By Jill Sieracki | February 2, 2016 | People
Fresh off her fourth walk down Victoria’s Secret’s famed fashion show runway, Australian model Shanina Shaik is kicking off 2016 with big goals and a beachside engagement fit for a bombshell.
"As much as I love holiday time, it’s good to try and get back to work,” says model Shanina Shaik, who spent the last few weeks of 2015 on a whirlwind vacation tour, including the Bahamas for Christmas, Dubai for New Year’s Eve, and then a restful stop in the Maldives. The trip alone is impressive, but the fact that Shaik got engaged—to her boyfriend of nine months, Miami superstar Greg “DJ Ruckus” Andrews—during the sojourn made the getaway one for the record books.
In fact, much of Shaik’s winter was memory-making. In November, she took her fourth walk down Victoria’s Secret’s famed fashion show runway, modeling a sexy black bustier and matching butterfly wings; a month later, she and Ruckus were in town cruising Art Basel in Miami Beach, and then again for Ocean Drive’s cover shoot at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. “Coming from Australia, I’m always in quite nice weather, and the beach, so when I do go to Miami, it gives me a sense of home,” says Shaik, who loves shopping at The Webster. “Every time I go there, I just have lots of fun. The people are really nice, too. It feels free-spirited. This trip was my mum’s first time going to Miami, actually, and she really loved it as well. Miami has a lot to offer and so many things to do.”
However, this jet-setting lifestyle is miles beyond where the self-professed shy girl started when she launched her modeling career. Here, the 24-year-old stunner—who gets her exotic beauty from her Lithuanian and Australian mom and Pakistani and Saudi Arabian dad—details how her mother helped her build confidence and overcome bullying, her early struggles to fit in in the modeling industry, the Victoria’s Secret Angel who first took her under her “wings,” and the racism Shaik faced on her way to super-stardom.
Dress, Mugler ($3,763). Curve, 2000 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-532-6722. 18k gold, black sapphire, and black jade stone earrings, Dolce & Gabbana ($1,950). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-866-0503. Midi ring, Jennifer Fisher ($170). The Edition Miami Beach Hotel, 2901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 786-257-4500
How were you discovered as a model?
Shanina Shaik: At the age of 7 to 8 years, I began kids modeling. I was doing catalog work in Australia. I was quite shy growing up, so my mum actually wanted me to try it to bring more confidence to myself. When high school began, I was accepted into the accelerated program, so my mum said, “You need to quit modeling for a while and focus on your school work, and if it comes up again when you have time and you finish high school, then you should do it.” So I did that, but I think it was just meant to be. I’m very big on energy and things that happen around you, and I think the universe was pushing me in that direction where a lot of people were saying, “You need to do modeling.” So at the age of 15, 16, I did a Girlfriend magazine model search.
But your big break was actually during a reality show?
I don’t look like the typical Australian girl, and it was harder for clients to understand my look, so I went on Make Me a Supermodel. I was still quite shy. I told my mum on the morning of that I didn’t want to go, and she was like, “Shanina, I think you should just try.” I had someone take a photo of me backstage while we were filming on a camera phone, and [while] I didn’t win, I became runner-up. But because of that photo, I got a contract with a New York agency.
How did you get involved with Victoria’s Secret?
When I came to New York, the first week pretty much, they were interested in me. There was talk that I looked like Adriana Lima—and I couldn’t see that at all! At the age of 17, they were telling me I was so sexy, and I didn’t understand that—I was like, I’m not doing anything, though… I was still so young, and at that time, they didn’t have Pink. When I was 20, I really came into myself as being more of a woman. My body changed, elongated, stretched out; I got rid of my baby fat on my face, and I booked the show. For any model to book the Victoria’s Secret show, it changes their career. It’s always been a dream of mine.
Dress, Versus Versace ($925). Miami Design District, 186 NE 39th St., 305-573- 8345. Bangle, Alexis Bittar ($75). Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865- 6161. Midi ring, Jennifer Fisher ($170). The Edition Miami Beach Hotel, 2901 Collins Ave., 786-257-4500
Have there been role models in the industry that you emulate, or respect how their careers have developed that you hope to follow?
Funny enough, to be honest, it was Adriana Lima. And the best part was, when I did my first show, I didn’t know anybody else, I didn’t do any high fashion work at that point, so I was really still kind of brand-new to the industry. I was sitting by myself, waiting to do rehearsals, and Adriana was the first person that came up to me and asked who I was, asked how I am, and complimented me. She’s really such a beautiful, down-to-earth girl.
Your look is so different because you have such an unusual cultural background. Did that present any challenges when you started out?
Yes, my mother is Australian-Lithuanian and my father was born in Singapore, but he’s Pakistani-Saudi Arabian. Growing up, I was bullied when I was in high school. When I think about it now, I’m really happy that it did happen, because I gained a lot of confidence from it; I was stronger, I became more independent, and I learned a lot about myself. It gave me strength to go on to do what I need to do today.
Bodysuit ($595) and pants ($895), Cushnie et Ochs. Ida & Harry’s, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., 305-674-4781. Midi ring, Jennifer Fisher ($170). The Edition Miami Beach Hotel, 2901 Collins Ave., 786-257-4500
People see beautiful models, and it’s hard to believe they could have been bullied.
It doesn’t matter who you are and what you look like, anybody can be bullied. There are a lot of models who were bullied when they were younger just because they looked tall and lanky. At the time it was jealousy, and I didn’t understand that [then]. It was more mental, emotional bullying, and I was really embarrassed because I thought bullying was when you go to school and there’s a big bully and they physically hurt you. It was kind of racist, derogative terms thrown every day, too. I actually stopped going to school because I was tired of the hurt, the taunting, the negative statements. Kids can be quite cruel, and they just follow one person, so when one girl didn’t like me, it became a group, so I felt really left out.
How has overcoming that helped you as a model?
You hear the most outrageous comments about yourself. I would say to any girl who is coming into the modeling industry, definitely love yourself and know that this is your body, this is your face, you’re not going to be anybody else, and then just be really confident in yourself.
How has your religious background and upbringing played a role in your life?
When my mother married [my dad], she had to change to Islam, so my brother and I were both born and raised Muslim. My dad’s not a super strict Muslim, so I had a really normal upbringing. It was just about respecting the religion, like how we ate (no pork, trying to eat halal food). My mum and dad did get divorced when I was 6 or 7, so he wasn’t in my life as much after that [and] she changed back to Catholic. My mum basically said to me, “We are our own person, we believe in our own beliefs, and we can choose what religion we want to follow.” I respect both my father’s and my mother’s religion.
How does your dad feel about you modeling lingerie?
My dad is super understanding; he loves his children. He says whatever makes me happy makes him happy. He knows I’m smart and have my head on straight. I have goals with my career, and he knows that I’ll always respect myself. Victoria’s Secret is a brand that showcases a woman being fit, beautiful, and healthy, and having confidence, but is also respectful, too, so I’m not doing anything too over the top or raunchy. I think that would be an issue if that were the case.
Gown, Jonathan Simkhai ($1,295). Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-865- 6161. Bracelet, Oscar de la Renta ($390). Bal Harbour Shops, 305-868-7986. Midi rings, Jennifer Fisher ($170 each). The Edition Miami Beach Hotel, 2901 Collins Ave., 786-257-4500
Your mother appears a lot in your social media. What are some lessons she taught you that still resonate?
My mum is my number-one fan. She’s always pretty much told me to just be positive and know that I’m unique, and I need to always be myself, and kind and caring, because whatever you put out will come back to you.
How has social media helped you in your career?
Social media allows me to show people the real me; you see the people that I love and the things that I love to eat and the things that make me laugh and smile, and the places that I love to go. It’s really important, especially in modeling—what makes girls stand out is their personality.
Dress, Thakoon ($1,950). The Webster, 1220 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-674-7899. Bodysuit, Bottega Veneta ($1,100). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-864-6247. Midi ring, Jennifer Fisher ($170). The Edition Miami Beach Hotel, 2901 Collins Ave., 786-257-4500
And apparently it’s a great place to announce that you got engaged. Were you surprised?
Yes, I was truly surprised. I’ve been with Greg for about nine months now, so it was really quick, but it feels right. We’re best friends, and we’re obviously very much in love, and we have lots of fun with each other. We understand each other’s life and career, and I think that’s important as well. I was super happy and so excited that he asked me to marry him.
Are you one of those people who has been imagining your wedding day since you were 4?
I think every girl pretty much dreams about what she would like for her wedding day, but I’m also not very traditional. I actually want a small wedding; I don’t want a big, poufy dress. I want to be on a beach. I think those things will definitely happen.
It was reported you had the choice between two Lorraine Schwartz rings. What made you pick the ring that you did?
I don’t actually wear a lot of jewelry; I’m very minimal. If I do like jewelry, it’s very traditional. What I did love about the ring I chose was it has a G and an S on the back, and in the S is my birthstone, amethyst. So that’s really special to me.
Now that you’ve accomplished your goal of walking in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, what are some new goals you’ve set for yourself this year?
Working with a charity, working with younger girls, is a goal of mine. From my experience of being bullied, I want to help kids, to give them the knowledge, to guide them and support them, if they are dealing with bullying and issues at school.
Photography by Randall Slavin. Styling by Faye Power. Hair by Danny Jelaca. Makeup by Taryll Atkins / ABTP. Nails by Isis Antelo / ABTP. Photo assistant: Rene Gomez. Video by Anthony Pearson. Shot on location at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florid. beauty: Balmain Texturizing Salt Spray ($36). Danny Jelaca Salon, 500 S. Pointe Dr., Ste. 120, Miami Beach, 305-604- 9696; net-a-porter.com. Leonor Greyl Éclat Naturel ($46). Danny Jelaca Salon, see above. Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base ($48) and La Base ($27). Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305- 868-0550. Dior 5 Couleurs Designer in #508 and #646 ($62 each). Saks Fifth Avenue, Dadeland Mall, 7687 N. Kendall Dr., Miami, 305- 662-8655. FACE atelier Ultra Foundation ($24). Ricky’s NYC, 657 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-674- 8511. Tom Ford Lipstick in Warm Sable ($52). Saks Fifth Avenue, see above. The AAA Four Diamond-rated Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood offers 500 rock star suites, award-winning restaurants, a 5,500-seat Hard Rock Live arena as well as a 4.5-acre tropical pool oasis and Beach Club, full-service Rock Spa, fitness center, nightlife, shopping, and convention space. For more information, visit seminolehardrockhollywood.com.