Melbourne-native Shanina Shaik walked into our offices with wind-tousled hair and some very handsome arm candy: Tyson Beckford. The 20-year-old model met Beckford while filming the Australian version of Make Me a Supermodel in 2008, and the couple have been dating for almost three years now. She was a runner-up on the show, but she had no issues finding representation in New York; she's currently signed with Next Model Management. With a distinct mix of her father's Pakistani and Saudi Arabian roots with her mother's Lithuanian and Australian heritage, Shaik just scored a breakthrough when she walked in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show last week. In our thirty minutes with Shaik, the sweet-natured model opened up about her time on a modeling reality TV show and finally getting her dream job.
Tell me a bit about your childhood.
I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. I actually started modeling when I was 8 years old. I did a little catalogue stuff and modeled for Target and K-Mart. And then I stopped when I went to high school, because I got accepted into an accelerated program. I had to take a test to get into my school, but it let me do two years of schooling in one year. I ended up getting my diploma a year before my classmates.
You started modeling at such a young age.
I do believe that models should be older now. You tell girls to go and catwalk and be sexy, but some of these girls have never even experienced their first kiss, so they don’t understand how to be like that. And they grow up a lot faster, too. They’re not even enjoying it – or doing their schoolwork first. They’re not mature yet, and you’re sending them out into a world where there are promoters on the street, and men, and they don’t understand. They're like, “Oh wow, these compliments!” but they don’t understand yet. You need your mum or your dad around still.
How did you get back into modeling?
People kept telling me to model, so when I was fifteen I entered the Girlfriend Model Competition, which is the same contest Abbey Lee won years ago. I didn’t get very far. While agents were interested in me, I was too young to move to Sydney and nothing was really happening in Melbourne, modeling-wise, so I went for Make Me a Supermodel Australia and that’s when things started up again.
What was that experience like?
I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t talk about it with jobs because it’s not really relevant. It helped me in — it helped me show that I can model.
Fatima Siad of ANTM recently told us she kind of resented her experience on a modeling reality show.
I know Fatima. She was the first girl I ever saw in my model’s apartment. We lived together, just us two girls. It doesn’t do well for models to be attached to a reality show. Being on the show, it came to a point where it wasn’t about modeling anymore; it was about the drama. I wouldn’t say I regret it because it did start something for me. Also, I met Tyson because of the show. Let me just tell you, reality TV is not real.
Your breakthrough was walking the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show last week.
So this was my third year trying out for the VS show. There’s a huge casting call in mid-October, so I always know it’s coming. I always tell myself, “Okay, work out!” [Laughs.]
Were you nervous about being in lingerie?
I do lingerie work so it’s nothing to me. And when you work out and feel confident about your body, it’s nothing much. It’s more about your inner self and bringing that out, which you have to be confident when you go in there. Just show your personality; they love that. I think that’s why everybody loves the Victoria's Secret show because you can be yourself and you can put your hands on your hips, and blow kisses. The casting call is pretty much a waiting game. You have two minutes – not even two minutes, like a minute – to show them what you've got and then you have to wait.
How did you get the attention of the show’s casting director, John Pfeiffer?
Well, John Pfeiffer has known me since I was 17, since I came to New York. It was my ninth time seeing Victoria’s Secret, overall. He’s seen me for Project Runway’s catwalk shows, as he used to do the castings for that. He’s seen me change and develop from being a young girl to who I am today. All I did was be myself. I was really confident, I was bronzed and tanned. I’m actually more confident when I’m tan.
Are you reading anything good lately?
No, I’m pretty much more about my magazines. I did buy Miranda Kerr’s Treasure Yourself recently though.
Did you get a chance to meet her backstage Victoria’s Secret?
Yeah, I was nervous at rehearsals, and my heart was beating – boom, boom, boom. She told me, “Don’t be nervous, it’s fun, believe me.” I think that’s why Australian girls do so well, it’s just our culture – when you go to Australia, it’s so relaxed, and you’re, like, happy and cheerful. It’s just how we are.
What’s your diet and fitness regime like?
I do … [Laughs] Zumba. I like doing Zumba. I only do it like, once a week. If I did it more often, I would be very skinny. It’s like intense cardio with the dancing. I actually prefer to do stuff outside the gym, like running on the West Side Highway, and jump rope. I do love my food; don’t get me wrong. I’m a big dessert fan. I love chocolate and chocolate cake. But my diet regime is a lot of chicken and fish. I mix it with vegetables. And then, I love pasta, but only every now and then. I stopped drinking soda three years ago and I never drink coffee.
What is your idea of happiness?
My job. My boyfriend is always telling me, you need a hobby. And I tell him, my hobby is my job.
What would be your ultimate job booking?
It’s already checked off the list! My ultimate job booking was walking the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Now, I’d love to shoot with them. That’s how I’ll know I’ve made it. I would love to explore high-fashion modeling, too, like Italian Vogue. I get put-down a lot that I can’t do high fashion, for how I look, they say I’m too sexy. I think it’s just how I look in my eyes, that I’m very exotic, and they automatically think I’m sexy. But it’s not that, it’s just me, and I can do high fashion. So that would be an ultimate booking.
What other aspirations do you have outside of modeling?
If I wasn’t doing modeling, I’d like to study child psychology. I was actually bullied in high school. It was more mental bullying, which can be harsher than physical. A lot of people don’t understand. They’re like, “You’re pretty, you didn’t get bullied!” But that’s not true. It started when I did the Girlfriend Model Competition. I was never a follower in school, so if I liked someone, I would talk to them. I was considered “low” because of this; also because of my skin color, unfortunately. I stopped going to school, but my mum didn’t know about it. My mum would leave for work, and I would stay home. It was going on for a month that I didn’t go to school. I would love to talk to kids and give them a voice; give them someone to talk to. I hate reading about children committing suicide, especially about gay remarks.
Model Profile: Shanina Shaik
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