Farah Zulaikha – The Sweetheart Supermodel Chats it Up With Us – And Announces Her Own Video Channel Coming to Muze Soon!
Interview by Michael Dykstra
Photography by Trevor Godinho
Farah, I’m so excited we have you featured here in Muze with an original shoot you did with Photographer Trevor Godinho and Make-up Artist Brian Hawkins at the Thompson Hotel in New York City. Glad we can give this gorgeous work some attention! Have you shot with Trevor before?
I had such an awesome time shooting with Trevor and Brian at The Thompson Hotel LES in NYC! Trevor and I have shot before and he is like the brother I never had. His work is easily recognizable in so many top international publications and advertising campaigns I can spot a Trevor Godinho shot in an instant! My nickname for Trev is “Supermodels Only” because although he is one of the greats in the industry he is the go-to shutterbug for so many supermodels like myself! Another fab thing that I love about Trev is that he takes his craft very seriously and doesn’t rely on airbrush and editing tools. He doesn’t Photoshop! He is a throwback to the old fashioned photographer greats like Helmut Newton where the true beauty of the subject is captured without the artificial bells and whistles. This was my first time shooting with makeup maven Brian Hawkins, who kindly flew in from Miami especially for our Muze feature, and he did a gorgeous job using exciting pops of color in each shot,but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves! The shoot was such a success that even the Thompson Hotels tweeted about it! I’m so excited for the amazing readers at Muze to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor! Truly a team effort.
I know that you got discovered at a relatively young age and have come such a long way with your career in a relatively short period of time. Well maybe I should qualify that, short in normal person years but in model years maybe that’s longer? I’m not sure. Tell me about getting discovered and your rapid rise up the ranks of international models. Must have been a pretty heady experience.
I was discovered at 15 years old and was immediately signed to a major top three agency contract. Since then its been a complete whirlwind! To be honest, my ethnicity (Middle Eastern- Pakistani, Afghan & Iranian to be exact) is the LEAST represented in modeling, not for lack of talent or beauty but simply because it is not traditionally a field pursued by people of my ethnic background. Therefore early on in my career, I felt like I somehow didn;t belong! However the wonderful thing about the modeling industry is that, we are embraced for what makes us different! And the modeling industry completely celebrated my exotic and unique looks. I quickly learned that the traits that made me different were the ones that made me stand out, and it wasn’t long before I became a muse (or should I say MUZE? LOL!) to many of the world’s top couturiers and designers. I am currently the inspiration behind Milan-based Italian designer Mario Costantino Triolo’s wildly popular PRIMITIVE label, with his last collection designed after my fashionista glam meets New York cool personal style! It is the utmost compliment to have someone create art with me in mind. I don’t do this for the money. It’s a well-known fact that I was born into affluence. I LIVE TO INSPIRE OTHERS AND CREATE BEAUTY, and I feel that was something that helped skyrocket my career. I have had the privilege of posing for campaigns and/or editorials for so many prestigious top brands including Louis Vuitton, D&G, SEPHORA, Forever21 and for the fashion bibles of the world including Vogue Italy, Elle AND NOW MUZE! It’s been a great ride and I count my blessings each day. I’m not a diva. I don’t feel like it’s my RIGHT to be a supermodel. It is a privilege. Particularly also due to the fact that as I mentioned before, my ethnic group is the least represented in fashion, I HAVE A HUGE FAN FOLLOWING OF MIDDLE EASTERN/INDIAN YOUNG FASHIONISTAS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD! It warms my heart and soul to the core when I get fan mail from young girls in Pakistan, Dubai, Beirut, Casablanca, Mumbai etc. etc. and they tell me that they always wanted to be a model or always wanted to try their hand in the fashion world, but never felt like they would be accepted, but after seeing the success I enjoy and the stellar reputation and moral high ground I carry myself with in terms of my persona, I have given them a POSITIVE role model to look up to, and I inspire them to go for their dreams. I ALWAYS RESPOND via Facebook where I have 5,000 friends and thousands more subscribers or Instagram (finally gave in and made an account and in just one month I gained over 12k followers @OFFICIALFARAHZULAIKHA) and it is ALWAYS 100% ME AND NOT MY MANAGEMENT! It makes me feel great to know so many are touched by what I do, and that is what drives me. I’ve broken barriers for these fans and I feel like I owe it to them to not let them down!
You grew up in New York City right? Do you think that was an advantage for in that it’s one of the fashion capitols of the world? It was your environment, you grew up there right?
YES I am a proud New Yorker, born and raised in the Empire State! You absolutely hit the nail on the head when you said it was in my benefit to be in close proximity to arguably the biggest fashion capitol of the world (LOL, OK maybe behind Paris but I am an NY girl so I can’t say that :P). It would have been EXPONENTIALLY harder for me to get discovered had I been in a small town or even a lesser market like D.C., Boston, Chicago or even Las Vegas or Los Angeles. In this country especially, NO CITY is on-par with NYC in terms of fashion and modeling, not even Miami or L.A. there is no comparison. NYC is the gold standard in terms of models, designers, photographers and everything in-between. I AM DEFINITELY NOT SAYING THERE ISN’T TALENT IN OTHER CITIES, don’t get me wrong, but I always tell this to aspiring models when they ask how to REALLY make it on an international level: IF YOU’RE NOT IN EUROPE, YOU NEED TO BE IN NEW YORK. The best of the best come here to shine, and it provides a platform of excellence. Ol’ Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra said it best, if you can make it there, you can make it ANYWHERE… and that’s what chasing your dreams is in the TRUEST SENSE… proving to YOURSELF that you have what it takes to be a success on the most elite levels.
OK let’s drop some names. That’s always fun. Who were some of your faves to work with in the industry?
You are so right name-dropping is very fun and I have a laundry-list of faces that I have worked with. The first is a man who needs no intro, voted Germany’s Top Photographer (and also Heidi Klum’s fave) the man behind the amazing G-STAR RAW ad campaigns, Kai Birkigt! I shot with Kai for one of my breakthrough editorials for Louis Vuitton which came right after Angelina Jolie’s ad campaign for LV. It was such a great honor to first off follow such a legend like Angelina (tough act to follow, needless to say). We shot in snowy FROSTY Munich, Germany in December and Kai was such a pleasure to work with. He is so professional and skilled at what he does, while at the same time so funny and lighthearted I laughed through the whole entire three days of shooting! He is a legend and a gem of a guy. As for models, I had a blast walking with my gal pal Sessilee Lopez during the World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa for L’OREAL Africa Fashion Week! She’s a beautiful supermodel but also a simple down-to-earth family girl at heart just like me and we were drawn to each other immediately! During our trip I also got to know her big sis Kristian, fashion designer and director of the women’s board at one of the top agencies in the world, Major Model Management! I just adore her as well. I worked with darling gap-toothed supermodel of the moment Lindsey Wixson at New York Fashion Week as she shot an ad campaign for INDASHIO as well! INDASHIO, winner of VH1′s sensational competition “Glam God” is also a dear friend of mine, as I was the face, muse and inspiration behind his most popular collection the “Jet-Set” S/S 2010 Collection which was inspired by my globe-trotting adventures around the world as a supermodel socialite and I was featured in ELLE Magazine wearing a geometric-print sold-out “FAFA” dress by INDASHIO. He said to the press after his huge show in Hawaii that he is “Bob Mackie and Farah is my CHER!” He is like family to me! While on the subject of INDASHIO, I met three other celebrity galpals through INDASHIO, one being the sexy style icon Amber Rose with whom I walked with in ELLE Magazine STYLE 360, adorable songstress Kat De Luna, and winner of America’s Next Top Model Jaslene Gonzalez, with whom I shot the INDASHIO “Klub Kid” ad campaign with. All three are just dolls. I love the fact that I get along with so many in the industry! Speaking of ANTM I was actually brought into the national spotlight for the first time as a young teen by the amazing Tyra Banks. She is a mentor to so many and believed in me when I was just a new model. It was 2007 and she had just moved production of The Tyra Show from L.A. to NYC and she came across my photos after hearing the buzz about the young new middle-eastern model rising in the ranks. She called me up and asked me to participate in an episode of the show which featured superstar singer Rihanna. I WAS FLOORED WHEN I HEARD TYRA ON THE OTHER END OF THE PHONE CALLING ME “BEAUTIFUL BEYOND BELIEF”!!! It was a jaw-dropping compliment from one of the greatest in the industry. I love and respect Tyra so much and she is almost mischievous in that she always has something up her sleeve! When I got to hair and makeup for the live taping of the episode she told me that for kicks i would have to sing Rihanna’s hot single at the time, “UMBRELLA” LIVE to Rihanna herself! I WAS SO NERVOUS BUT I COULDN’T LET TYRA DOWN!!! LOL! So I sucked it up, sang my heart out (I’m no singer but it was so much fun) and I had a great bonding experience with both Tyra and Rihanna. It was simply amazing to be embraced by so many. I am thankful for each and every experience! I do red carpet and event reporting much along the vein of “House Of Style” a la Molly Sims and I have the #1 top-rated show on the global Oster Media network, so I have interviewed everyone from Lil’ Jon to Joshua Jackson to Rose McGowan to Vanessa Hudgens and I never had a bad experience. EVEN THOSE WHO SEEM TO BE DIFFICULT OR DIVA-ISH HAVE NOT BEEN SO TOWARDS ME SO I HAVE BEEN VERY LUCKY. Early on in my career I had the privilege of walking with the iconic Naomi Campbell in the Heatherette show at New York Fashion Week (back when OLYMPUS sponsored it) and I savored the experience of working with one of the greatest models of all time. She was a complete professional, not overly friendly but definitely very polite. While we are on the subject of Heatherette I just opened & closed the most recent NYFW runway show for Heatherette celebrity designer Richie Rich’s collaboration with male supermodel turned PR guru and dear friend Jean-luc Quevauvilliers and it was so rockstar cool I had a BLAST! I walked for Jennifer Lopez when she launched her “Sweetface” line in NYFW and she was one of my FAVORITES!!! Being a Latina, she knows what it’s like to break barriers for her ethnicity and we connected on that level. She really is just Jenny From The Block and gives hugs out like it’s candy! LOVE HER! I have worked with many more, but we would be here all day and celebrities aren’t just my co-workers now, they are my friends!
I noticed you have a pretty cool line on your “resume” that reads something like “worlds smartest supermodel.” Pretty unique and interesting title. I’m guessing you must have a pretty geeky, academic side that people in the industry don’t see all that often.
You are so correct!!! I AM A SELF-ADMITTED NERD!!! Which is something that fans can’t really see in my photos but if they get to know Farah The Human and not Farah The Mannequin through social media and interviews such as this exciting upcoming feature for MUZE it’s very evident. I come from a family of mostly doctors with my father being one of the most prestigious medical doctors in the country and I actually moved to Manhattan to attend medical school when I got discovered and it took me on a trajectory that I never expected. Being a supermodel was never “in the cards” and I have continued to pursue my academic career without fail or abandonment throughout my career which is something I am extremely proud of. I am also a UNICEF and Operation Smile Celebrity Ambassador, and the first-ever Young Ambassador of the extremely prestigious Vassar Brothers Hospital Auxiliary which has been in existence for 98 years! In honor of my academic achievements, Hearst Media mega-site UGO.COM named me #1 on their “Smartest Models In The World” list which featured some of the most legendary names in fashion of all time including Cindy Crawford, Iman, Christy Turlington and Aishwarya Rai. Being the youngest on a list of true icons AND to come in at #1 was such an indescribable feeling for me! It is the utmost compliment! Being called the “hottest” “sexiest” or “prettiest” model is all fine, but SMARTEST… that’s a superlative that I wear very proudly. Models often carry a stigma of being inarticulate and unintelligent and that is completely untrue! Shattering stereotypes and breaking barriers… that’s what I’m all about.
You’ve also tried your hand as a reporter for Oster Media and bringing some pretty special behind the scenes interviews online. Did that experience open up a new creative challenge for you?
Reporting for Oster Media has been one of the greatest experiences of my life! I had preciously been reporting for The Couture And Luxury Channel and had a blast doing that as well! I go from runway to red carpet to reporting on-site and live at the top events in the World and I consider myself so blessed to do so! I wouldn’t say it was a creative challenge simply because finding content is so easy for me! Celebrities feel at ease and like to talk to me as I have a famously bright and bubbly personality and am somewhat of a familiar face. I’m also a people person so I pride myself of being extremely sociable and friendly. For example when I interviewed Laura Prepon at The Sundance Film Festival I connected with her and broke the ice about her experiences as a former model which is obviously something I can relate to! When I interviewed Russell Simmons at The Caron Renaissance Foundation I had already met and worked with Russell so he came straight to my cameras and gave us some great content as well. It’s all about thinking creatively and positively and letting your audience AND your subject enjoy what you are doing, sincerely.
Well, your talents as a reporter and video corespondent are sure going to be well received here at Muze and by Muze readers and followers. We are so incredibly psyched to get your video channel up and running right here in Muze. Your fans and Muze readers will be treated to some awesome, compelling and fun video content. Let’s tell people a little about what’s coming.
I am JUST as excited for the Farah Zulaikha x MUZE MAGAZINE video channel!!! It’s such a great way to connect with my fans and let them into my life!!! Viewers can expect to see my day-to-day life as a supermodel from the makeup chair to the set to the runway to the red carpet to the hottest parties and cameos from my many celebrity pals! I’ll share style and makeup tips and just a plethora of all things FAFA (my famous nickname)! I will also be interacting with viewers as well so they can leave feedback and let me know what they would like to see in future episodes! I’m all about giving the people what they want, it’s truly my pleasure.
Can’t wait to unveil the Farah Video Channel! So where is Farah going to be in 10 years? Do you have a grand design for where this journey is taking you?
WOW! GREAT QUESTION. But I have a simple answer. In ten years I just want to be happy and content. I want to make the world a better place through my influence and I want to leave a positive mark behind. One never knows what will happen tomorrow, so I say while I’m here and in a position to do so, I want to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
THANK YOU MUZE MAGAZINE AND THE FABULOUS MUZE READERS! I CAN’T WAIT TO LET YOU ALL INTO MY LIFE! XOXO, FAFA
Farah’s Image Gallery
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Tags: FAFA, Farah Zulaikha, Supermodel, NYC, New York City, Trevor Godinho, Pakistan, Dubai, Beirut, Casablanca, Mumbai, India, Persian, Iran, Middle Eastern, The Thompson Hotel LES, Brian Hawkins
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