Maliha Shoaib, a final year student of BA English and World Philosophies at SOAS, has just won the prestigious Vogue Business Talent Competition, with an article on why luxury beauty brands are slow to make inclusive products. As well as a year of mentoring from a Vogue Editor, Maliha will also have the opportunity to publish her winning competition piece on the Vogue website and complete a one-month internship with Vogue Business.
Internships in the fashion world are notoriously difficult to get – so this is a big deal – and an incredible stepping stone into the world of journalism. As Managing Editor of the student publication, SOAS Spirit, journalism is clearly in Maliha’s blood. We asked her about her Vogue success, her university experience – and how SOAS has helped to shape the way she thinks.
So, Maliha – you’re currently studying English and World Philosophies – what made you choose SOAS?
I remember being drawn to SOAS partly because I was interested in exploring the fields of English and World Philosophies from a less Eurocentric perspective and partly because I just liked the general energy of the university and the people seemed interesting.
What do you enjoy most about studying at SOAS?
I’ve always been a bit nerdy, so I can say without any hint of irony that this degree has been exactly what I wanted it to be. I’ve been exposed to so many new thinkers and theories that I know I wouldn’t have known about if I went to a different university that focuses solely on canonical texts.
SOAS has really challenged the way I think and given me the language and skills to articulate myself – and in a way that’s what university should be about. A year into the pandemic and looking back at my time at SOAS, I definitely think I took campus life for granted. While I immediately loved my course and the opportunity to get involved in student media, I took a while to settle in to the SOAS social scene. If I were to do it over again I would have gotten out of my comfort zone earlier on, because in the end it’s the people and the memories that you miss the most.
Tell us about how you got involved in SOAS Spirit.
I decided towards the end of my time at school that I wanted to get into journalism – I’d always been interested in writing. I researched SOAS’s student newspaper prior to arriving in London and headed straight to the Spirit stall at Fresher’s Fayre. When I turned up to the welcome meeting, I realised the Spirit didn’t have a fashion column. So I set one up and contributed both a street style series and a number of fashion commentary pieces, talking about things like diversity and sustainability, which are still areas that interest me today. In second year, I was promoted to Co-Editor-in-Chief and now in my final year I’m running the paper as Managing Editor! It’s been an amazing opportunity – probably my favourite thing about my time at SOAS – and it’s something I’ll miss sorely.
Great news about Vogue! Can you tell us a bit about the competition?
Thank you! I’m really excited about it. I was supposed to be doing work experience at a local London paper last summer that got cut because of the pandemic, so I’ve been applying to various opportunities throughout this academic year. When I came across the Vogue Business Talent Competition I was immediately drawn to it. I’ve always been interested in analysing the processes behind any art form – that’s essentially what my degree entails – and fashion is no exception. So the publication really appeals to me. The application process included a short application form on why I wanted to win, along with two story pitches for potential articles and one full article. The article I wrote was about how luxury beauty brands are further behind than others when it comes to inclusive shade ranges. As winner, I’m going to be mentored by one of the Vogue Business editors (I’ve chosen Lucy Maguire, Trends Editor) for a year, I’ll be completing a remote one-month internship with them this summer, and my winning article will be reworked and published on the site!
Do you want to continue down the journalism route in your career?
Yes, absolutely. My plan after graduating is to move back down to London some time towards the end of summer and freelance until I find a more permanent job in journalism. Ideally what I want to do in my career is exactly what I’ve been doing for the Spirit these past three years – just on a larger scale. I’d love to work for a publication that reflects my values and work my way up to one of the senior editorial positions. I’m most interested in fashion, lifestyle and features, but I’m definitely open to trying a bit of everything throughout my career, particularly if it will help me become a more well-rounded journalist. Where possible I’d also like to use the access to various platforms I have to help those from underrepresented backgrounds.
How has your time at SOAS helped you get to where you are today?
I’m really grateful to have had some truly wonderful professors who pushed me to become a better writer and have always given such useful feedback. I’ve also been able to gain loads of experience through writing for the Spirit, speaking at events, hosting workshops, hosting a podcast, and a bunch of other things.
Aside from these experiences, I think the most valuable thing SOAS has given me is a truly global outlook. I’m really interested in the decolonisation process at SOAS – in fact, I spoke alongside Professor Adam Habib and a few other panellists at the Festival of Ideas about decolonising knowledge. My speech focused on decolonising the media industry.
SOAS has given me the vocabulary and critical thinking skills to be able to speak out about the larger structural processes behind the practices we take for granted. I think education is about teaching you to think for yourself and learn on your own – and that’s something that doesn’t stop once you leave university. I’m definitely still a work in progress but I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned throughout my time at SOAS.
Maliha Shoaib is a final year student on the BA English and World Philosophies programme at SOAS.
Read Glasgow Live’s report on Maliha’s success.