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I’m Tired Of Hearing This Muslim Beauty Stereotype

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MISKI MUSE

For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it’s a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we’ll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our third subject, Miski Muse, is a model and student living in New York City.

You’d be surprised by the amount of people who assume that you’re bald or don’t care about your appearance when you wear a scarf. There are so many people who are like, ‘Why do you even style or dye your hair? Nobody’s going to see it.’ That shows that you’re doing things for other people; I’m doing them for myself. I still want to feel good — who cares if no one sees it? I see it and that’s very important to me.

Because I cover my hair, wearing makeup allows more personality to show through. You take something, and you put it back; it’s simple math. I do think a lot of people equate modesty with being boring, though. After I was featured in Vogue, someone tweeted at me and said, ‘Nice to see a hijabi woman in Vogue, but it’s sad that you have to have all those pounds of makeup.” When did modesty mean not taking care of myself? There’s nothing in the Quran, which is our holy book, that says not to. It actually says that you should.

I think we’re all beautiful and there’s no reason for anyone to be looked down upon for wearing anything — whether that’s heavy makeup or not.

Family Values

Growing up, I had no introduction to makeup. My mother put on eyeliner, and that’s it. I started experimenting with colors and makeup in the seventh grade, and my mom did not get why I would wake up every morning and do that. She was like, ‘You are beautiful just the way you are.’ That’s always what my family would reiterate, so in the back of my mind, I know that I don’t need makeup, but I like it.

My family is not judge-y about me wearing makeup — they just don’t understand it. It could be a lack of communication, or the fact that they had a different kind of upbringing in Somalia. I think what they learned was that the less makeup you wear, the more beautiful you are. I didn’t grow up there, so I don’t even have that concept in my mind. I’m trying to balance both worlds, and, at the same time, be myself.

Escape Artist

For me, makeup is a form of expression and also how I combat my depression and anxiety. Some days, if I’m feeling down, putting on a little bit of concealer gives me that push that I need. Whenever I do a deep lip, I’m like, ‘What business are we handling today?’ As I’m applying, I’ll say, ‘You can do this and it’s going to be okay.’ Knowing that I put five minutes of my time towards myself instead of lying down or going through Facebook makes me feel good.

It’s not about being done up, because I don’t think that’s a prerequisite to feeling beautiful. But I like knowing that I’ve put effort into myself, whether that’s braiding my hair or whatever. It’s a form of self-care for me.

Feature Presentation

Growing up, I was hugely self-conscious about my lips and my eyes, because kids were mean. They would tell me I had owl eyes — that was my nickname throughout elementary school.

I used to get teased a lot for having darker eyelids, too. People would be like, ‘Why are your eyelids a different color?’ I wasn’t comfortable accentuating that, so I didn’t want to put on eyeshadow or draw attention to myself at all.

It’s funny, because those are the features that I love now. I would have done anything to have smaller lips or smaller eyes back in the day, but now I wouldn’t trade them for the world. It’s interesting the way that comes about. I think that it shows growth. Now, eyeliner makes me feel like I can conquer anything. It’s crazy how a little line can have that effect.

Mirror Image

You hear about how representation matters, you hear it, and you think, whatever. But people don’t understand how huge representation actually is.

When I was younger, I used to rip out every image of a Black woman who was featured in a magazine, which was no more than 10 pages per issue. I would pin them up and every month, they’d be on rotation.

To go from seeing someone who looked slightly like me in a magazine, to seeing someone like Halima Aden, who literally looks like me, on a cover — that’s a feeling I don’t know how to explain. I bought the magazine and was crying, and the cashier at the register was also wearing a hijab. She looked at me and we had a moment. It’s no longer just a dream now — it’s tangible.

Model Behavior

It’s still weird to call myself a model. I go to events and people are like, ‘What do you do?’ and I don’t know what to say. I’m getting better at it, but I feel like a fraud. I know that’s really dumb. I’ve done work and people tell me that I’m a model and in my head, I am a model. But then I’m like, Wait… but am I?

It’s not so much about the connotation; I really don’t care what people think. But I’m not the average model; I’m not six foot and size two. Even though I’m comfortable in myself, I’m still not seeing enough people who look like me to be like, I can be a model, too. And that’s some growing that I have to do internally.

In the end, if you wake up and you decide that this is what you want to do, then that’s what you’re going to do and no one can take that away from you. That’s your power and I’ve come way too far to put it in someone else’s hands.

Fashion

Storm Management Signs Its First Hijab-Wearing Model, Shahira Yusuf

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Storm Management, the agency which scouted Kate Moss when she was 14, has signed its first hijab-wearing model. Shahira Yusuf is a 20-year-old from London who has broken ground by becoming one of the first hijabi models to be signed to a major agency, following Vogue Arabia cover girl Halima Aden, who joined the IMG family last year. Yusuf joins Storm Management’s wide-ranging roster of models, which also includes Cindy Bruna and Alek Wek. The England-born beauty of Somalian descent, who was scouted at 17 (but didn’t pursue modeling until three years later) admits that although she grew up watching America’s Next Top Model and counts Iman, Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek, Liya Kebede, and Lily Cole as inspirations, she was never interested in joining the fashion industry until recently.

Shahira Yusuf photographed by Ronan McKenzie. Courtesy of Storm

“Growing up, being slim and tall, I received the ‘you should model’ comments almost every time I met someone – I’m sure many tall girls can relate,” she tells Vogue Arabia. “I’d say modeling was something I did have an understanding of, in terms of what a model is, but I did not have a passion for the industry nor fashion itself. It kind of just happened for me.”

Despite renowned models like Iman, Yasmin Warsame, and Waris Dirie all hailing from Somalia, modeling is not a traditional career in Yusuf’s culture. Yet she says her friends and family have been super supportive. “I wouldn’t be modeling if it wasn’t for my friends and family constantly asking me to do it. When you have so many of your family, friends, and even strangers approaching you and asking you to consider modeling, it definitely does make you want to pursue it.”

Courtesy of Storm Management

Last November, the Somali beauty went viral on Twitter after posting a series of photographs sporting an oversized gray pantsuit paired with a neatly tied black turban and matching bum bag. “I ain’t [sic] no Kendall Jenner but I’m a black Muslim girl from East London that’s about to finesse the modeling industry,” she captioned it. The pictures garnered more than 57,000 retweets and 122,000 likes. Praise immediately began to pour in from users the world over. “So inspirational. I’m also Somali and from East London, so you’re very inspirational to me,” wrote one user. Another user quipped: “I will do whatever it takes to support you, you’re beautiful Mashallah.”

“I didn’t think the tweet would get that much attention,” Yusuf says. “Especially for it to be reposted so many times and get as much attention on other social media platforms like Instagram, too. I’ve received so much support and I’m glad I tweeted that because it’s very difficult to stand out in such a competitive industry.” Indeed, although the fashion industry has taken major steps to become more inclusive, the number of visibly Muslim models is limited. But Shahira is hopeful. “I do believe that it’s harder to make it as a hijab-wearing model as you have already filtered so many forms of modeling out. So for one, you have fewer opportunities. This is why I feel that it’s up to the fashion industry to create more opportunities for models like me. There is a huge modest fashion market, and more companies are starting to release modest fashion clothing lines.”

Shahira Yusuf photographed by Ronan McKenzie. Courtesy of Storm

She is excited to represent Muslim womanhood in a way she rarely saw growing up. “I’ve become a model at a time when society is more accepting of people of different ethnicities and religions. It’s about time we had an equal representation and moved on from just the majority. We know that there are aspiring models from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, so there’s really no excuse for the lack of diversity.”

Though she has yet to secure her first big gig, Yusuf recounts doing a spread with Marfa Journal as a career highlight. Her biggest goal? “To be the first hijab-wearing model to land the front cover of British Vogue. That would be amazing. Another huge goal of mine is to walk the runway for my favorite designer brands, Chanel and Burberry, in the future.” But most important is keeping true to her values. “It’s so easy to get carried away with the extravagant clothes and makeup in modeling, but I want to make sure I remain true to myself. And in that way I can convey myself in the most genuine way. My portfolio is a reflection of who I am and what I stand for. I love modesty, so I want my work to reflect that.”

Whether she wants to or not, Yusuf serves as a beacon of hope for a more inclusive world, one that offers a seat at the table for everyone, and not just those who conform or blend in.

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Fashion

18-year-old artist uses social media to display her craft (VIDEO)

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Here’s a story of an 18-year-old Somali make up artist who is using social media to make a name for herself and her work. CGTN’s Abdulaziz Billow caught up with Maryan Ahmed Ali, Mogadishu’s finest bride and makeup artist.

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Diaspora

Hamdia Ahmed Is the First Miss Maine Pageant Contestant to Wear a Hijab

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TEEN VOGUE — Hamdia Ahmed took to Twitter to share history-making news. She’s the first Miss Maine contestant to wear a hijab and burkini during the pageant.

According to her profile, Hamdia was “born in Somalia,” and “raised in a refugee camp in Kenya.”

She took part in the pageant this December and wore exactly the looks that she wanted to. In one photo, she donned a gold long-sleeve gown with a light pink hijab, and in another, likely for the swimsuit portion, she wore a burkini. She tweeted: “I competed in Miss Maine as the first Muslim girl with a Hijab. I slayed my hijab.”

While this is a milestone achievement for the Miss Maine competition, this isn’t the only pageant where a woman embraced modest fashion, and made headlines. Last November, Halima Aden wore a hijab in the Miss Minnesota competition, and went onto become a celebrated high-fashion model.

Later, Muna Jama made history by refusing to wear a bikini during the swimsuit portion of the Miss Universe competition, opting to don a kaftan instead.

Though a few brands like Nike and American Eagle are now including hijabs in their repertoire, and incredible young women like Hamdia and Halima are pushing for them to be more visible in pageants and fashion magazines alike, we still see stories of discrimination against Muslim women — specifically related to their hijabs — every single day. There’s no denying that Hamdia did, in fact, “slay” her hijab and we loved every minute of it.

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