Supermodel Bella Hadid, 25, is fast becoming as famous for her activism as for her runway work.
In a recent interview on Libyan-American journalist Noor Tagouri's podcast Rep, Hadid discussed a range of personal and professional issues she faced over her vocal support of Palestine.
“When I was 14, I wrote, ‘Free Palestine’, on my hand literally with flowers in paint,” Hadid said. “And I was being called names and being immediately blasted as a person of hatred for another people.”
Hadid, the daughter of Palestinian real estate developer Mohamed Hadid and Dutch model Yolanda Hadid, also mentioned other instances where her identity became a source of conflict during her childhood. Despite being told that her father was a liar, and being “called a terrorist by the head of the football team,” the model wasn’t deterred from connecting with her Palestinian heritage or from being vocal about the plight of the people from the country.
“I never knew who Bella actually was until I reconnected with my Palestinian side,” she said.
The model has continued to engage with Arab talent and causes, and is set to make her acting debut on the Hulu original show Ramy, starring Egyptian-American comedian Ramy Youssef. In a recent interview with GQ, she also opened up on her relationship with her Muslim and Arab heritage, expressing regret for not having been raised in a more “Muslim culture”.
Hadid and her sister Gigi have both been active on their social media platforms, celebrating their Palestinian heritage, supporting the Palestinian cause and documenting their attendance of pro-Palestinian protests. The sisters have accused Instagram of shadow banning their posts on the Palestinian conflict.
Online commentary from the Hadid sisters, along with pop star Dua Lipa, resulted in a full page advertisement being run in The New York Times in 2021, condemning their pro-Palestinian views. The advert featured the faces of the three women alongside text implying that their support for Palestine equated to anti-Semitism, terrorism and genocide.
“When I speak about Palestine, I get labelled as something that I’m not,” Bella Hadid said. “But I can speak about the same thing that’s happening there, happening somewhere else in the world, and that’s honourable. So, what’s the difference?”
Hadid also discussed “this overwhelming anxiety of not saying the right thing” when it comes to discourse around Palestine.
“But I’ve also realised that I have done my education enough, and know my family enough, I know my own history enough, and that should be enough.”
With an estimated net worth of $25 million and more than 54 million followers on Instagram, Hadid is one of the most sought after models in the world.
She started her professional career at 16, and has walked the runways for brands including Tom Ford, Chanel, Versace and Dior. She has made 27 appearances on international Vogue magazine covers, breaking the record for the most Vogue September covers in one year, appearing in five international editions.
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Nevertheless, despite her success, Hadid revealed that publicly engaging in the criticism of Israel, along with a desire to understand and communicate more of the Palestinian experience, comes at cost she’s willing to pay.
“I had friends that completely dropped me,” she said. “Even friends that I’ve been having dinner at their home on Friday nights for seven years now, just won’t have me at their house anymore.”
Her personal and several professional relationships have been affected by the consequences of Hadid being “vocal about the Palestinian cause".
“If I started speaking about Palestine, when I was 20, I wouldn’t have gotten the recognition and the respect that I have now,” she said. “I had so many companies stop working with me.”
However, Hadid is adamant and fearless when it comes to her speaking up for Palestine.
“I have no fear when it comes to this,” she said.
“I really believe that it’s like what happens, happens, and what is going to happen is bigger than me. If I lose every job, the reason why I did all of the work that I did was to get to this point.”