Fadhi: “I’ll be honest, it is very hard balancing it all, but I think I’ve done an alright job. Doing a Maths degree and modelling, it’s about finding the right kind of balance between them both."
Alice Gee | 18/07/2021
As I stroll through London, in what can finally be described as summer weather, I realise it’s one of my first full days of meetings back to back since the pandemic. Although slightly odd, I’m ecstatic to be out and about, even more so to be heading over to Storm Model Management to speak with Fadhi Mohammed. The past two years have seen Fadhi make leaps and bounds, and she has modelled for some of the most exclusive high fashion houses, all whilst completing her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and making her mark in the financial sector. For us at HATC, mostly a group of young women, I couldn’t think of anything better than to connect with Fadhi, especially because she is so passionate about encouraging women to look beyond social norms and roles, and helping them to find their independence. Having found a space to call home at Storm Model Management, alongside their other notable talent, Fadhi told us how she too found her place in an industry that is known for its fast-paced and high-pressured environment. And also how Storm, and those she has worked alongside, has helped her find her feet.
“I was following Storm on social media before I was signed to them. My original plan was just to attend a walk-in, but the Storm team offered me a test shoot to see how I would photograph, and then I was accepted, and I received my contract, so it was a nice process for me, and of course, I’m really happy to be working with Storm. It’s been amazing. I always say this, but I feel like having a good agency behind you representing you, is such an important thing, not only are they there for support, but they are your mentors as well.”
“I had to learn how to model, and the fashion industry, about how castings work, and what you need to bring with you. I was told, bring your book and bring your cards, and I had to learn because there was so much I didn’t know, and the Storm team really helped me. When it came to shoots and editorials, I learned a lot about brands and what they look for, by researching on social media. When I first started out doing my test shoots, the photographer helped me to learn to pose and about lighting and which angles work best. I always had that support in terms of how to go about certain jobs.”
With Fadhi combining both her modelling career alongside her degree in maths, I can only imagine the pressures between both her schedules. With that in mind, I was intrigued to speak to Fadhi on balancing life as a model whilst exploring other avenues she might want to pursue, perhaps even a different end game, especially her focus on women and education, making sure to encourage those around her and to mentor girls to strive for a stable financial environment.
“I’ll be honest, it is very hard balancing it all, but I think I’ve done an alright job. Doing a Maths degree and modelling, it’s about finding the right kind of balance between them both. For example, if I have a day where I’m shooting and I have an exam, I will schedule out my time for what I’m doing on each certain day and when I’m revising, and when I’m also shooting I think letting my agents know when I have exams, and these exam periods are important, especially because Fashion Week begins at the same time as my midterms. I’ve always communicated these dates beforehand and I have been doing this for two and a half years now. Now that I’ve graduated, I know there’s a lot of stress that comes with University, and University itself is not easy, especially doing a Maths degree. But I think balancing and finding the right balance for you is important, and this is achievable with organisation. I think there is a misconception that you can’t do anything else whilst modelling. Most of us are doing things in addition to modelling and have been doing this for many years, which I think is something that people should know.”
“Since high school, my parents encouraged and reinforced how important it is to do things outside of a degree or A-Levels. My school put a lot of emphasis on this. In my first year, Business Alliance helped a lot of students within East London universities to get into roles in the corporate world. They help students, especially from ethnic minority backgrounds, which I think is amazing. I thought it would be really good to be in that environment, regardless of what my actual role at the Business Alliance who placed me in the admin department of Morgan Stanley. While there I was able to network with one of their managing directors and she referred me to HR, who advised me to apply for the actual internship for investment banking. I don’t think people realise how important networking is. This is something that I want a lot of women to do especially women who are my age or younger. It’s so important to put yourself in a position where you are financially independent and stable in that sense. I think sometimes it is reinforced when a lot of girls take a more traditional route, but within the corporate world, there is room for change and for traditional stereotypes to change. There’s not a lot of women working in these fields, especially in Managing Director roles. It would be so nice to see more women and young girls coming up through University and A-Levels inside these positions during internships. It’s important to also focus on the roles and projects you take outside of education, to figure out exactly what it is you want to do. I did an internship where I was working with the Structural Engineering team on Wimbledon Stadium. This wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but I applied anyway, just to see if I liked it. The experience gave me clarity that I didn’t want to go that route. Pursuing Education is important, but you can also do modelling and engineering, you can do anything you want to try.
And I think people find it so unusual that I’m doing maths and modeling”
Hearing from Fadhi I find it interesting the balance she finds between managing the variety of roles she fills. Having worked in mentorship programs for two years I can see the skills she’s picked up at such a young age and how she channels them into her life.
“With the mentoring program, I had a lot of support from the mentor, who’d often visit me while I was doing my A-Levels as well as having the opportunity to go into the actual offices, overseas office and where they would talk us through audit and finance in general. It was one of the key things I learned, as well as being able to speak in public, and being able to interact with a lot of people. I learned People skills, which also came in useful when I was on set modelling. There are so many times where you have to meet new people and you need to be able to communicate and with people from all different walks of life. The mentoring program gave me a lot of help in this sense.
On shoots, all the people I have net have been lovely and they have created a great environment. Every single day brings something new, and a new team to work with. Occasionally you might meet the same kind of stylist or photographer but on the whole, each shoot brings something new and you have to interact and adjust. At the same time, the environment itself is so fun, and I genuinely do enjoy modelling and I love meeting new people. Change is important, because you’re not and will never be at a standstill, you’re always moving and doing something new.”
Being a young woman In the fashion industry I can’t help but wonder the pressures models must feel from what so many of the general public find with ever-changing and unattainable beauty standards.
“I think we’re all human. And I think sometimes it is the perception that is inaccurate. The world thinks we just live glamorous lives, and yes, when we are on shoots, we do look amazing. But we are also human and like most we also have insecurities. We have things that we might not like about ourselves and we do not feel 100% confident all of the time, but as a woman, progress is about accepting you and loving yourself. That’s the biggest thing and especially being in this industry. You see so many models and many beautiful girls, and you are around some physically gorgeous people, but for me, the most attractive thing is to learn to be confident and to believe in myself because if I don’t, it will show, and on top of that, I’m not going to be happy, I’m all about loving myself.
Social media can affect how you feel sometimes, especially how you feel about your body and the way you look because, going on social media, Instagram, for example, you only see what people want you to see. People post things that they want to show you. I see some videos where some girls not only show themselves as very glamorous but they also show sides that aren’t typically shown on Instagram. I think that’s encouraging to see because they’re showing that they are real. I think that’s what people need to understand. There are times where I feel amazing and there are times I might not feel 100% confident myself, that’s normal and it should be telling especially with social media, I think there are so many things that are affecting a lot of young people, especially younger girls, but I think with younger girls, it’s a bit easier for them to get trapped in the app and become a bit more self-conscious and this is worrying.”
In an industry that is hugely westernised, Fadhi is one of a few models visibly striding for recognisable diversity. Having shot multiple campaigns as a woman wearing Hijab, with brands such a Swarovski, Fadhi is representing all women, highlighting all women can be in the industry.
“I say this to everyone when diversity comes up, I think the fashion industry is the fastest growing industry in terms of diversity and change. When you look at other industries, for example, finance and banking, the fashion industry is yet again making so many changes. When I first started, two years ago, which is not so long ago, it was quite different. Of course, I think a lot of change still does need to happen, and it would be nice to see, a lot of brand ambassadors for high fashion brands being even more diverse. I think that’s one sector that I’d love to kind of see more change, and hopefully maybe one day I can I could even do that. Again, even looking back at two years ago, if you had told me, I would have done a Swarovski campaign and I’d have done so many things like this, I would have never believed you.”
Over the past year alongside the Black Lives Matter movement Fadhi has provided a voice for so many who not only know her but look up to her. Having been a voice for others I wanted to speak with Fadhi about how the scenes we have seen have not only given her the confidence to speak out but how she has found herself triggered by the events.
“I think Black Lives Matter brought a lot of change, which came about because so many people came together and spoke about it. I think that’s how change can happen, one of the most effective ways is just having so many people talk about it. We put more awareness on it with protests and even just raising awareness. Seeing this made me feel I could do something. Raising awareness was not difficult or demanding of me, and getting a lot more people involved does so much good to society.”
Being a young model I wanted to speak with Fadhi about her experiences with mental health especially in an industry which although can be amazing with worldly travel, beautiful brands, and experiences, I imaging the travel and pressures can also be not only tiring but quite lonely at times.
“I’ve had my ups and downs. My work life is very, very busy in every aspect, and when I was working at Morgan Stanley, I think it did come to a point where sometimes I’d be very, very stressed. And I think that stress would show especially when I was at home. I was doing everything to try and balance my life which was important. I had to learn the hard way through my breakdowns. Finding time to allocate for yourself was so important and another thing that I learned to prioritise. Sometimes I was so busy I would have to just press pause, and just close my laptop and say to myself, “you know what, I’m gonna just go out and have a coffee by myself”. Simple things like having a coffee with a friend, or even enjoying a coffee and going out by yourself, is important, you need to break the work cycle sometimes. I think a lot of people get nervous going out by themselves. I know my friends struggle with this sometimes, I also did at the beginning, but now the more I go out by myself the more normal it has become to me. We’re by ourselves most of the time, so we should enjoy our own company, everyone else will just add to that when they’re around.
When I’m on set shooting an editorial, the workday can be very long, and I have learned to take a break and not be shy to ask for one. I’ve never had problems with this if I have been on set abroad or traveling. But again, traveling is not easy and you have to learn how to navigate an airport, or a city, or an international system. It can seem glamorous when you’re travelling abroad for a shoot, but constant travelling is tiring. It’s not all easy but it can also be pleasurable. It’s important to love your job, and I do have so much fun, then even when I’m tired, I do enjoy it.
Although Fadhi has a real passion for not only fashion but the finance industry, I’m curious to hear what her aims are for the next couple of years.
“I want to do runways, that’s the dream. I’ve done so many editorials I’m so happy with, and wonderful campaigns, which is insane, but runways are the dream. I just want to stride down a runway and if could pick a brand it would have to be Valentino.”
To meet such a young a driven individual is a breath of fresh air. Fashion is becoming a real inspiration for young women who want to follow multiple career paths, especially encouraging women of all backgrounds to not limit themselves, and instead of pushing for women worldwide to embrace not only education but all opportunities, making it clear Fadhi is the new working woman, unafraid to follow her dreams.
Words: Alice Gee
Fadhi Mohammed @ Storm Model Management