Supermodel Bella Hadid has apologized for a cultural faux pas committed in an airport lounge on Instagram.
On Instagram Stories, the 22-year-old model placed her boot against the window in an airport lounge, with the sole pointing at a Saudia and Emirates aircraft. The caption read “anotha one”.
In Arab culture, exposing the sole of your foot toward someone is considered a harsh insult, insinuating that the person is lower than dirt.
Many fans reacted angrily. The hashtag #BellaHadidIsRacist began trending.
Hadid, who father is Palestinian, returned to Instagram to apologize:
I would never want my posts or platform to be used for hate against anyone, especially those of my own beautiful & powerful heritage. I love and care so much about the Muslim and Arab side of my family as well as my brothers and sisters throughout the world. I want to send a sincere apology to those who ever thought I would put blame on them, especially to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
She latter added:
This was an honest mistake on an early morning… never, ever would I intentionally try to offend anyone like that. I am so sorry.
She also apologized in Arabic. I take the 22-year-old at her word. Do you really think she meant to offend? For what purpose? Many on Instagram and Twitter linked the “shoe incident” to her lengthy message on Sudan a couple days earlier. I’m failing to see the connection, though perhaps she meant that Saudi Arabia and the UAE supported the coup d’état earlier this year that overthrew Omar al-Bashir and has led to violent attacks against women.
I cover this story because it took place in an airport lounge and because each of us must be aware of certain cultural sensitives when we travel the world.
On the one hand, I’m hardly amazed how one small image can cause such consternation in this age of social media. On the other, we must always ask why before branding someone a racist…and that charge is so overused that it becomes a loaded political term that loses its convicting power. Was it a faux pax? Certainly. Is she racist? That’s doubtful.
images: Instagram @bellahdid