The stars of “Model Squad” are out to prove that it’s not all killer couture and glam getaways with their new show, which shines a light on what really goes on behind the scenes of the cutthroat and sometimes exhausting world of fashion.
Aussie stunner Shanina Shaik is one of the cat-walkers at the center of the E! series, where she shares some of the adversity she faced coming up in the industry as a model of both Lithuanian and Pakistani descent.
In one episode, she and her co-stars speak about the racism and struggles they’ve all experienced through their careers, something she spoke more in-depth about with TooFab.
“I did find times that I couldn’t book jobs because I didn’t fit a certain category of like background or like cultural, like skin color, which was a shame,” the 27-year-old model said. “It doesn’t happen so often now, for me. But it did happen and it was really hard for me, it does tear you down.”
Shaik admitted she still hears “more Nos than Yes” when trying to book gigs, but learned how to not take it personally.
“Sometimes with a client, if they wanted apples and you come in and you’re a pear, you’re not right for that look or that idea that the designer or the client has with an image for the job,” she said. “You really need to have confidence in yourself and have tough skin and a really great support system, because you’re gonna deal with a lot of rejection, hearing the opposite of hearing ‘Yes.'”
To younger models coming up in the business, she added, “”You’re not for everybody. You got to look to the positive and just make sure that you have a really great support behind you.”
Shaik hasn’t just experienced discrimination because of her skin color or background either. The 5′ 8 1/2″ tall model has also faced rejection for her height.
“I’m considered short in the fashion industry,” she explained, “that was another obstacle for me being mixed and then I was like I was 5′ 8 1/2″, 5′ 9″ and I’m always trying to compete against 5’ 11″ girls.”
“I was so jealous of the girls that were super tall because after the casting’s done they can wear their sneakers and still look tall,” she continued. “But for me, it was brutal. I wouldn’t get booked, even though the client might like my look, I wouldn’t get booked because I wasn’t tall enough.”
Overall, Shaik said she’s seen a shift in the industry when it comes to diversity, change she says that can only happen when everyone works together. “If we have one fashion designer trying to make a change, it’s not going to make an impact,” she said. “I think we all should stick together. And that starts with the models, the agents, the clients, the fashion designers all over the world. And once we begin a change and have conversation, that’s when we we’ll see things develop in the fashion industry.”
Keep reading for the rest of our conversation with Shaik, where she also revealed a few of her most memorable runway horror stories.
“Model Squad” debuts September 4 on E!