Meet Farah Zulaikha. International super model, philanthropist, young new york socialite making a difference. Since Miss Zulaikha’s break through on the world stage of modeling in 2007 she has been movin’ shakin’. Katie Change recently got the scoop from Zulaikha on her current previous projects, charities and what you can expect from her in 2011. Check out this profile and extensive interview with Farah Zulaikha. This supermodel knows how to make positive changes. Keep your ear to the ground on the streets of New York as you will not be able to help but pay attention to this star studded trailblazer.
You are well known for being the face for the fabulous Indashio and recently walked in his Spring 11 show. What are your favorite pieces from this particular collection?
I am widely known as the face of one of my favorite designers and best friends, the one and only Glam God Indashio! I’ve closed several of his shows in fabulous destinations around the world and in New York Fashion Week. I was also the inspiration behind his most successful collection to date, the Jet Set S/S 2010 Collection, which was inspired my globe-trotting exploits and glittery over-the-top style. I recently walked for Indashio in Elle Magazine Style 360 during New York Fashion Week in September 2010. I was featured in the January 2011 issue of Elle Magazine on the Indashio runway wearing a dress from his most recent collection. I will be completely honest, the grey geometric-print elastic waist shift dress which I wore in his show was my favorite piece in the collecton. It was very fun and colorful, yet very chic and Parisian in its cut and drape. It also featured a gorgeous matching rhinestone and fringe armband which was so fun to wear! As one of his lifelong friends and muses, Indashio always creates a special look just for me in each collection. He has famously declared to the press that I am “the Cher to his Bob Mackie” so I knew before I even found out what I was wearing in the show that it would be something very special. I had a blast wearing it, and it showed in the photos! The dress was sold out before I even walked off the runway, but you can still check it out on page 42 of the January 2011 issue of Elle Magazine, out on newsstands now!
Who are your two favorite Luxury designers and why?
I, like many women am a fiend for luxury goods. My favorite luxury designers are Balenciaga and Chanel. Balenciaga especially for the shoes. The modern shapes and top-notch craftsmanship never cease to amaze, and the designs are so fiercely modern and cutting edge. I am a fan of sky high heels… although I am a tall girl I still love the feeling of being larger-than-life. Balenciaga gives me that rush, while still offering revolutionary and unique designs that we have come to expect from the opulent fashion house season after season. And Chanel goes without saying. They are timeless. A tweed Chanel boucle jacket can last a lifetime and never go out of style. For me, Chanel is the epitome of undying class and glamour.
What are your three must haves fashion accessories that you could not live without and who are they by?
I have many fashion accessories which I feel as though I cannot live without! But for my fast-paced lifestyle it is not always possible to carry them all with me. I have to be flexible and able to hop a flight at a moment’s notice so it is very important that I can look good and also pack light. If I had to swallow my clotheshorse pride and narrow it down to only three it would be as follows: 1. My Chanel black leather 2.55 flap classic quilted chain bag, because it is timeless and goes with absolutely anything and everything. It adds a touch of class to any outfit and I would be lost without it! 2. My Balenciaga motorcycle harness ankle boots. They are the same boots that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were photographed trotting around in everywhere, and I can definitely relate as I am also a huge fan! They are a great for any weather and the heel is dangerously high yet they are extremely comfortable and add an edgy sexy touch to anything from a pair of jeans to a mini-dress. They are so rockstar-chic and although they are a few seasons old, I could never let go of them! 3. My diamond Cartier Santos watch. My father always said that every successful person needs a good watch! It was one of the first big purchases I made when the big modeling checks started coming in. It was ridiculously expensive and I felt a bit guilty for spending so much on a watch but it was so opulent and beautiful that I had to have it. I knew it was a watch that would last for a lifetime and one that could be an heirloom for my children and grandchildren. Even if I have no other accessories on hand, once I throw on that amazing watch, I have a statement piece that can take center stage in my ensemble.
What do you think is the most controversial issue in luxury fashion right now?
I believe the most controversial issue affecting luxury fashion at the moment is the issue of racism in modeling and branding. As one of the few “ethnic” models to have been a success in the industry, I have experienced this as well. I am not the norm. This was obvious to me from the beginning of my career. I would go to castings and there would be droves of blonde-haired blue-eyed ice queens and I would almost feel as though I didn’t belong. I did not look like any of the other girls. I would start to feel as though I couldn’t make it if I didn’t look a certain way, yet I had to accept that I can only be what I am. I am olive-skinned. I have long dark hair and huge brown eyes. I have high cheekbones and full lips. I am the epitome of middle eastern beauty, and that is what I had to realize. Luckily for me, the industry appreciated my unique look and what made me different made me stand out. It only fueled my success instead of hindering it. But there is a bittersweet side to this story. If another middle eastern girl with a similar look wants to work for the same designers, she might be met with a response like “we already have your look.” The problem is, a few of us are taken and turned into “tokens” leaving it more difficult for others from similar ethnic backgrounds to achieve success at the same time. It is something that bothers me each time I think about it. I hate to think that my existence in the industry could be the reason why a door is shut to another girl with a dream because she is similar to me. It is a reality of the modeling/fashion world that isn’t talked about much. But it is painfully obvious if one even looks at the agency rosters. Often times there will be several with the european look, a handful of black or latina girls, one or two asian girls and rarely an East Indian or middle eastern girl. My stance on the issue is that I believe beauty knows no race or color boundary and there is room for all of us. The uniformity should come in the heights and measurements, not in the colors. However, there is an underlying movement that is serving to change this aspect of the fashion industry. With the introduction of the infamous Vogue Italia “All-Black” issue that featured only black models and the creation of several new international fashion weeks (such as L’Oreal Africa Fashion Week where I shared the runway in July 2010 with my good friend and Vogue Italia Black covergirl Sessilee Lopez), the runway shows and subsequent ad campaigns have become far more diverse. With every ad campaign I shoot and every runway that I walk, with every television show I appear on and every magazine I’m in, I like to think that I offer hope to another skinny tall middle eastern girl out there who feels like she doesn’t relate to the models she sees. There truly is room for all of us in the fashion industry and no one should ever feel that they don’t “look like a model” because of their race or ethnicity.
What one piece of advice would you give to you young aspiring models in the fashion industry?
The most important piece of advice that I would give to aspiring models is to STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF. As a model, it can be very easy to be influenced by others. The lifestyle is such that one wants to fit in and be a part of the in-crowd. But you will be far more successful if you have your own mind and are strong and steadfast in your beliefs. Drug and alcohol abuse are still a reality, but just like I avoided it and became a success so can aspiring models today! Part of being a professional is being reliable. And one cannot be reliable when they are caught up in negative lifestyle choices. Part of being a model is also looking beautiful and healthy, and our looks are directly affected by our lifestyle. The longer one looks good, the longer one will last as a model. If you preserve and protect your body and don’t harm it by abusing it, you will only set yourself up for longevity and success. When it comes to drugs and alcohol, pass on these it will only help you to succeed! As a model, I’ve been offered every drug you can think of. But just because it seems like everyone is doing it, that doesn’t mean that you have to as well. You will in fact gain a good reputation by avoiding such things, and people will be even more eager to work with you, which is what I saw in my own personal experience.
Who is a female role model that has helped to positively shape your success?
I had several female role models that helped shape my experience. I owe a lot of this to one woman in particular. She is the one and only Tyra Banks, who I often refer to as my “industry angel.” I first met Tyra in 2007. She had just moved production of The Tyra Show from Los Angeles to New York and had heard about a young buzzworthy middle eastern model who was making a waves in the industry at the time. That model was me. 2007 was a breakthrough year for me, as I had garnered a lot of press for opening and closing several shows in New York Fashion Week, particularly the couture shows. I was still relatively new, yet one of the most heavily requested faces on the runway that season. Tyra came across a photo of me and invited me to appear on the premiere NYC episode of The Tyra Show with singer Rihanna. I was absolutely floored when Tyra called me “beautiful beyond belief” and took me under her wing, offering me advice on everything from modeling to relationships to exercise. She had been through the same experiences I was going through and much like her I try to use my success in modeling as a platform to spread positive messages to others.
What is your “go-to” incognito look when you are out in NY?
I live in a very high-profile building in Manhattan’s busy Financial District that is home to several celebrities. It is an often occurrence to see paparazzi outside of my building or in the neighborhood. It makes it hard to not feel as though you are “on” 24/7. I am a very private girl, and despite my glamorous public image, many are surprised to learn of my more humble tendencies. I am happiest when spendng quality time with my close friends and loved ones. I would rather spend an afternoon eating at my favorite bistro in Little Italy and watching movies than posing on a red carpet. So when I’m feeling incognito, I like to incorporate this sentiment into my wardrobe. My favorite incognito look is both chic and toned-down. In true NYC style, all-black and military-inspired. I’ll throw on a black jacket and black skinny pants, with my favorite black buckled combat boots and a cute hat or scarf. Black smoky, smudgy cat eyes are my favorite signature look as they are both mysterious and easy to do in a hurry. This is my formula when I want to look both stylish and inconspicuous.
What can we expect from you in the new year? Are you participating in any projects/or campaigns where you can give us an exclusive scoop for 2011?
2011 brings a plethora of exciting new projects for me. I am the face of Jean-Luq New York, with their fierce new worldwide ad campaign being released in 2011. It is a very sultry and scandalous campaign, a perfect fit for the range of menswear-inspired blazers with rockstar touches like metal studs and zippers and spikes. The campaign was shot by celebrity photographer Eric Vogel, and the campaign shoot was featured in an episode of one of my favorite international fashion programs, “Top Billing.” I have also been named the celebrity brand ambassador and very first Global Attack Queen for the Global Attack Mixtape series in association with Island Def Jam Music Group. I will be touring the world appearing at various events and on several tv/radio shows promoting the mixtape series which offers international exposure for the best hip-hop artists to come together on one platform to create quality hip-hop music that knows no boundaries. The world tour will culminate in a calendar starring myself for 2012 and shot by some of the world’s top photographers. I also just recently shot a gorgeous European editorial for Louis Vuitton Paris in Munich, Germany by the man behind the G-Star Raw campaigns and one of Heidi Klum’s personal favorites the legendary Kai Birkigt! I had a fabulous time working with the extremely talented Kai, and the spread will also be released in 2011 to major magazines, media outlets and to Louis Vuitton boutiques. Following my worldwide success as Supermodel Fashion Correspondent for The Couture & Luxury Channel, I will continue to cover all of the most fabulous fashion events from around the globe! The Couture & Luxury Channel is now accessible worldwide and will also follow with a downloadable mobile application so that you can get your fix of fashion and Farah Zulaikha in any corner of the globe! I will also continue to appear in the international fashion week shows gracing the runway and giving back with my charity endeavors!