Why It Shouldn’t Matter Whether Gigi Hadid is Palestinian or Not

Gigi Hadid (Photo: Ron Asadorian)

Gigi Hadid (Photo: Ron Asadorian)

When we first saw the 1988 cover of Vogue featuring Michela Bercu, an Israeli model, we as fashion-lovers wondered, “Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being fought on the cover of Vogue?“ Times have passed since, and until recently we saw the 19-year-old Palestinian-American fashion model Jelena Noura (Gigi) Hadid on the September 2014 cover of Vogue. We couldn’t help but wonder, “Wait a minute, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being fought on the cover of Vogue, again?” Was Anna Wintour playing politics with those choices? Well, most probably. Was she trying to make a statement such as “Palestinian Is the New Israeli”? That, we can never be sure. Whatever the motive behind this choice was, the cover made Hadid’s Palestinian heritage stand out in the media. This ultimately led to a new controversy when she chose to wear a skimpy yellow bikini for the Jean Paul Gaultier show at Paris Fashion Week. Should what she does be an insult for her fellow Palestinians? I believe it shouldn’t.

To start with, why should we focus only on Hadid’s Palestinian heritage? Although she comes from a Palestinian father, we should note that she was born and raised in California, the United States, and her mother is the Dutch Yolanda Foster of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Therefore she could easily be called American, Dutch-American or Dutch-Palestinian. However, her Palestinian heritage is what seems to be taking the spotlight. She graduated from Malibu High School in California, and she has studied at The New School in New York – American born and raised. Also, when she was discovered at two years old by Paul Marciano for Baby Guess, not many people talked about this little baby girl’s Palestinian background. So why do it now? Of course, this is because of the Vogue’s choice of featuring Hadid on the cover, and to pay tribute to – according to some, “supplant”– Bercu on the 1988 cover.

Although fashion can never be purified of politics, tying Gigi Hadid up with nationality and politics would carry its own risks. Her heritage as well as her religion is her personal life, after all. She has been asked quite a few times whether she is Muslim or Christian… should it matter? As Hadid herself says “You don’t want to share every single aspect of your life with the world… You want to keep a sense of privacy”. It should not be hard to respect someone’s privacy, no matter how famous they might be. Furthermore, before she is a Palestinian, she is a woman and a fashion model. Before we side her with any nationality (and please note that she has a few, although only one seems to be highlighted), we should understand that she is a female model who can dress however she likes and work with whichever brand she pleases. She has the right to choose whether she would like to pose nude for a perfume ad, or show off her derriere in a Jean Paul Gaultier thong on the runway. As she is a supermodel on the rise, she can be seen in a bikini in Saint-Tropez one day, and stroll down the street with a casual outfit the next. Unlike many Palestinian girls, she was lucky enough to be born as a girl who has a choice and a say in whatever she does. Unlike many Palestinian girls, she was lucky enough not to be born in war. She can wear her hair in voluminous blonde curls instead of hijab, and if she likes, one day, she can wear hijab too. She can choose her career. She simply can do it, and she should be able to.

Some wonder whether the fact that Gigi Hadid shows her body in the media insults her fellow Palestinians or not. In an interview Hadid said that she had to grow a thick skin for those condemn her through social media, as “people tend to go straight to slut-shaming, because it’s easy”. Well, for the Palestinians, and everyone actually, out there who think that the fact that we saw Gigi’s derriere on the runway is an insult: what a woman does, no matter what her nationality or religion is, should not be your problem. You can calm down. It is not your body. Then again, I do not really think that many Palestinians have the time to think about that. With the ongoing war in Gaza, what people should think about should be how to reach a solution to that, rather than condemn a woman for her choice of clothing.