Having walked the runways of Victoria’s Secret, Chanel and Oscar de la Renta (to name a few), and graced numerous magazine covers, Shanina Shaik is currently one of the hottest names in the modelling industry. However, it hasn’t all been a bed of roses for the 29-year-old, who struggled to make it big prior to donning her VS wings. Raised as a Muslim with a mixed heritage—her mother is Lithuanian-Australian and her father, Pakistani-Saudi—the Melbourne-born beauty considers her unique, multicultural background to be a gift, but it has also presented its set of challenges. “It wasn’t accepted then. I didn’t quite fit into a category because I was so mixed.”
In hopes of showcasing herself to a wider audience, Shanina appeared on the Australian version of the reality show Make Me a Supermodel in 2008, where she finished as runner up and scored a contract to further her modelling ambitions in New York. “I grew up really quickly, being 17 and moving to another country—a big city like New York— by myself. It took time away from me being a kid, being away from my family as well, at such a young age.”
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Her Career Breakthrough Moment
Soon, Shanina began booking modelling jobs, and in 2011, landed her first Victoria’s Secret gig, giving her career the breakthrough she needed. “I’ve always wanted to do Victoria’s Secret, since I was a little girl. When I stepped foot into the New York agency, they asked me what I wanted to do, and my first answer to that was Victoria’s Secret. It was such a huge achievement for me when I booked my first VS show, and obviously a dream come true—I even flew my mom out to watch me for that show.” Later that year, Shanina walked her first runway show in Paris for Chanel. “Once upon a time I was told that I wasn’t going to be a runway model—I’m too short, a little bit curvy on my hips and that I probably shouldn’t look into doing runway shows,” she recalls. “After the VS fashion show, it changed that story for me and I started doing runways.”
Diversity in Fashion
Shanina’s longstanding career as a model—she started when she was just eight years old—has opened her eyes to the harsh realities of the fashion world and toughened her up. “Modelling can be quite tricky and really hard on your self-esteem,” shares Shanina, who has been open about her insecurities and anxieties. “I’ll be honest, there were about three times where I wanted to quit modelling and give up,” she admits. “But I kept pushing through, with the support of my mom.” Naturally, the model misses her family and her native Australia. “[Modelling] does take away some normalcy in my life, and it takes away the time I would like to be with my family. They’re very far away and it can be quite difficult.”
Indeed, the fashion industry is not an easy place to be in. But things are definitely looking up, thanks to a new generation of leaders who are driving change, fashion warriors who call out bad behaviour, and consumers who demand realistic representation.
“We have come such a long way and it’s refreshing to see changes in the fashion industry,” Shanina says. “It’s also exciting that we’re seeing more diverse women on front covers, especially in the Asian fashion industry,” she continues. “I think that’s important when people pick up those magazines, they want to relate to the women and men on the covers. And that’s what we’re seeing now—our voices have created those changes. I’d actually like to see more Middle Eastern mixed women represented in the fashion industry and modelling. There’s just so much more we need to explore.”
As someone who has suffered at the hands of bullies for the way she looks, Shanina is a huge supporter of body positivity. “I can relate to that, and of course, being diverse. There’s not just one look in the world; there are women in all shapes and sizes. We come in different colours as well and it’s beautiful. We should celebrate that,” she says. The feminist also has good advice for young, aspiring models looking to break into the industry: “What’s great about this time and age is that we can be in charge of ourselves and our careers, and create our careers through social media as well. It’s important to stand for what you want, have your own voice, show personality, but also be really confident and surround yourself with a good team that will support you along the way.”
Beauty from Within
Though blessed with striking good looks and an enviable figure, Shanina still believes in taking care of herself from within. “I have a favourite quote —I think my mom shared it with me: ‘Nothing shines brighter than that of a good heart’, and I think it’s really beautiful. When we do take care of ourselves, the beauty shines on the outside,” explains Shanina.
So what are her tips on how to stay in peak condition? “Drink lots of water! I sometimes forget and not drink as much water, and I’ve to pay the price for that,” she laughs. “Take care of your mental health, work out, do what’s right for your body and what feels good for you. Surround yourself with people who love and support you,” she adds.
When it comes to skincare, the hazel-eyed beauty swears by quality moisturisers. “I’m in London at the moment and we’re in winter season, so it’s really important to get products that are rich in moisturisers so it sits on the skin,” she says. Her skincare essentials include Dr Barbara Sturm’s Enzyme Cleanser and SkinCeuticals serums. She’s also a huge fan of La Mer moisturisers (“they’re extremely hydrating and minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles”) and loves a good face mask. “111SKIN has a great range of masks that I like—my favourite at the moment is their de-puffing mask. It’s been really good for me to use before a shoot, or when I feel puffy in the morning.”
Her Love for Wellness
Her weekly Instagram Live series, Wellness Wednesdays—which came into fruition at the start of the year during quarantine—sees Shanina engage with experts and role models within the wellness community on topics ranging from mental to physical health. “I really enjoy taking care of people and I also love showing my followers, family and friends, how to take care of themselves with my own personal advice,” shares Shanina. Her Whealthy IGTV series was a take on Wellness Wednesdays, where she shared everything from healthy meal hacks to her workout and self-care routines. “What I learnt from all those conversations I had, I put into practice in my own life,” she says. While Shanina is careful about what she puts into her body, she does indulge in the occasional sweets, pasta and wine. Her love for food extends to the kitchen, where she likes cooking a variety of dishes such as fish, pasta and curries, owing at least partially to her multicultural upbringing.
Her Off-Duty Style
Being a model, Shanina gets her style inspiration from her job. A scroll through her Instagram feed brings up pre-COVID OOTDs of Shanina in glamorous dresses with sexy cut-outs, smart pantsuits and island-girl ensembles. These days, she keeps it simple in the style department, often clad in sweats, T-shirts and army combat boots. “I love boots, and anything with jeans and a blazer. What I love about blazers—I have so many—is you can dress them up or down so I’m wearing them during the day, but also when I go out for a dinner,” Shanina explains. Currently self-isolating in London, the model loves finding a good vintage piece in Notting Hill. She also enjoys online shopping, citing Net-A-Porter, MatchesFashion and Revolve as some of her favourites. Style-wise, she looks up to her role model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. “What I find amazing about her is that she’s a businesswoman, she’s a model, she’s done acting, and has her own brand. I look up to her and her career; her fashion style as well. She ticks all the boxes for me.”
Her Hopes and Dreams for the Future
In similar ways, Shanina has carved herself an impressive career. The stunner has tried her hand at design collaborations with swimwear brand Beach Bunny and fashion label Johansen, made several TV appearances, and has a growing list of acting credits—she made her big-screen debut in The Mummy (2017) alongside Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, and went on to appear in The Separatists (2018) and Greed (2019).
“I would still like to try acting along the way. I really enjoy doing that. It’s quite different from modelling—it’s a bit slower and there’s a lot of waiting—but I like becoming a character on set and just working in front of the camera, and then going to these amazing movie sets and seeing it all come together. It’s like creating magic, and it’s really fun. I’d love to explore and move into that a little bit more—I’d love to do an action film one day,” she shares.
Right now, Shanina is looking to create her personal brand that connects her passion and love for wellness. “I do believe in the next year or two I’ll have my own business, and that, I’m really looking forward to,” she says, before revealing that a brand new project—a YouTube series based around her wellness series—is set to premiere really soon.
Be it overcoming bullying, dealing with insecurities, or getting over a rough heartbreak (she announced her split from ex-husband DJ Ruckus in June 2019 after a year-long marriage), Shanina has emerged stronger than ever. With new dreams and a new beau, she is hopeful for the future. “I’ll start diving into my own personal business, and on my personal life, just [be] focusing on having a family and probably getting married again… We’ll see!”