Impossibly tall and slender, and with the kind of striking bold features that the fashion industry clamours for - a face that’s all angles and deep set dark eyes - Suzan Idris’ appearance instantly reads model. But the inherent irony in this is that the 23-year-old Accounting graduate never saw that in herself and essentially tripped and fell into the flourishing career she has developed for herself, when she had barely broken out of her teenage years.
“I’m not really a fashion person actually,” Idris explains with a laugh, “So when I was first approached to model I was like no, I don’t like the camera, I don’t like attention, I don’t know anything about posing or fashion; I’m not the person you want.” That incident occurred over six years ago in her freshman year of university in the American University in Cairo when a friend asked Idris to model for a project - a concept she vehemently opposed at the start. But she complied, and soon after, she was requested for an official photo shoot by renowned Egyptian photographer Batool El Daawi.
“I literally just stared at her when she asked me,” Idris laughs. “But I’m usually an adventurous person so I was like, 'why not?'" Eight months later, the reluctant model had a change of heart and made the deliberate decision to actually pursue the art of posing. “For a while I still didn’t get it, fashion didn’t move me, but there was that turning point where I decided I wanted to try it,” Idris explains. And that’s when things kicked off and the model starting landing shows and fronting campaigns. And her initial hesitance seems almost absurd now, as she poses effortlessly in front of the camera, for a slew of brands including Kojak, Maison Yeya, and Gant.
I’m a model and I’m black and in a very racist environment – and I’m still amazed about that up until today.
Born to Sudanese diplomat parents, Idris was raised in Egypt her entire life and her success is even more impressive when framed in the context of an upbringing in a nation that often looks upon those with darker skin with disdain. “Hell yeah, Cairo is very racist,” the model says matter-of-factly. “Up until now I still feel it – people might make a comment when I’m driving and stuff…It is what it is.” But despite that, she’s proven her ability to ascend the modelling ranks regardless of the melanin content in her skin, and when, at the outset of her career, a Cairo-based publication referred to her as 'The Model Who Broke the Mould' she remembers sincerely, “you have no idea how much that line meant to me.”
In a sea of pretty girls whose faces get plastered on the sartorial scene, Idris stood out as possibly the only one whose skin tone was not of the Fair and Lovely variety, a cream still widely advertised in Egypt that promises lighter skin, but rather a Beyoncé shade of burnt caramel, essentially making her an anomaly. “I’m a model and I’m black and in a very racist environment – and I’m still amazed about that up until today.”
Sudan is even more conservative than Egypt – you guys don’t realise the extent of it and the luxury that is living in Cairo, in comparison to there.
But on the flip side, she points out that Cairo’s culture also granted her the luxury of even considering modelling. “Sudan is even more conservative than Egypt – you guys don’t realise the extent of it and the luxury that is living in Cairo, in comparison to there.”
After completing university in Egypt, Idris moved back to her home country for a short while before moving to Toronto, where she is currently based. While she has experienced wild success since she started in 2014, she also has her doubts that she will continue in the modelling field, considering the stunted longevity of a career in it. “As a career, modelling isn’t a stable one,” Idris explains. “It has a shelf life, you know, until I’m 25 or maybe 30, but I can’t consider it as a long term decision. I studied accounting and I’m probably gonna stay in that career.”
It has a shelf life, you know, until I’m 25 or maybe 30, but I can’t consider it as a long term decision.
But she continues to see modelling as means of growing and learning. “Modelling is actually close to accounting in the sense that I see myself as a resource; I try and take care of myself and reinvest in myself and grow myself, as if I’m a company. Modelling is like a ladder and I try to scale it,” she explains. And having started effectively working at an age when most of had few responsibilities besides making it to class on time has given her a leg up on the maturity scale. “It made me grow faster, mature faster. I learned to pick what I want and what I don’t from an early age. No one manages me so I have to make my own decisions and I have to make them wisely.” And so far she’s displayed wisdom beyond her years, and beauty that has defied convention in Cairo and we have no doubt that she will continue to dominate at whatever career path she do decided to pursue.
Main image by @MO4Network.
Article images sourced from @suzansalahidris.