When Gigi Hadid was grabbed from behind last week, her arms temporarily immobilized, she took the time to take it all in and register her attacker—and then she fought back. Smack in the middle of Milan Fashion Week craziness, Hadid’s inner boxer came out with a vengeance, and she got away quickly and retreated to her waiting car, but not before she had the presence of mind to get someone to track down the guy and find out who he was.
She told her story to Lena Dunham for today’s Lenny Letter, and reminded all women that we have the right to protect and defend ourselves, in any situation, no matter what. Dunham cited Gavin de Becker’s best-selling book The Gift of Fear, which talks about the theory that women “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.”
Because that’s the thing—until video evidence of the altercation surfaced, some journalist wrote that Hadid had attacked in a fit of anger. “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,'” Hadid told Dunham. Yeah, no.
After playing volleyball when she was younger, “I started boxing two years ago,” Hadid said. “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.” And so she acted, getting herself out of a scary situation quickly.
“Honestly, I felt I was in danger, and I had every right to react the way I did,” Hadid continued. And she hopes her situation will inspire other women to do the same. “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.”
The model said her actions weren’t about valor: “It wasn’t heroic to me.” Instead, she said she acted as she did because “it was just what I had to do,” and acknowledges that most people don’t have the luxury of cameras rolling if they find themselves in a similar situation. “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,” she said. If this inspires you to sign up for a boxing class or enroll in a course of self-defense, more power to you. Literally.