Young Models of Cairo
The concept of identity in today’s world is vastly different from anything people witnessed decades ago. It’s a much more complex mixture of one’s culture and social circle blended with a million factors from other ones. With such a burst of identities, young people are finding their feet and claiming their voice more than ever. We’ve sat down with models Mai Yacout, Youssef Sharaf and Omar Sherif to know more about their experience.
Shot on Location:
Photographer / Director
Gaffer / Colorist
Omar, Mai, Youssef
What is it like being a hijabi model in Egypt today? Do you think there’s more or less tolerance now for different identities than say decades ago?
Mai Yacout : “It’s not easy since I'm not the stereotype of hijabi models. It needs a lot of work to prove that I'm a hijab model but in a more different, editorial way. I guess, though, it’s like there is 50% of people in every decade that can accept or support different identities and there is another 50% that judges.”
How does it feel being a young male fashion model in Egypt today? How different is it in our generation from the past young generations?
Youssef Sharaf : “I would say it has its upsides and downsides. The upsides being of course that it’s a lovely field and it helps a lot with my confidence, but a downside would be how people react to some of the clothes I wear. There’s a stigma and a false image of masculinity in the public. However I personally don't mind any of that and simply try to enjoy what I'm doing without minding outside opinions. I’ve always been able to ignore hate, even prior to modeling. For the generations, I believe it’s becoming more experimental, fluid, each generation of creatives are breaking barriers and pushing norms. The current generation of course being the furthest we’ve gone.”
Omar Sherif : “In Egypt, brands focusing exclusively on men are rare, as most brands are targeting women, which makes opportunities for male models much less commercially and I have to focus more on artistic, editorial ones. I also don’t have complete freedom in what I wear or want to do as sometimes I’m expected to be the stereotypical image of an Egyptian male and is often frowned upon when I take care of myself or my skin. You get used to it, but the judgments never completely go away.”
Do you think there are more challenges for today’s young people to find themselves than before, because there’s too much exposure and more room for judgements, or is it easier because they’re exposed more to the world and all sorts of identities?
Mai Yacout : “I think our generation is always under judgment so it makes it harder to find yourself or be yourself when there’s so much judgment around you.”
Youssef Sharaf : “I believe it’s easier with the exposure to the outside world young people now have. In the past, a young person would only be exposed to what their parents and small circle want them to see, but social media as well as other factors now give these young people options, going further.”
Omar Sherif : “I think social media revolutionized that. It showed us all sorts of different people from different places. After seeing them often, you eventually get used to them and what is normal develops.”