Nouri Hassan is diversifying the fashion industry by starting an inclusive casting collective

Nouri Hassan is an Egyptian-Guyanese model, casting director, and founder of XYNE AGENCY, who is blazing the trail for the fashion industry to become more diverse and inclusive.

Nouri first decided to pursue modeling after receiving encouragement from her family. “They would say it jokingly like, ‘you’re so tall and skinny and pretty, like, you should mode,’” Nouri tells In The Know. “I took my family’s comments about me being a model quite literally.” 

Nouri’s first modeling shoot was with Allure, when she was 18 years old. “We were doing a story on stretch marks, and just body positivity in general. It was the first time I was on set with curve models,” Nouri tells In The Know. “Just being there, being surrounded by curve models, I realized that I should be proud of the body I’m in. I shouldn’t body shame myself.” 

Being surrounded by women who were “confident and fierce” had a big effect on Nouri. “It took me so far out of my comfort zone that I was like, wait, I actually want to keep doing this,” she says.

As Nouri’s modeling career progressed, she noticed that while many of the shoots she was on appeared to be diverse, she didn’t feel like the diversity was authentic.

“Usually the casting on the sets that I’m on is very diverse. But for some reason, it just doesn’t feel as authentic as it should,” Nouri tells In The Know. “It feels like a lot of casting directors and brands are just ticking boxes off just to make it seem inclusive and authentic. But at the end of the day, it’s pretty performative.” 

So Nouri decided to take matters into her own hands by starting XYNE AGENCY, which focuses on representing diverse talent and creating more inclusive spaces in the world of fashion

“I started XYNE about two years ago. XYNE is a casting and mother agency. We believe in authentic inclusivity, diversity, and representation of all kinds of individuals,” explains Nouri. 

One of the goals of XYNE is to make sure that their models are getting correct rates, correct usages, and avoiding exploitation. “I wanted to step in and help friends and these underrepresented people to just say ‘you have to go through an agent,’ and ‘you have to work through me,’ and like, ‘I’ll give you their proper rate, and their proper terms,’” says Nouri.

While having a diverse cast of models is a step in the right direction, Nouri feels that true inclusivity happens behind the scenes. 

“I believe that if you want to be authentically inclusive, you need to have POC in front of the camera and behind,” Nouri tells In The Know. So Nouri started The Bipoc Network, a directory where brands can source diverse talent for roles such as stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists and photographers. 

“It started out as a spreadsheet and developed into like over 100 photographers, over like 60 stylists, [all] from all over the place,” says Nouri.  “And even creatives that I work with on set, I realized have been hired from The BIPOC Network to be on set with me that day.”

Looking ahead, Nouri is optimistic about XYNE AGENCY’s ability to continue to grow their diverse talent pool. 

“It’s been so exciting to see the agency grow over these last two years,” Nouri tells In The Know. “Social media has allowed the diversification of the industry because you’re able to source new talent at any time.” 

Nouri’s diversification efforts shine a bright light on the future of the fashion industry, and she hopes that she and her brand can inspire more people to take part in the changing landscape of fashion

“I hope people see the work that I do, both as a model, as a casting director, and realize they can be involved too,” says Nouri. “The fashion industry shouldn’t be at some unattainable level. It should be approachable and realistic.”

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