When Gigi Hadid was assaulted by a stranger on the streets of Milan, the fashion model reacted quickly, elbowing her unseen attacker in the face and forcing him to let her go free.
The moment was captured on camera – and has since sparked a huge debate in the world’s media, with several publications sharing deeply sexist reports on the incident, accusing the 21-year-old victim of behaving in an “unladylike” manner.
Now, speaking about the incident publicly for the first time, Hadid has revealed how she felt in that moment, and reached out to women in similar situations across the world.
“I remember taking the time, as it all felt slo-mo, to look at him, a stranger, and my first reaction was: ‘Get me out of this situation,’” she said in Lenny, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s feminist newsletter.
“Honestly, I felt I was in danger.”
The 21-year-old went on to explain that she began boxing training a few years ago, but that she had never been put in a situation that “forced me to fight back”; it had been used for fitness purposes only.
However, when Vitalii Sediuk grabbed her bodily from behind without consent, all of her training flooded back – and she soon found herself fighting back instinctively.
“It just came out when he grabbed me,” said Hadid. “It wasn’t a choice. I do have that fighter in me.”
While the model was left shaken by the incident, she was more stunned when she saw the first few headlines break about it – many of which called her out for her “unladylike” behaviour, and accused her of “over-reacting” to the actions of her fans.
“What would you tell your daughter to do?” said Hadid, referencing the female author of one such article.
“If my behaviour isn’t model behaviour, then what is? What would you have told your daughter to do in that situation?”
The model explained that her own mother was proud of her, immediately texting her to praise her for defending herself in a frightening situation.
She said: “My mom has taught me the power of my instincts since I was a kid.
"She’d always be like, ‘OK. Pay attention to the people who make you feel uncomfortable. I want you to tap into that and be aware of it.’”
Despite the initial sexist backlash, Hadid has since been overwhelmed with messages of support – and not just from her mother.
Just a quick scan of her Twitter reveals that she has been praised by members of the public, journalists, and celebrities (including Anna Kendrick).
However, while she has been praised as “heroic”, she has said that she simply did what she had to do.
“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,” she said, speaking about what she would like to come out of the incident.
“Practicing self-defence is important so that when you’re in the moment, reacting from muscle memory comes more naturally to you than freezing up.
“Confidence in your own ability to defend yourself comes with educating yourself about it, and is a massive advantage when in an unsafe situation.”
Sediuk - aka the 'prankster' that grabbed Hadid – has since claimed that he did it in protest against the use of celebrity supermodels.
"While I consider Gigi Hadid beautiful, she and her friend Kendall Jenner, have nothing to do with high fashion," he wrote, sharing his weak excuse as an Instagram post.
"By doing this I encourage fashion industry to put true talents on the runway and Vogue covers instead of well-connected cute girls from Instagram. You can call it a manifest or a protest.
"This is also a wake up call for Anna Wintour who turned Vogue into tabloid by putting Kardashians and other doubtful celebrities on a cover of a well-respected magazine".