Shanina Shaik is one of the most gorgeous models in the business, but the 27-year-old Australian Victoria’s Secret runway model had to deal with bullying as a teen over her looks. The Model Squad star, whose father is Pakistani and mother is of Lithuanian descent, talked to Fox News about her early struggles in the modeling industry when she had difficulty booking jobs in Australia due to her mixed race features.
“When I started my career in Australia, I didn’t look like the typical Australian beachy girl with blonde hair,” Shaik told Fox. “I had to move to New York to get a job. And at times I didn’t fit into a category of a look. I wasn’t Caucasian, I wasn’t black, I wasn’t Asian…. certainly, there were times that I just didn’t get the jobs I wanted.”
Shaik went on to talk about her difficult childhood and how she was relentlessly bullied for her unique features. The model revealed that the bullying was so bad that it affected her health.
“Growing up I was bullied to the point where I was cutting class and my grades were failing. I just didn’t have the courage to tell my mom. When it came to my mental health, I wasn’t in a good place.”
“I urge people today that if they are being bullied in any way, tell someone,” Shaik said. “There is always help out there and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Shaik is thankful that the fashion industry has come a long way since she began her career in the industry. The Victoria’s Secret star, who had her breakthrough when she was cast to walk in the 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, has since appeared on covers for Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar, also paid tribute to the diversity she now sees in campaigns and magazine covers.
Shaik said that while things have drastically improved since her start as a model, she hopes to see even more diversity on magazine covers.
“Over time, I do think it’s going to get better and better,” she said. “I would love to see more mixed girls on the cover like myself because the world is so rich, amazing and beautiful. But we’re in the right direction. And I’m so grateful because it wasn’t like that seven, eight years ago.”
As for her first Victoria’s Secret runway show, Shaik said it was a “dream” of hers ever since she moved to New York City at age 17.
“I just remembered the huge smile that I wore on that runway,” Shaik said. “I was over the moon. And my mom was there! So to just walk down the runway and see my mom from Australia cheering me on, it was one of the most special moments in my life.”