Bella Hadid has opened up about her Arab background, telling GQ she would have loved being raised in a Muslim culture.
Scroll through the gallery above to see Bella Hadid's style evolution
“I was with my Palestinian side [of the family in Washington DC],” she says in the interview. “And I got extracted when we moved to California.”
The supermodel describes growing up in Santa Barbara and how she was often the only Arab girl in school, something that wasn’t a big deal except for the occasional racist name-calling during her teenage years. However, it did lead to feelings of isolation.
“I was never able to see myself in anything else, so I tried to just sit back,” Bella says. “For so long I was missing that part of me, and it made me really, really sad and lonely.”
“I would have loved to grow up and be with my dad every day and studying and really being able to practice, just in general being able to live in a Muslim culture,” she said. “But I wasn’t given that.”
She is set to make her acting debut with a guest role on the hit show Ramy in its new season. While on set, the crew surprised her with a “Free Palestine” T-shirt, in a sweet gesture.
“I couldn’t handle my emotions,” she says. “Growing up and being Arab, it was the first time that I’d ever been with like-minded people. I was able to see myself.”
Joining the show has also strengthened her friendship with actor and comedian Ramy Youssef, who plays a fictionalised version of himself as the titular character. She says the time she’s spent with him has led to her being able to further exploring Islam.
“There was one time where Ramy came over during Ramadan and allowed me to pray with him — and it was one of the most beautiful moments of my adult life.”
These days, the model is known for being an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause. Last year, The New York Times ran a controversial advert that labelled her, her sister Gigi and singer Dua Lipa anti-Semitic for their support of Palestine.
“I realised that I’m not on this earth to be a model,” she said to GQ. “I’m so lucky and blessed that I’m in a position where I can speak out the way that I do. And really, the downfall is what? That I lose my job?”
Earlier this month, Bella cast a spotlight on a Palestinian record store in New York. Owned by Palestinian businessman Jamal Alnasr, she encouraged her Instagram followers to visit Village Revival Records.
"197 bleeker street NY, NY @villagerevivalrecordsnyc Please go visit my friend Jamal," she wrote along with the letters PS, standing for Palestine, and a love heart emoji.
Then, in July, she joined the Little Miss memes trend by sharing one about continuing the conversation by posting "Little Miss won't stop talking about Palestine."
The image was originally shared by the model’s cousin, Lina Hadid, who captioned the post: “Don’t hate me because I am Palestinian! I have my share of shortcomings, however, my sincere dedication to the Palestinian cause is not one of them.”
“My Instagram has disabled me from posting on my story — pretty much only when it is Palestine based I assume,” the model, 25, said. “When I post about Palestine I get immediately shadow banned and almost one million less of you see my stories and posts.
“I wonder what they are trying to hide by censoring me? I wonder what they are hiding when they try to [censor], harass, attack innocent journalists doing their job,” she questioned.
Scroll the gallery below to see other eight other models who are also of Arab heritage