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TOP MODEL Shanina Shaik

The business is so broad, which is why I don’t think that modelling will ever disappear, it is rather going to be taken to other platforms and formats, as digitalisation spreads

- It is very relevant right now to have an active social position. Some people fight for animal rights and choose not to eat meat, some fight against racial discrimination, some advocate for women's rights. What do you think about this?

- I think it is really great that models and celebrities are using social media as a platform to support and display what they believe in. For me it is really important to educate my followers and show compassion to mental health issues. I would hope that I am succeeding in helping people by doing so. Every Wednesday I hold an IG-live wellness-day, where I talk to people from the wellness community. The feedback that I get from my followers shows me that people are getting help or that they are feeling good after they’ve seen a non-professional talking about mental health issues. I am also passionate about taking care of my skin, which is why I did another IG-live on acne once and I got all this feedback about different products that make people feel good. Overall, helping people is my passion.

- There is more and more diversity in the fashion world right now. Do you think we have reached the peak of the progress or is there still room for improvement?

- Over so many years the fashion industry has gained so much more diversity, which is especially important to me, as I have such a diverse and broad background from my mother and father. I understand the difficulty of trying to find your place in the fashion industry. I can recall different situations during my first years of modelling, and I am sure, many others have been unfortunate to find themselves in scenarios dealing with difficulties of being so diverse and finding their place. As I said, it was very hard and upsetting in this industry for me at first, because I just wanted to do my job and work with creative people, but I’ve had situations with negativity for being so diverse. I think with anything in the world right now there is always room for improvement and that does not exclude the fashion industry. I’d like to look at the positive side of the changes, but the need for further progress from a first-hand experience of my own situations is also very clear. Although what is happening right now in terms of diversity isn’t amazing, we are on the right track. And this development of everyone towards being inclusive is just amazing.

- Virtual fashion shows are now becoming more and more popular. Have you watched any and what do you think about such digitalization of the fashion industry?

- Obviously, we’ve had to move more to the digital era, because of what is happening in the world with covid right now and we also see the transition of our own world become more and more integrated with social media. I watched the Versace digital show, which I really liked because I noticed how creative people could get with this. It would, of course, be great to see those shows live, but in the situation that we are in right now, it is definitely an advantage that people from all around the world can literally sit in the front row and watch the show, seeing how creative designers can be. I would like people to physically attend the shows for them to see how the clothes move, but I guess I am in between enjoying normal fashion shows and the ease and convenience of the digital format. The idea of not having to dress up and waste your energy just saves so much time!

- How would you react if you were offered to be a prototype for a virtual model?

- I’ve seen an idea with Irina Shayk, which was more of a game, where you could also try different clothes on the model. Although I think it is really fun, I wouldn’t like that in the future. I am my own person, a human with emotions and personality. So, I hope in the future to still have real models, who also all have unique identities. It would be nice to spare some time using my prototype, but I also love my job, I love meeting people, I love travelling, trying on clothes, so I would probably enjoy doing more things in person rather than being digitalised.

- Do you think that virtual models are a handy innovation or, on the contrary, they are a downgrade, as they essentially steal jobs from real people?

- I don’t like the idea of robots replacing humans. Although now everything is conveniently becoming more digitalised with a chance of finding a replacement for real people and their labour, there is still a need for people to have income. And we cannot take away from people’s lives the ability to work, finance and support their families.

- What do you think, won't modeling disappear in 10-20 years? Is it wise for young girls still to have ambitions for this industry?

- Definitely, the fashion community is very broad. To have an ambition of modelling has nothing to do with the format. Today we see models who, instead of walking for a designer or a brand, sit in their show’s front row, showcasing their work onto their social media platforms. Models now don’t just have to be fashion models, we are influencers, opinion leaders and so many other different things… The business is so broad, which is why I don’t think that modelling will ever disappear, it is rather going to be taken to other platforms and formats, as digitalisation spreads.

- During your childhood you have had problems with bullying in school, and we know that this is quite a significant subject for you. Could you share how this helped you become stronger and achieve everything you have achieved?

- I was bullied in school and it was very hard mentally for me, which is why I even had to stop attending lessons. It was very difficult for me to deal with, but with the support of my mom and my girlfriends, my strength levels changed and I was able to gradually overcome this hurtful feeling. This strength has definitely helped me later on in my career. Our job is so competitive, but I feel I could overcome anything, given the amounts of pain I dealt with when I was much younger.

- So, it gave you confidence?

- I think the fact that I have been modelling from a very young age definitely gave me confidence in my job to do in front of the camera what I needed to do. It also gave me the independence to work and travel, as I moved to New York when I was 15. I think many girls who start modelling at a young age are kind of forced into an environment, where they are surrounded by adults and are forced to grow up quickly. For most of us this professionalism teaches independence, for me it sure did, because my parents weren’t around that much when I was on set. I had my grandma, who was there and my guardian.

- You have made a choice to speak openly about your personal life. Can you explain, why? Many celebrities choose to keep their personal lives private.

- I think it was a choice that was made for me. Because of my jobs and being present in the media and having been hacked as well. So, I think it wasn’t so much of a choice but also I am a very honest person. Being quite open, I share through my platform my message and feelings to people who are following me and who can relate to me. I obviously don’t put everything out there, but the majority of my life is in social media, so when stories are told I like to be honest with my friends and my followers as well.

- What advice would you give to beginner models? Name top-three rules for a successful modeling career.

- It is really important to believe in yourself. Secondly, to have a team behind you that would support you in everything you do and guide you through it. Another necessary thing to survive in the modelling industry is to be strong and have confidence, to push forward and take what you want when it is tough.