the global stage, and I’m really proud to see these changes.”

Although Al-Zuhair grew up in Europe, she says she was raised with “traditional values” and that her religion is very dear to her. From the get-go, she was clear about what she would, or wouldn’t, be prepared to do as a model. 

“I think the industry is very accommodating,” she says. “It’s all about what boundaries you set. My agency is amazing – and these boundaries have been respected with all aspects of my work and with all my clients. I’ve been very fortunate to have a very good experience.”




Amira Al-Zuhair (third from right, front row) backstage at the George Hobeika show in Paris Haute Couture Week with Georges Hobeika and his son Jad. (Getty Images)

Paris Haute Couture Week was a triumph for Al-Zuhair — if you ignore the time that some guy on a bike tried unsuccessfully to steal her vintage purse. In the same month, she was also part of Dolce & Gabbana’s monumental show in Sicily, where the label celebrated 10 years of its Alta Moda line. Wearing a black habit and black dress with sheer panels, she was an absolute vision on the runway situated in the historic Piazza Duomo in Siracusa.

Al-Zuhair has also worked with some of the industry’s biggest names in the form of ad campaigns and editorials, including Tiffany & Co, Burberry, and Carolina Herrera. In 2020, she landed her first Vogue Arabia cover, attracting widespread praise. 

“It was shot in NEOM, and we were the first group to shoot there,” she says. “It was such an exhilarating experience because I discovered a whole new side of Saudi Arabia. It’s just one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen — the sea, the mountains, the land — you cannot get sick of the views. We had lots of trailers in the middle of the desert; it kind of felt like a movie set. I also got to meet lots of local Saudi production members and stylists. It was so nice to have that representation.”




Al-Zuhair walking for Alexis Mabille at Paris Haute Couture Week on July 5. (Getty Images)

Juggling a demanding modeling career and a full-time university course was no easy feat. “That that was one of the most difficult aspects — the balance. It requires a lot of discipline and good time-management because every second counts. Every day I had to study, exercise, eat, go to university and see my family. There weren’t enough hours. Once, I went to Milan for work, and within 48 hours I’d been in five different cities and four countries.” 

Al-Zuhair shows no signs of slowing down, though. She’s already applying to universities to continue her education and it’s clear that her modeling career is on a steep upward trajectory, with labels and brands clamoring to work with her. It seems that she’ll grab as many opportunities as possible.

“With each show you get a different atmosphere, mood and energy. There’s a different inspiration behind each collection, and that’s reflected in the clothes and the we way act and walk. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been given and to all of these designers for trusting me. It’s a big responsibility,” she says. “I see the work that goes into it behind the scenes, and it’s a very emotional experience. To me, fashion is an art and a form of self-expression. I’m honored to be able to present these collections and their designers’ works of art to the world.”


Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards
Updated 01 October 2022

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

DUBAI: Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney this week hosted the first-ever Albie Awards, an event created by the celebrity couple to honor individuals who, at great personal risk, have devoted their lives to justice.

The awards ceremony, which took place in New York City, is named after South African lawyer, activist, writer and former judge Justice Albie Sachs, who spent much of his life “defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws.”

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo. (AFP)

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo.

The event was attended by A-list celebrities including Oscar Isaac, Dua Lipa, John Oliver, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Ethan Hawke and Meryl Streep.


New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
Updated 01 October 2022

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

New Lonely Planet guide shines a light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage
  • ‘Experience Great Britain’ is part of publisher’s range of ‘anti-guidebooks’
  • It offers ‘really diverse experiences for visitors,’ contributor Tharik Hussain says

LONDON: A new Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain features an entire chapter on the country’s little-known Islamic heritage, which stretches back more than 1,200 years.

Published this month, “Experience Great Britain” is part of the publisher’s range of “anti-guidebooks,” so-called because of the unique local perspectives they offer travelers.

The guide to Britain has sections and essays titled “Legacies of Empire,” “Bristol’s Black History,” “An Other London” and “Hidden Muslim Britain,” all of which seek to shine a light on the nation’s marginalized cultures and their stories.

Tharik Hussain, the Muslim author of “Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe,” which explores the continent’s indigenous Muslim cultures, contributed to the new travel guide.

 

 

“I think it is wonderful to see mainstream guidebooks like this finally going out of their way to include such really diverse experiences for visitors,” he said.

“So often, writers like me are brought onto such projects to tick a box and create the impression there are diverse perspectives in it, but actually we’re often asked to just write about the same things covered by the previous writers. What’s diverse about that?

“To achieve truly diverse perspectives commissioning editors must select writers from different backgrounds and then be brave and empower writers to come back with what they find interesting, even if that goes against the editor’s expectations.”

Hussain, who developed one of the UK’s first Muslim heritage trails, wrote the “Hidden Muslim Britain” chapter, which focuses on Woking — home to the UK’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan — Liverpool and Brighton, where some of the country’s most visible Islamic legacies can be found.

These include Britain’s first Muslim cemetery — the final resting place of convert lords, ladies and Muslim royalty — and Brighton Pavilion, where injured Muslim (as well as Sikh and Hindu) soldiers fighting for Britain in World War I were treated.

The guide also tells of cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London. (Supplied/Tharik Hussain)

“The guide also reveals where to visit spectacular ‘oriental rooms’ modeled on famous Muslim palaces like the Alhambra in Spain and the Topkapi in Turkey,” Hussain said.

“This is supported by an essay called Anglo Islam that reveals how Islam came to the island as early as the 8th century, when an Anglo-Saxon king called Offa minted a gold coin featuring part of the Muslim declaration of faith in Arabic.”

The essay also tells of how Britain’s first real Muslim community “were a group of white, convert Victorians who worshipped at the country’s first mosque in Liverpool, founded by a solicitor called Henry William Quilliam, later Abdullah Quilliam,” he added.

The section on empire tells visitors where they can go to learn about “the horrors of British imperial rule,” and how to experience more positive post-colonial legacies like the stunning Neasden Temple in northwest London, built by immigrants who moved to Britain after the collapse of the empire, Hussain said.

The guide also tells of the cultural institutes set up by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and Black communities in London, like the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, and offers alternatives to the usual tourist attractions, such as the Muslim History Tours and the Open City walking tours that explore London’s forgotten Chinese heritage.


Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
Updated 30 September 2022

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
  • Crew ecstatic over ‘dream’ prize, says choreographer Nadim Cherfan
  • Artists will showcase their gifts at the US embassy this weekend

DUBAI: Lebanese dance crew Mayyas are set to perform for the first time since winning “America’s Got Talent” at the US embassy in Beirut this weekend.

The embassy will also host a virtual meet-the-artist session which will be released on Oct. 1 on YouTube.

“I am very happy that Mayyas will do a collaboration with the US embassy,” the crew’s choreographer Nadim Cherfan said in a video shared on the embassy’s Twitter page.

Earlier this month, the group took home the $1 million grand prize after winning the show.

“We can’t believe what’s happening,” group member Marcel Assal told Arab News after the show. “We can’t believe what we’ve achieved — giving so much energy, leaving our work and education, dedicating our time to training every day to be here to represent our country, and this is what we were looking for.

“We were very stressed out by the fact that we had to (prepare the dance) in two to three days, but when we went up on stage and heard the cheers, the audience gave us a push and an adrenaline rush that wasn’t there and we did it,” added Assal.

Cherfan said: “This win gave me an opportunity to dream again. When you have a dream and you achieve it, you start to look for another dream. So I’m very happy that there is something to look forward to now — something to dream of, something to fight for.”


Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 

Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 
Updated 01 October 2022

Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 

Arab models Gigi, Bella Hadid grace the runway for French label Isabel Marant in Paris 

DUBAI: Dutch Palestinian models Gigi and Bella Hadid have had a fashion-packed month, from Milan to Paris Fashion Week. 

This week, the sisters modeled for Isabel Marant wearing the French label’s spring-summer 2023 collection.  

Gigi strutted down the runway in an oversized cameo-print jacket in neutral hues. 

Bella wore two outfits. The first featured a white cut-out top embellished with silver studs, white pants, stilettos and a handbag.

The second look was a black flowy mini dress with cut-out detailing across the chest, which the model styled with a tasseled bag casually slung on her shoulder. 

The fashion show featured an array of unique outfits — including sheer tops, oversized jumpers, floral dresses, jeans and crochet items — which British Moroccan model Nora Attal championed. 

Attal wore a yacht-perfect crochet bodysuit and a matching bag with fringe detailing.

French Algerian catwalk star Loli Bahia was also part of the star-studded show.

Bella wore a white cut-out top embellished with silver studs, white pants, stilettos and a handbag. (AFP)

She put on an eye-catching display in an outfit similar to Bella’s all-white look, sporting leather trousers and a cut-out red top.

Bahia also wore reflective silver pants with a white chiffon top featuring a sleeveless neckline. 

The part-Arab models all opted for loose hair with natural make-up looks in a bronze pallet. 

Another star-studded event at Paris Fashion Week was French jewelry label Messika’s show, which was inspired by ancient Egypt.

Bahia wore leather trousers and a cut-out red top. (AFP)

Supermodel Naomi Campbell opened the runway on Thursday wearing the new Akh-Ba-Ka set, which was designed by Valérie Messika and is part of the brand’s new jewelry collection titled “Beyond the Light.”

The necklace, which Italian Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi wore in the campaign images, is made of white gold with 15 diamonds totaling 71 carats. The entire set is composed of a pair of asymmetrical earrings and a transformable ring that can be worn in three different ways.

Among the guests who watched the show were Gigi, Lebanese singer Maya Diab, Saudi TV presenter Lojain Omran, Egyptian actresses Mai Omar and Enjy Kiwan and Lebanese presenter Diala Makki.


Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood
Updated 01 October 2022

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

DUBAI: Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai addressed the lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood films during Variety’s recent Power of Women event in the US.

Yousafzai, who was honored at the event, said: “I’ve been doing activism for more than a decade now, and I’ve realized that we shouldn’t limit activism to the work of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) only: There’s also the element of changing people’s minds and perspectives — and that requires a bit more work.”

The 25-year-old, in her new role as a content producer, pointed out that despite Muslims making up 25 percent of the population, there was “only 1 percent of characters in popular TV series.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Malala (@malala)

Addressing A-list guests including American politician Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, US actress Elizabeth Olsen, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and the American former actress, and wife of British Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, she added: “You’re often told in Hollywood, implicitly or explicitly, that the characters are too young, too brown, or too Muslim, or that if one show about a person of color is made, then that’s it — you don’t need to make another one. That needs to change.

“I’m a woman, a Muslim, a Pashtun, a Pakistani, and a person of color. And I watched ‘Succession,’ ‘Ted Lasso,’ and ‘Severance,’ where the leads are white people — and especially a lot of white men.

“If we can watch those shows, then I think audiences should be able to watch shows that are made by people of color, and produced and directed by people of color, with people of color in the lead. That is possible, and I’m going to make it happen,” Yousafzai said.