Gigi Hadid pens powerful open letter about defending herself

Last week, Gigi Hadid was exiting a fashion show in Milan when she was attacked by an attention-seeking prankster. The supermodel was happily smiling for selfies with her fans, but moments later a man grabbed her, picked her up, and wouldn’t let her go. (Incidentally, this is the same man who this week kissed Kim Kardashian’s buttocks). Gigi acted quickly and instinctively, wrenching her arm free and using her elbow against him. She also swore at the attacker while he was backing away. 

This video was posted on Youtube (we have chosen not to repost this as we do not want to give the attacker the fame he clearly desires) and quickly received media attention. Shockingly, many have criticised Gigi for being aggressive and for overreacting, even implying that attacks are the cost of being famous. Lena Dunham was quick to defend Gigi, hailing the model for an empowering show of what was only self-defence. Lena argues that it is becoming increasingly seen as rude or even crazy for a woman to react to danger. In an essay on Lenny Letter, Gigi addresses the attack.

 Read on for the full statement:

I remember taking the time, as it all felt slo-mo, to look at him, a stranger, and my first reaction was: "Get me out of this situation." I played volleyball, and my coaches talked about muscle memory. I started boxing two years ago and I always remembered that. Since then, I hadn't been in a situation that forced me to fight back, but it just came out when he grabbed me — it wasn't a choice. I do have that fighter in me.

Honestly, I felt I was in danger, and I had every right to react the way I did. If anything, I want girls to see the video and know that they have the right to fight back, too, if put in a similar situation. Practicing self-defense is important so that when you're in the moment, reacting from muscle memory comes more naturally to you than freezing up. Confidence in your own ability to defend yourself comes with educating yourself about it, and is a massive advantage when in an unsafe situation.

The first article that was posted about the incident was headlined: "Not model behavior. Gigi aggressively lashes out and elbows fan in the face after he tries to pick her up. The supermodel angrily hit an unknown man before running to her car." That's when I really got pissed. First of all, it was a woman who wrote the story with that headline. What would you tell your daughter to do? If my behavior isn't model behavior, then what is? What would you have told your daughter to do in that situation?

When my mom first saw what had happened, she texted me the picture of me elbowing the guy and (among other messages of support) said, "Good girl." My mom has taught me the power of my instincts since I was a kid. She'd always be like, "OK. Pay attention to the people who make you feel uncomfortable. I want you to tap into that and be aware of it." I continue to use that intuition with the fashion industry and the people who I have to be around. It usually guides me pretty well. I think it guided me in this situation, too.

It sounds cliché to say it, but in the moment, it wasn't heroic to me. It was just what I had to do. It's very touching to me that people see it that way. I know people are put in much worse situations every day and don't have the cameras around that provoke social-media support. I just want to use what happened to me to show that it's everyone's right, and it can be empowering, to be able to defend yourself.

Essay originally published here.