“I want young boys and girls to know that it’s okay to use your voice and demand justice for what is important to you.”
Bella Hadid has never been one to avoid controversy – but not in the same way that you may associate with some supermodels of the past.
For Bella, her job is about a lot more than just ‘stand around and look pretty’. She understands the weight of the platform she has been given and she’s determined to use it for good.
Having been vocal in her stand against Donald Trump’s 2017 order to ban visa entry from seven predominantly Muslim countries and in her support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Bella recently landed herself in the headlines for her stance on another political issue. Having spoken out for the Palestinian people during the recent Israel-Palestine conflict, along with her siblings Gigi and Anwar, the model took to the streets to join marches for Palestine and raise awareness of the ongoing war between the two countries.
As someone who is half-Palestinian herself, it was important to Bella that she did not stay quiet during these particularly difficult times, even when her comments were met with criticism from the official Israel Twitter account. A Tweet that the account recently posted mentioned Bella directly, alleging that her comments take focus away from the conflict as a ‘human issue’ and ending with the words ‘Shame on you’.
Having not yet responded directly, Bella did indicate her stance further with a post to her Instagram, reading ‘Don’t trade your authenticity for approval’.
It’s clear that authenticity is important to Bella – and that it always has been.
“Horrible tragedies happen worldwide on a daily basis,” she told Elle back in 2020, “And I have a responsibility to speak up for the people who are not being heard or don’t have a platform.”
“I never feel nervous about expressing myself when I believe in something.”
Having spoken previously about the importance of educating those around her via social media, Bella also knows that there is work to be done when it comes to her job. It would be remiss of those within the fashion industry to deny the problems that come with it – it’s an industry wherein ignorance and prejudice are still often pushed under the rug.
Such issues don’t always show themselves explicitly and are seemingly less prevalent than they once were. It’s undeniable that the high fashion industry is making moves towards more diversity and visibility for both models and designers of colour, but there is still a long way to go – it’s estimated that just 6% of all models used on the runway during the fashion month calendar are black.
The problems faced by black models at work don’t end there, either. That’s another thing that Bella is keen to change wherever she can.
“Our industry is supposed to be about expression and individuality,” she says, “But the reality is that many people still discriminate because of exactly those differences.”
Bella worries that, even when models of colour are cast for the runway, they are often treated differently to white models – it’s an aspect of her job that she finds troublesome to see.
“Going into the next season, my fear is having to see another one of my black girlfriends get her hair burned by a hair straightener, or do her own makeup because the makeup artist hasn’t been trained to work with all different skin types.”
She’s keen on doing what she can to work towards making fashion a more inclusive space and hopes that such changes could lead to positive steps being taken elsewhere.
“There is a lot to learn and a lot to do,” she explains, “But I feel with the right people, fashion can change everything.”
It’s undeniable that the last year has given Bella some much-needed time to reflect on her industry. After all, having been modelling since the age of 16 and being the daughter of former model Yolanda Hadid, she’s lived within the fashion world for a long time.
However, after months of remote shoots, she’s also keen to get back out onto the runway full-time as soon as she can.
“After a few years of being a workaholic—not being home for more than five days—I found spending three months at home intense.”
It’s especially understandable given that Bella moved from her city home to spend the quarantine period at her family farm in Pennsylvania, a stark contrast from the fast-paced lifestyle that she has become accustomed to over the past few years.
“I miss smiling at people. I miss hugging, a lot. I miss walking around and listening to music. It’s different when you’re in the city.”
“You can walk forever—going nowhere and somehow still feeling like you’ve got somewhere to be.”
As the world continues to take stock of the events of the previous year – pandemic and political tensions considered – Bella says that she’ll continue to do all in her power to make positive change.
“It’s okay to be empathetic and gentle,” she says, before continuing, “But to be strong and speak your truth at the same time.”
“If I am passionate about something, I will talk about it, and talk and talk and talk.”
“For me, it’s not about losing followers or gaining followers, it’s about educating people and giving a platform to the voices that need to be heard.”