As a Muslim teen with a Saudi-Pakistani father and Lithuanian-Australian mother, Shanina Shaik found it hard to find role models: the blonde-haired, blue-eyed models staring back at her from the covers of her favourite magazines weren’t relatable.
Now 25 years old, Shanina Shaik is the first part-Saudi Victoria’s Secret model, she’s also an unofficial – but no less inspiring – anti-bullying spokesperson and a magazine cover star that many girls and women around the world can relate to.
While she struts the runways in revealing lingerie for Victoria’s Secret, the Melbourne-raised model claims her family, including her half-Saudi father, are supportive. “I was born and raised Muslim and I lived a very normal lifestyle. My father is very open to my job and understanding and he is very grateful for the woman I have become,” she explained exclusively to Emirates Woman. “I’m a very sophisticated and respectful woman. I had a great upbringing and a great lifestyle with my sibling.”
Such is Shaik’s pull that when the model recently posted a picture from Emirates Airlines business class lounge the international tabloids went crazy, trying to decipher where her next jaunt would find her.
Well, we can exclusively reveal that Shaik was enroute to Dubai for a secret, and incredibly exciting project with Emirates Woman.
“I really love Dubai. It’s my second time here,” she told us during her visit, which she proudly documented on SnapChat. “It’s fun and it’s lively and it’s luxurious. It kind of relates to LA a bit where I do reside every now and then.”
While her visit was brief, Shaik certainly knew how to make the most of her time in the region, hitting Eden Beach Club with friends; smoking shisha and dancing into the night. She also enjoyed a quiet dinner at foodie hot spot Coya, after attending Janet Jackson’s unveiling of her Unbreakable diamond jewellery collection.
“I can relate to Dubai, I enjoy the take on my culture,” said Shaik. “It’s just full of beautiful people and a great place to visit.”
Thanks to her multi-cultural upbringing and her well-travelled life as a model, Shaik enjoys adapting to new places – “Growing up I was always taking on everyone’s culture and being very worldly and understanding travel and the very different cuisines, which I loved as I’m a big foodie.”
However, while she is proud of her culture and her background, Shaik has revealed in previous interviews that her “darker skin colour meant I was treated horribly when I was growing up” – suffering at the hands of bullies due to heritage.
As such Shaik has since been an unofficial ambassador for anti-bullying. She told us: “If anyone is dealing with bullies I advise you to let someone know what is happening – a teacher, a best friend, a parent someone you can trust. Someone who can support you and help you along the way. Don’t be embarrassed – that’s the most important thing. It can happen to all of us.”
With the composure and maturity of a woman double her years, there is something very endearing about Shanina Shaik whose eyes light up when she speaks and whose warm smile instantly puts you at ease.
“I’m a huge feminist,” she enthused. “I think women in general are the most beautiful thing on this earth. What I love about women is that we are very strong but we have great emotions and I think that is real beautiful and real. It’s important for us as women to take on equality.”
With words like these, it’s clear that Shanina Shaik isn’t just a role model for other non-blue-eyed, blondes or Muslims, but for all women.