Beyond the runway: Malaysian model Shikin Gomez on paving her way in Europe

Reflecting on her experiences, Shikin sheds light on the contrasts between the Malaysian and European modelling industries. Photos: Saufi Nadzri & Bibo Aswan/Shikin Gomez Instagram
Reflecting on her experiences, Shikin sheds light on the contrasts between the Malaysian and European modelling industries. Photos: Saufi Nadzri & Bibo Aswan/Shikin Gomez Instagram

In the glamorous world of fashion, where beauty takes center stage, Shikin Gomez, a 31-year-old Malaysian model, is making waves and breaking barriers. 

With her striking features and a unique blend of Indian and Malay heritage, Shikin has captivated the industry’s attention since her debut at the tender age of 19. Now, at 31, she’s ready to conquer the European modelling scene, armed with her talent, determination, and a good support system.

It was a defining moment in Shikin’s career when she recently walked the runway for the prestigious fashion house, Dior. 

She described the experience of walking for the high-end brand as “a dream come true”. Her hard work and dedication paid off, and the monumental moment opened doors to new opportunities for the ambitious model. 

Shikin’s journey didn’t stop there; during her time in Barcelona, she landed an editorial spread in the esteemed Spanish magazine, Mujer Hoy, solidifying her status as a rising star.

Malaysia vs. Europe: Collaborative efforts and cultural contrasts

Reflecting on her experiences, Shikin sheds light on the contrasts between the Malaysian and European modelling industries. 

According to her, Europe places great importance on collaborative opinions, considering the input of everyone involved. 

While Malaysia’s approach differs, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s inferior—just distinct. Shikin’s exposure to diverse perspectives has broadened her horizons and enriched her understanding of the fashion world.

“I think the biggest difference is the collaborative effect of everyone in the group. I don’t know other countries I can only speak from my experience in Malaysia.” 

“I feel like the industry in Malaysia, it’s small. You know, everyone knows everyone which is fine. It’s great. It feels like a family. meeting old friends when you’re doing a shoot or a show or something like that, but it’s nice. It has that nice homey feeling. 

“But in the UK, for example. They’re more collaborative in terms of like, everyone gets to have a say and everyone is so different.”

“There are so many different people coming in all the time. So they have to be fluid in a way because they need to work with everyone’s ideas. It’s a nice mix. I mean, there are no pros and cons to either one but just a subtle difference.” 

Paris, the city of lights and a hub for fashion, beckoned Shikin to try her luck and make a breakthrough in its vibrant modelling scene last year. 

She embarked on a journey filled with excitement and trepidation, hoping to leave an indelible mark on the fashion capital. Unfortunately, success did not come knocking on her door this time. 

Despite the challenges and the fear of being alone in a foreign land, Shikin draws strength from her strong support system, grateful for the unwavering encouragement that propels her forward.

“It didn’t work out for me in Paris, unfortunately. had to learn that the hard way, but I’m very glad I did. So then I pivoted to Barcelona. That was towards the end of the year, and I stayed in Barcelona for about another three months.” 

“And I was doing quite well there. So I have a mother agency in the Netherlands which helped me find agencies all across Europe. And they found me an agency in Spain. So that’s why I was in Barcelona.” 

“They also found me an agency in Germany. So I do fly to Germany for work, sometimes Belgium. And also in the UK.” 

Embracing Diversity, Defying Discrimination

In an industry marred by discrimination, particularly against brown women, Shikin’s unique heritage grants her a different perspective. 

With a mix of Indian and Malay descent, she proudly declares having “the best of both worlds.” 

While she personally hasn’t faced discrimination, Shikin acknowledges that it exists, recounting instances where it has affected her friends.

As a strong advocate for inclusivity, she firmly believes in creating a space where all aspiring models are given equal opportunities, regardless of their background.

Navigating Boundaries and Upholding Integrity

Addressing the issue of sexual exploitation of women in the industry, Shikin sheds light on Malaysia’s stringent regulations that restrict revealing outfits for models. 

“Malaysia has very strict rules. When it comes to photos that are printed or even online,” she says. She cites the example of showing the belly button – as Malaysia is a majority Muslim state, there’s always the requirement to be mindful of “aurat”, or showing too much skin. 

She expresses gratitude for never feeling pressured to overstep her boundaries, as she has always been open to trying new projects. With an adventurous spirit and a willingness to push boundaries within her comfort zone, Shikin’s focus remains on her professional growth and maintaining her integrity.

“Personally, I like to challenge myself. So I would like to try to do something different, at least I want to know if I like it or not. If I don’t try it and just lock myself, I feel like I’m stunted in a way.” 

“So, I would like to not say no, I would like to try it at least and then if it doesn’t work out, then we can think about something else. I think at least I can say I’ve done it or tried to do it.”

When it comes to inclusivity, Shikin observes positive changes within the industry, as it becomes more representative of different ethnicities. 

The fashion world, once criticized for its lack of diversity, is slowly evolving, embracing a broader range of talents and celebrating unique beauty. 

“There’s a lot more inclusivity and diversity in recent years, definitely an upward trend. And of course, there’s always a lot more work to be done. That’s the way the world thinks there’s always something we can fix.”

Shikin’s presence in the industry serves as an inspiration for aspiring models from diverse backgrounds, offering them hope and encouragement to pursue their dreams fearlessly.

For young talents aspiring to venture into the modelling industry, Shikin imparts valuable advice. 

“I would say the biggest challenge of being a model is I see modelling as a lifestyle. It’s not just being pretty it’s not just, you know, taking good photos and all these things like, you have to eat well, you have to work out. You have to have discipline, motivation. You have to be able to pull yourself up when the world is like pushing you down. You know, like, you need to have all these things.”

“It’s not just being pretty. It’s not that simple.”

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