Shanina Shaik, an exotic international model of Pakistani, Saudi and Lithuanian descent, has struggled to make inroads into acting because she’s been held back by an ugly legacy–racism.
The model, who was born and raised in Australia, has opened up on the prejudice she has faced in the film industry.
“I remember going to Europe and getting turned away because of my skin color,” she tells Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.
“That was only six years ago. We’ve come a long way, and we are moving towards a better future.
“But there’s still some jobs I don’t book because I don’t fit into a certain category. I’ve had to bang down so many doors for people to understand and embrace me,” she says.
Shaik was an instant hit on the runway.
After modeling off-and-on growing up, she debuted during the Autumn/Winter 2009 season in New York City. She walked in eight shows, opening for Yeohlee and appeared in shows for Shipley & Halmos, Abaete, Mara Hoffman, Lorick, Project Runway, Trovata and Richie Rich.
Ironically, she initially faced some of the same push-back in the Australian fashion industry.
“They said I was never going to be a high-fashion model and that I’d never do runways. Agents, clients… they all told me the same thing,” said the 5-foot, 8-inch tall model.
“I would go to castings and never get the jobs that I wanted, and it really affected me – especially as so much of it because I look so mixed.”
She said she left Australia for New York, but even there she was initially told she was “too sexy and I’d never do high fashion.”
Shanina revealed that modeling makes her feel “insecure” and she has previously considered walking away from the industry.
She said: “There’s jobs I’d love to get, but I can’t, and that makes me feel really insecure. It’s hard work, it really is.
“And it’s really up and down. There’s been three times – once even last year – where I wanted to just quit. I thought ‘That’s a wrap!’ and my poor mum had to hear it all the way from Australia.”
Her fashion career, however, would be the envy of most models.
In her second season, Spring/Summer 2010, she walked for designers Betsey Johnson, Catherine Malandrino, Gerlan Jeans, Nary Manivong, Rachel Antonoff and Susan Woo.
She’s appeared in a dozen different editorial features and scored a breakthrough in 2011. She walked in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, only the sixth Aussie model to do so.
Her film credits include “The Mummy” (2017), “The Separatists” (2018) and most recently “Greed” (2019).
Her latest film is a British satire, written and directed by Michael Winterbottom.
The film also stars Steve Coogan, David Mitchell, Isla Fisher, Shirley Henderson, Asa Butterfield, Dinita Gohil and Sarah Solemani.
Check out the clip below:
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An AMAZING start to the new year!!!✨✨ It’s an honor to be the first cover girl for @harpersbazaararabia 2020 💛 This cover and inside story is very special to me – it marks 20 years in the modeling industry for me . I discuss the issues and challenges I’ve had to deal with attached to diversity and trying to find a place in the industry being a Saudi, Pakistani, Lithuanian, Aussie model. I have shared personal stories about the year that has passed and what I look forward too for the future. Thank you so very much @salmaawwadofficial & @oliviaphillipsbazaar for choosing me to be a part of this beautiful issue! @gregswalesart I adore you and think you’re an outstanding photographer 🧡 Grateful for the amazing team Styling @anna_castan Makeup @manulosadagomez Hair @annesofie.begtrup Set designer @styleisnecessity Producer @beats.love.lipstick Junior fashion editor @tabithaglaysher Read all about my story in the link in my bio