Last Friday, Gigi Hadid was the latest victim to fall prey to Ukrainian journalist Vitalii Sediuk. The prankster's bizarre antics are well-known around the Hollywood and fashion beat, leading many to label as Sediuk fashion's most hated man. After exiting the Max Mara show in Milan with sister Bella, he attempted to pick her up, leading her to launch into fight mode, elbowing him out of the way. After initialling copping tabloid flak for being rude to a fan, her attacker was later identified at Vitalii Sediuk and all the pieces fell into place.
After speaking to Lena Dunham on the night of the incident, Dunham chose to publish Gigi's statement in this week's edition of her newsletter Lenny. Linking Gigi's empowering instincts to the prevalence of street harassment against women, Dunham describes how women have lost touch of their intuition. "They ignore warning signals from strangers for fear of looking bitchy, cold, out of control, or crazy: all the labels applied to Gigi before the video revealed that she wasn't just irritated by some excited fan's attention." She goes on to commend Hadid for her self-defence move: "In an instant, she made it clear who was taking control and who needed to be controlled."
Read Gigi's statement in full below.
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.