Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban after campaigning for girls’ education, has been unveiled as British Vogue’s latest cover star.
In an accompanying profile, the recent Oxford University graduate and budding TV producer, now aged 23, opened up about her faith, Twitter activism and her new partnership with AppleTV+.
Yousafzai, who at 17 became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, also spoke about her friendships with other young female activists, such as Greta Thunberg and the gun control campaigner Emma Gonzalez. “I know the power that a young girl carries in her heart,” she is quoted as saying.
The profile, which will appear in Vogue’s July issue, includes tributes from some of Yousafzai’s high-profile admirers, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, who called her “truly extraordinary,” and Apple CEO Tim Cook, who told Vogue: “I don’t think there’s anyone quite like her.”
Shot by photographer Nick Knight, the cover shows the activist dressed in a bright red Stella McCartney outfit and headscarf. Inside the magazine, she is pictured in another red shirtdress and linen trousers, by Uruguayan designer Gabriela Hearst, that are paired with a contrasting blue headscarf.
In the interview, Yousafzai described her headscarf as a “cultural symbol for us Pashtuns,” referring to the predominantly Sunni Muslim ethnic group from which she hails.
“Muslim girls or Pashtun girls or Pakistani girls, when we follow our traditional dress, we’re considered to be oppressed, or voiceless, or living under patriarchy,” she said. “I want to tell everyone that you can have your own voice within your culture, and you can have equality in your culture.”
On Instagram, Yousafzai said she was “thrilled and humbled” to be the magazine’s newest cover star, adding: “I hope that every girl who sees this cover will know that she can change the world.”
Her life now
Having long championed human rights and girls’ right to education, the Pakistani activist became the subject of global attention when, aged 15, she was shot in the head by the Taliban. She survived after being airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK, and went on to establish her own non-profit organization, the Malala Fund.
Last year, Yousafzai graduated from Oxford University with a degree in politics, philosophy and economics, and she recently launched her own production house, Extracurricular. A multi-year deal with AppleTV+ will see the company release documentaries about girls’ education and women’s rights, as well as comedies, animation and children’s series.
Elsewhere in the Vogue interview, Yousafzai offered her opinions on the state of activism and politics today. “Right now we have associated activism with tweets,” she is quoted as saying. “That needs to change, because Twitter is a completely different world.”
She also shared details about her time studying in the UK, saying that she “finally got some time to myself.” The activist added that she was “excited about literally everything,” from eating at McDonald’s to playing poker with friends, although Vogue also described her as “the essay crisis queen,” as she recalled leaving essays until the night before they were due.
“I was enjoying each and every moment because I had not seen that much before,” Yousafzai said. “I had never really been in the company of people my own age because I was recovering from the incident (the Taliban’s attempt on her life), and traveling around the world, publishing a book and doing a documentary, and so many things were happening.”