By Ariyana Hossain
When I first got news of Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid’s breakup I initially treated it with a sense of nonchalance, yet another mainstream celebrity split to add to the ever-growing list.
Admittedly, it wasn’t long after this that I realised I was more upset about ‘Zigi’ breaking up than I cared to admit, and I wasn’t quite sure why.
It was only after I came across this article ‘Why Gigi And Zayn’s Breakup Bums Me Out’ by Buzzfeed’s Sara Yasin that it all seemed to make sense. I wasn’t upset about the action notion of Zayn and Gigi breaking up as much I was upset about what they represented as a couple.
To most people, Zayn and Gigi represent your usual teen couple sensation, and their breakup was fairly conventional as far as Hollywood breakups go. A press release from either side, soon followed by a flurry of news reports from gossip outlets and speculation about Zayn’s new music…you know, the usual stuff.
What separated Zayn and Gigi from the conventional celebrity couple for me though was how they both individually possessed such a strong sense of identity and how outspoken they were about their Desi-Arab roots. There’s something missing about the way Muslims and people with Middle Eastern heritage are portrayed in popular culture, and that’s part of what made Zayn and Gigi special. In their own unique and nuanced way ‘Zigi’ presented to the world a modern representation of what it means to means to have a distinctive Muslim identity.
Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani, cowriter and lead actor of The Big Sick, summed it up nicely when he said "People don't really have the image of a lax Muslim... You can think of a non-religious Jewish person, you can think of a lapsed Christian person, but there's really no image of a non-strict Muslim person."
At the end of the day, conquering divisiveness and breaking down stereotypes simply requires putting yourself in the shoes of another person; and it’s hard to comprehend life from other views when they lack representation in mainstream pop culture. But having a mainstream celebrity couple like Zayn and Gigi on the same league as Beyoncé and Jay Z like Zigi challenges that notion head on. However, they are by no means a solution to the current political climate of the world and the intricacies of race relations; but rather a refreshing reminder of the increasing diversity within mainstream Hollywood. This holds especially true when considering that Zayn and Gigi have it relatively easy when compared to others of similar backgrounds; which is a testament to their fame and popularity rather than a landmark moment of progress.
· Yasin, S. (2018). Gigi And Zayn Were The Power Couple I Needed To See When I Was Growing Up. [online] BuzzFeed. Available at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/sarayasin/gigi-zayn-power-couple-breakup?utm_term=.tq957knygm#.orXzE3ljMd [Accessed 29 Mar. 2018].