In 2008, when she was 17, Shanina Shaik finished as a runner-up on the Australian reality TV series “Make Me a Supermodel” — but her rise to stardom had been one with quite a few bumps and bends.
The 27-year-old Australian stunner, whose father is Pakistani and her mother is of Lithuanian descent, said she was frequently bullied as a child for her “ethnically ambiguous” features. And while a career in the fast-paced fashion world seemed promising, Shaik claimed she struggled to book jobs in an industry that seemed far from being diverse.
Shaik spoke to Fox News about leaving her native Australia for New York City at age 17, coping with discrimination and why she’s not fazed by temptation.
Fox News: What were some of the sacrifices you had to make early on to make it as a model?
Shanina Shaik: I moved to New York when I was 17. I didn’t finish high school in Australia. That was a big decision for me to make, but I knew I wanted to try modeling. I also knew that great things could happen for me. So it was certainly a huge risk for me to make. Especially being away from my family. I had to travel from Australia by myself and I was alone most of the time without anyone to look after me.
I didn’t have any family or friends when I moved to the States. Even to this day, it can be really hard. When it came time for my wedding, it was difficult for me to prepare without having my mom or any of my family present with me to enjoy that time. Thankfully, I have amazing girlfriends who supported me along the way. And even the relationship I have with my husband. My job can take me away from him for a long time. I’m still making sacrifices for my job.
Fox News: Was it difficult being different from the typical blonde, blue-eyed model?
Shaik: Oh, definitely. Especially when I started my career in Australia. I didn’t look like the typical Australian beachy girl with blonde hair. I had to move to New York to get a job. And at times I didn’t fit into a category of a look. I wasn’t Caucasian, I wasn’t black, I wasn’t Asian. But at the same time, that’s what makes my look so unique. And in that sense, it has helped me to be booked for other jobs. But certainly, there were times that I just didn’t get the jobs I wanted. Rejection is really hard to deal with in our industry.
Fox News: Growing up, how did you overcome bullying?
Shaik: Honestly, anyone can be bullied. It doesn’t matter your skin color or your physical appearance. Growing up I was bullied to the point where I was cutting class and my grades were failing. I just didn’t have the courage to tell my mom. When it came to my mental health, I wasn’t in a good place.
I urge people today that if they are being bullied in any way, tell someone. There is always help out there and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I think that’s what I was more scared of, being embarrassed. But thankfully, my mom did help me through the process.
Fox News: Is the fashion world becoming more diverse?
Shaik: I definitely think that the fashion industry has come a long way from the last eight years or so. It’s become more diverse in terms of editorials, campaigns and magazine covers. Over time, I do think it’s going to get better and better. I would love to see more mixed girls on the cover like myself *laughs* because the world is so rich, amazing and beautiful. But we’re in the right direction. And I’m so grateful because it wasn’t like that seven, eight years ago.
Fox News: How do you avoid the temptations that modeling brings?
Shaik: I’ve been modeling for a really long time at this point, so I guess those scenes don’t really do anything for me *laughs*. You have to find moderation. There’s always a time and a place to have fun... But the job always comes first. And I love my sleep. *laughs*.
Fox News: Could you describe that moment when you first walked the Victoria’s Secret fashion show?
Shaik: I was extremely happy. It was always a dream of mine to walk in Victoria’s Secret. It was always a goal of mine from the moment I arrived to New York City. I just remembered the huge smile that I wore on that runway. I was over the moon. And my mom was there! So to just walk down the runway and see my mom from Australia cheering me on, it was one of the most special moments in my life.
Fox News: What is married life like for you with DJ Ruckus?
Shaik: It’s been great. We travel a lot so we don’t see each other as much as we would like. But, we just came back from a three-week vacation in Europe, which has been amazing just being together. I think it’s great we can live both of our lives separately, but also come back together and miss each other.
Fox News: Why did you return to reality TV for a show like ‘Model Squad’?
Shaik: I was really excited that this project came along because I think everyone has an idea of what modeling is. Everyone thinks it’s a very glamorous life. But I wanted to show an audience what it really takes for a model to make a name for herself. We really do deal with a lot of hard times in our lives and somehow, we have to keep a sense of normality in our lives.
We don’t always see our families and we have to constantly stay working to really succeed. There’s not really a lot of time to take a break. So I think it’s great that this show will really give them an idea of what our job is really like.