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!
Do you have any fashion show or photo shoot horror stories?
Yeah I'm sure, many. I remember one time, my dress was so short and it kept riding up ... everything was being exposed. And then also, I got like pushed on to the runway and I almost tripped and I think I was opening a show. I was super embarrassed. But I think the worst for any girl it's just wearing shoes that do not fit their feet and it kills, it's the worst and excruciating pain. Over time it doesn't look pretty. I remember at the end of fashion week and I was in Paris I was just not walking properly at one point.
I remember a designer had to change my shoes because it was like, they know I can walk but my feet were just in so much pain and in trouble from the long season of fashion week. It was bad. I'm like a size 9, they're like, 'We have an 8 or like a 7m' and I'm like, 'What?' Nice high-end designer shoes are not always that comfortable to wear.
What misconceptions about models do you hope are cleared up by watching this show?
I would like to take away the idea that our job title and our job is glamorous. We are very fortunate that we do get to travel to beautiful places and work with amazing talent, designers and put on beautiful clothes, [but] there are a lot of sacrifices that we make as young women, like being away from our family, trying to keep up with a relationship and also just like looking after ourselves in general. It's really hard to balance all them at the same time and try to work, our job is 24/7. So I think, hopefully, people see behind the scenes and have more of an idea about the modeling industry from the show.
What was the most challenging aspect of having your life filmed – was there anything you didn't want to show?
Not really, I want an audience to see the true me or the real me and see what I do for my job. Part of that is also my relationship [with now-husband DJ Ruckus] because it's a big priority in my life and being on the show for the first season, I'm trying to prepare for a wedding. And it was Fashion Week and you feel you know the issues of me being away from my family and having to balance a relationship and try to do a wedding. So, Yeah. We had a long engagement and it came really quickly and it finally happened and it was really beautiful.
Did you hesitate about doing a reality show at all?
At first, I feel like it's normal to have concerns about doing a reality TV show and our lives, my life, you know, is somewhat private. I would like to keep certain things private. But I think what's great about the show is we have control over what we would want and would like to show and we have an amazing group with E! and IMG, who want to make sure that we show the right thing, the real us as well. And they wouldn't make us feel uncomfortable or pressure us to show anything. We want to, you know, to be real. And I think yeah everyone will see that. I do show Ruckus, I do show like the travel and we talk about the wedding and we talk about a lot of issues in the modeling industry. So there's real like barriers of like what is, what we shouldn't and should see.
You're a brand ambassador for Good American. Did you meet with Khloe Kardashian at all about the brand and, if so, what were those discussions like?
I met Khloe a while ago, just being at events and through other friends. But I met Khloe on set at Good American and it was so nice to talk to her. We actually didn't talk much about the brand. It was just talking about stuff like, how I do love the brand and what it stands for, for all women. And I love the jeans and like they're super comfortable as well and we actually talked about my dog more, because everyone is obsessed with my dog. But she's so sweet and I think she's hilarious and she's lots of fun as well. She's really great.
How does it feel to be part of such a size-inclusive brand and is that a shift you're seeing across the board in the fashion industry now?
Definitely. I think it's important that any brand or the fashion industry involves all women. We're the ones buying at the stores, we love buying clothes and feeling good about ourselves and the world is made up of all shapes and sizes and colors and I think that's really nice that we represent that in all brands.