“I think the best role models for women are people who are fruitfully and confidently themselves, who bring light into the world.” ~ Meryl Streep
There are some women in the world that I seriously admire; whole-heartedly. And I hope you do too, because I believe it’s very important to have role models. As Meryl streep says so strongly herself, people should be able to looks up to successful others in society – successful in mind, soul, work and play. Which brings me on nicely to introduce to you my secret role model – Hanaa Ben Abdesslem. Born and raised in the rich, colourful land of Tunisia, Hanaa was destined to become a model since the age of eight. With a bubbly personality, an angelic facial structure and legs that go on forever, Hanaa made it to the top 20 models of 2012, only by becoming the face of Lancome. She’s a hidden gem in the world of modelling and is only just getting started.
Oooh-aaah!, some may say, whilst other more like, Meh. Who cares, models are all the same. But the way I found out about Hanaa was actually through an incredible photographer, Alexi Lubomirski, who helped bring her talent into the limelight. What I love about every photographer who works with Hanaa, is that they leave her as her natural glowing self. No overly-photoshopped pictures, or enhanced breasts and hair colour changes – but the real deal. From people who have worked alongside her, they have all said how true and passionate she is in the studios.
As an avid language learner, I admire Hanaa’s love for culture, languages and art. She reads a lot of history books, particularly regarding the Arab world, spends a lot of time with her Tunisian family (but French is her mother-tongue) and she lives in the West, jet-setting between The States, the UK and Europe. During recent interviews with Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and Turkey (both featuring on the front cover), Hanaa wears head-to-toe luxurious couture and bold red lips, physically defining Arabian chic.
Hanaa explains her love for sketching, reading and travelling – all fairly new concepts to women in Tunisia. As a rapidly growing country, Tunisian women are growing more and more independant each day. The economy is growing, sending tourist visits to a record high. This also means that the small country is turning into a mainstream, cosmopolitan area, drawing attention from all corners of the world. Hanaa also proudly points out that Tunisian women were the first to stop wearing the burqa in public (the women’s face veil). On the one hand, a lot of people may think that’s a great thing. Mostly because, as she says so herself, women are able to act and dress the same where ever they go – no complicated, double life. On the other hand – westernisation can be seen as eroding a rich culture, as traditional musicians are being replaced by American artists on TV, the establishment of high-rise shopping malls overtaking the souks, and talented youngsters chasing pay cheques in the USA . One might wonder, what is left of places like Tunisia?
Having said that – seeing the world slowly turn into a big, interactive metropolis shows great signs for the future of fashion and technology. If each individual country stays true to their roots as well as modernising, we can do wonders! The thing I admire about icons such as Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, is the personality behind the lens. A model who isn’t just interested in being a mannequin, but actually cares for the future of her culture. Who adores diamonds and heels in order to show people how successful any race can be. Also, have you seen that million dollar smile?! For me, it’s something to aspire to…
So, who or what culture inspires you? And where do you think urbanisation is leading us?
Till next time,
Humaira is a full-time student, part-time photographer, regular writer and all round happy soul. She likes to live life to the full and works on various other projects including running her own blog and contributing to other publications. She will be bringing us the latest from the world of fashion and style, particularly under the new revolution of Islamic influence on 21st century vogue. Stay tuned to read all her articles!View all Humaira Ashraf posts.