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Meet the black muslim model taking the industry by storm

MODEL REPRESENTATION: Shahira Yusuf is part of a new cohort of models working to changing the face of fashion (Image: Shahira Yusuf/Instagram)

BACK IN November 2017, 20-year-old Shahira Yusuf broke the internet after posting a viral tweet. The tweet read: "I ain't no Kendall Jenner but I'm a black Muslim girl from east London that's about to finesse the modelling industry."

Since then, her footsteps into the world of fashion have taken the industry by storm and she’s set to become one of the most sought-after UK Muslim models.

A champion of “black Muslim excellence”, Yusuf recently graced the front cover of Grazia UK, one of Britain’s leading fashion magazines.

In conversation with The Voice about her recent shoot, she said: “I see my involvement as encouraging the industry to adapt to changing times. It’s no longer acceptable to only see a particular kind of model on magazine covers and runways.

“For me, it’s not just about being a dominant figure in bringing about genuine change, but to bring limelight to the fact that these changes should have happened a long while ago.”

Yusuf, who is signed to modelling agency Storm Models, the same agency that discovered Kate Moss, continued: “And it’s quite inexcusable to think that it’s taken this long to see women of different ethnic backgrounds covering the most elite magazines and making debuts on prestigious runways.

“There are a few vital questions left unanswered, such as why it took this long and why there hasn’t been much consistency.”

Yet, there’s more to Yusuf than valuing representation alone. “I think it’s not simply about being represented, but more so about questioning whether we are being properly represented,” she explained.

While positive change has been seen to challenge the mainstream, notably there is still work to be done. Yusuf said: “In the grand scheme of things, representation is important but not just at face value.

“We want to build a world where women and men of different races and ethnic backgrounds, as well as religion, are able to land the positions they work immensely hard for without being discriminated against. In some industries, it still is yet to happen.”

With her authentic approach adding a fresh perspective to the industry, Yusuf is enthusiastic about using her platform to affect change and support the sisterhood.

She said: “As for being a black Muslim, I definitely like to speak with other young black Muslim women just like me and share our experiences.

“Modelling has given me the confidence and ability to be able to reach many girls who have sincerely touched me with their stories. Nothing is more valuable than knowing you could potentially be a listening ear for someone they can relate to.”

Yusuf also plans on using modelling as a platform to spread awareness of other things that she's passionate about. As someone who studies politics, she is well engaged in world events and current affairs.

“I see myself first building my platform, and then using it to immerse myself in organisational work and charity work,” she said.

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