The biggest lesson learned from Milan Fashion Week wasn’t what patterns to wear next spring; it’s that models are not as fragile as they might look. This became especially clear when celebrity prankster Vitalii Sediuk grabbed Gigi Hadid outside the Max Mara show — and she fought her way out of his grip. While it must have been terrifying for the 21-year-old, it was also an important moment for young women, and Lena Dunham agrees.
“It is chilling to watch, in real time, the ownership a stranger seems to feel toward a body he considers public domain,” Dunham wrote in Tuesday’s Lenny Letter. “But it’s also stirring: in one swift movement, without the aid of her bodyguards, Gigi makes it clear that she will not be made to feel like anyone’s property.” The Girls actress, an outspoken feminist and activist, added that while the incident was unfortunate, it’s essential that Hadid’s young fans, particularly those who have their own experiences of unwanted contact, witnessed her “wield her elbow without hesitation.” By doing this, Dunham noted that Hadid “made it clear who was taking control and who needed to be controlled.”
Unfortunately, not everyone saw it as an empowering moment. One of the first headlines that followed was “NOT MODEL BEHAVIOUR: Gigi Hadid aggressively lashes out and ELBOWS fan in the FACE after he tries to pick her up,” with a subheadline that read, “The supermodel angrily hit out at the unknown man before running to her car.” The Sun has since changed its headline, but it was too late. Hadid had already seen the negative responses, and that might have been the worst part of the whole experience. “That’s when I really got pissed,” Hadid wrote in Lenny Letter about seeing those headlines that turned her act of self-defense into an act of brattiness.
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The model opened up in Dunham’s newsletter to defend her actions. “Honestly, I felt I was in danger, and I had every right to react the way I did,” she wrote. “If anything, I want girls to see the video and know that they have the right to fight back, too, if put in a similar situation.”
Hadid credits volleyball, boxing, and her mother for her swift reaction. “My mom has taught me the power of my instincts since I was a kid,” she said. “She’d always be like, ‘OK. Pay attention to the people who make you feel uncomfortable. I want you to tap in to that and be aware of it.’ I continue to use that intuition with the fashion industry and the people who I have to be around. It usually guides me pretty well. I think it guided me in this situation too.” The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Hadid was proud of her daughter’s reaction. “When my mom first saw what had happened, she texted me the picture of me elbowing the guy and (among other messages of support) said, ‘Good girl,’” Hadid revealed.
Luckily, it turned out to be an obnoxious prank, and Hadid acknowledges the fact that it could have been worse. “I know people are put in much worse situations every day and don’t have the cameras around that provoke social-media support,” she wrote.
But there was no way for her to have known that. “I remember taking the time, as it all felt slo-mo, to look at him, a stranger, and my first reaction was: ‘Get me out of this situation.’” Her gut instincts kicked in, and we are glad they did because it proved any member of that squad — Hadid included — will always be safe with those reflexes around. But, more important, it sent a powerful message to young women that, famous or not, prank or not, no one has a right to touch your body without your permission.
And that’s exactly how Hadid wants people to see it. “I just want to use what happened to me to show that it’s everyone’s right, and it can be empowering, to be able to defend yourself.”
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