Always on the hunt for fresh talent from the Arab world, when Vogue’s editors spotted Rania Benchegra—a Moroccan-born model on the rise—they knew that they had to learn more.
In 2011, an Elite Model Look scout spotted the olive-skinned and raven-eyed Rania Benchegra shopping at a mall in Marrakech. The scout persuaded her to take part in the agency’s competition, and she went on to win. Today, with two major US magazine cover bookings for Elle and InStyle; a lead in H&M Forever Summer campaign (alongside Anna Ewers); a cameo in Victoria’s Secret PINK campaign; and 63K Instagram followers and counting, the future is bright for this rising Arab star.
Vogue speaks to Rania Benchegra about what she hopes to achieve as an Arabian model, and shares her insider’s hot spots in Marrakech.
SALIMA CHAIEB: What made you decide to take on modelling as a professional career?
RANIA BENCHEGRA: After winning the Elite contest, it was important for me to get my degree and shortly after high school I started a cinema program. That same year, I also started receiving a lot of proposals through my agency. With all the frequent travels, it became hard for me to merge modelling and my studies, so I decided to seize the opportunities and totally embrace my modelling career by moving to the US.
As an Arab model, do you face any particular challenges?
Firstly, it is a great honor for me to represent my country and Moroccan women worldwide. I do my very best to promote Arab models and beauty, along with Moroccan top models Hind Sahli and Imaan Hammam. My dream would be to take on an ambassadorial role for the Arab next generation wanting to make a name [in the fashion industry]. We need to get over religious prejudices that sometimes stereotype Arab women as subjective to extremely strict dress codes and conventions.
I have often been asked if I am Muslim and people are also positively surprised to find out that I am. I explain that my personal life is one thing and that my job is another. I have come to realize that I am lucky to have grown up as a Muslim woman in such an open and tolerant country like Morocco.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
Without hesitation, it’s Azzedine Alaïa. He is a cult designer and a master of cutting. Mister Alaïa became the first contemporary Arab designer known worldwide during the early ‘90s and he set the stage for many Arab artists in the international fashion industry. As far as I am concerned, he is the epitome of Arab pride. I also have a soft spot for Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing.
What are your future projects and campaigns?
I was recently photographed for Anastasia Beverly Hills, the buzziest beauty brand on the Internet; as well as for Victoria’s Secret workout and sleepwear collections.