You might not recognize the name or the actress Medalion Rahimi, but pretty soon you will — we guarantee it. But, there is a chance you might know her from strong roles on the small and big screens, like, Princess Zara Al Salim on ABC’s The Catch and Elody, alongside Zoey Deutch, in Before I Fall. Her upcoming gig is especially exciting (and, again, royal), as she plays Princess Isabella in the latest Shonda Rhimes series, Still-Star Crossed, a soapy period costume drama that follows the feuding Capulets and Montagues post-Romeo and Juliet.
The 24-year-old UCLA grad definitely paid her dues leading up to *Still-Star Crossed,” which premieres on ABC on May 29, starting from “small co-star” opportunities, involving five lines or less. Along the way, she’s also endured less-than-empowered parts. “You have to play a stereotypical version of what a man might think a woman’s role should be,” Medalion explains. “But then you work your way up.”
The first generation Iranian-American actress admits it’s been a tough road, going to countless auditions and only booking a “handful of jobs” and also trying out for roles billed for other ethnicities. However, she does have an opinion on the controversial topic. (See: casting of a white actor Zach McGowan as native Hawaiian World War II hero Benehakaka “Ben” Kanahele in Ni’ihau for the latest transgression.) “If [the character] is specific to that culture, I think they should try and find somebody who is actually of that ethnicity,” she says.
Alongside sister shows Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy, Still-Star Crossed provides the perfect showcase for Medalion to make a name for herself, alongside an incredibly diverse cast, thanks to the show’s creator, Shonda.
The actress is also excited to play a badass, stereotype-busting woman, even during a time in history when women weren’t so empowered. “She’s very smart and strong-willed,” she says about Princess Isabella. “Some might say that she’s actually more fit to rule than her brother, but, because she’s a woman, she unfortunately can’t.”
While her day job in Shondaland is full of diversity, different cultures and languages — Still-Star Crossed was shot in Spain — Medalion doesn’t always feel represented back at home, like when she comes across beauty ads or features.
“If you see ads with a certain girl who looks like you, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, I want to wear that makeup. It looks good on her, maybe it’ll look good on me,'” she says. “And it’s rare that I see somebody who I can relate to.” Not to mention, by not reaching out to Middle Eastern audiences, the beauty industry is ignoring a massive marketing opportunity. (According to research company Euromonitor International in 2016, the Middle East and Africa’s beauty and personal care market of $25.4 billion will grow by 6.4 percent annually in the next five years.)
“Women [in Iran] are done to the nines, always, and they’re a big part of the market,” says Medalion, trying to clear up stereotypes and misconceptions about Muslim women. “In other parts of the Middle East, as well. It would be nice to advertise to them.”
She also points to the fashion industry’s rising interest in the hijab and she’s heartened to see IMG sign its first hijab-wearing model, Somali-American Halima Aden. Plus, she’s experienced the industry’s interest in diversifying to a Middle Eastern audience on a personal level.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be approached by beauty lines,” she adds. “Things haven’t panned out at this time, but [it’s significant] for being an Iranian-American.”
Along with not feeling represented in marketing, Medalion wouldn’t mind seeing a wider range of options of beauty products out there for people of varying skin tones, either‚ which is partially why she keeps her makeup collection to a minimum. “I don’t think that there are that many things that work for me,” she says, but this might just be another opportunity for to pounce on.
“I would love to start my own beauty line one day,” Medalion says, musing on ways to meet the unmet needs of her friends, “who are from all over the place.” This fantasy line would also include hair products specializing in naturally curly hair — a feature she’s learning to embrace (and style). “[I’d offer] more products that can accentuate curls [as opposed to] straightening and keratin treatments,” she says. “I hope that girls really embrace their natural curls.”
One way Medalion has done just that is with a behind-the-scenes styling trick she learned on set on Still-Star Crossed. “I’ll sometimes put twists in my hair, instead of braids. And then when I take them out, it sculpts the ringlets a little better,” she explains, about the show’s stylists putting her hair in throwback, romantic twists for filming. “Then at the end of the day, they would take them out and I’d have these amazing waves.”
Along with accepting and loving her natural curls, Medalion is also finally confident about showing off her beautiful freckles. So instead of covering them up with a heavy foundation, she opts for the ultra-light Dior Airflash spray foundation. “It looks like you’re not wearing anything. It just evens out your skin tone,” she says.
“Frizzy hair and freckles weren’t cute when I was young,” Medalion laughs, pointing out how much her attitude has changed as she’s settled into herself. With such a refreshing attitude about beauty — and life — it’s clear that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Medalion.