5 April 2014


 The modeling industry is one of the most competitive spheres in the world. It is cramped with millions of gorgeous people, however, modeling was just one of those things I always wanted to get into, and for a moment in time I thought, “How do I make a break through?”  First up I need you all to understand that most of what we see in the beauty/fashion industry is a downright LIE! Most things and people are not impeccable as they appear. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to cover up our insecurities that we lose ourselves in them. We live in a world that magnifies perfection, beauty, wealth and power. That goes for the Islamic/Muslim Fashion Industry and the general fashion industry. You'd think as Muslims things would be different, but unfortunately its not. It's sad but hey that's the reality. 

I remember a  couple of years ago I wrote a stellar photographer about becoming a model. The first thing I was told was that if I removed my Hijab I could go international – that they would send me to New York. I was told they would make me a superstar. How could that not influence me? Initially I thought these people are crazy there's no way I'm doing that, however after a while the idea started to seep into my head a bit....no...a lot. I was cast for fashion shows where I'd rub shoulders with the most successful folks in the industry, Music Artistes, Makeup Artists, Photographers and  Models. There were many photo shoots, music videos, insane transformations to achieve images of perfection- everything was about physical attributes but I continually fell short of that ideal. I struggled because every day I feel conflicted between the demands of being a model and the tenets of my faith. It’s pretty clear where the two differ. Where my faith focuses on Almighty God, work points me to the almighty dollar. Where my faith tells me to think first of others, my work signals that only the selfish can get ahead. Where my faith tells me to walk humbly with my God, work tells me to take credit for all my good works (and maybe even some extra works that aren't mine).The work world tells me I should always want more; a bigger title, more money and a better parking spot. Sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly. It's ridiculous, I know. There are days when being a model was so pressing, so insistent – so obnoxious – that it’s hard to find a balance. It's what we would call a winner-take-all industry, meaning that you have a handful of winners at the top of the hierarchy with an enormous pile of people who are struggling to make ends meet or just getting by, that are hoping for their chance to become winners as well.  Eventually something inside of me kicked my behind back to the real world (like it always seems to do). You can read my story HERE, and as you can imagine it's very personal, but that didn't stop me from sharing it with the world. Who knows, it may just be what someone needs to read to make a positive change in their lives. Some folks aren't as fortunate to find guidance, and trust me, when you're dealing with depression it is near impossible to pick yourself off the floor and make the right decisions for yourself, sometimes you need that 'guardian angel' to save you. It's not always about what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for others as well. Not everyday is a good day, there are days when I feel like I've failed big time, but I always manage to find motivation and inspiration within myself to get up and go again. 

Last week I was quite happy to see that Citra Style, a premier online store for modest and stylish fashion,  launched a Model Casting Contest where Hijabis (Hijab wearing Muslims) were given the chance to become the next Citra Style model, for their summer collection. Its not often these opportunities arise, and when they do, because they are hard to come by, many girls flock towards them, for many different reasons...mainly because of the glamour associated with modeling. The basic gist of the contest is that one winner will be selected from the 7 most voted for entrants, by a panel of judges. (Keep in mind that there are 246 entries and because the contest ends on April 13th, 2014 all entrants are competing to maintain 1st place at best and 7th place at least by acquiring as many votes as possible. I hadn't known about the contest until a friend referred me to it. I spent a week going about my business until I finally got a chance to enter the contest. After a couple days of  campaigning, I've come to realize its simply a popularity contest. One where, the person with say 5000 Facebook friends obviously has a towering advantage (in this case acquiring more votes) over someone with 500 Facebook friends. I'm highly not fond of popularity contests. I don't consider myself a popular person and therefore I do not fit the criteria, and I'm cool with that. The #1 reason I dislike popularity contests is because....point blank...they are NEVER fair. As an entrant, I don't intend to let my votes or lack thereof  influence the value of who I am and what I am capable of achieving- the very thing that popularity contests seem to do. And I hope other entrants don't feel bad or any less than they are if they don't get many votes, after all it was all our choices to enter. Many people tend to oodle over folks with  thousands of followers, subscribers and whatever-ers. I’ll be real! It takes a lot of hardwork and determination to get there but let it be known that some people are selfish and want all the glory for themselves, even when they know someone else deserves it. As a Blogger, Youtuber and Model I always have to re-evaluate my intentions for achieving success, as all my previous paths to success began with a clear vision of what I want and why. I entered the contest solely because I have a vision in my head and I want to accomplish it. Is it to achieve fame and fortune? To travel the world and meet all kinds of interesting people? Is it to be perceived as beautiful or popular? To show folks where the shy and 'quiet' Muslim girl 'who never talked' back in school is now? Read on...

 My desire to become a model started from a young age, it’s a deep and dear feeling that has always been inside of me. No mater how much my mom spoke against, all of my pictures, the makeup, and the clothes, I still succumbed to them. I never felt so passionate and confident about anything else in my whole life. I always imagined though, that one day she would support me, support my dreams and tell me "You can do it!"  Now the acid test to determine if modeling was my true dream was to ask myself  "What would I do if I knew for certain that I wouldn't fail?" In a minute, if I wasn't being paid to model I would still be happy to rise up every morning and get it cracking with a photo shoot or a video shoot. My passion for creative and fine arts would outweigh everything else...the fame....the dinero....the friends....the lime light.
Unless its something you really want to do, and with everything you've got, you may quickly find that modeling is less glamorous and just plain harder than you expected. You might even discover it isn’t what you expected at all! To outsiders modeling looks easy. All they see is the beautiful locations, wearing designer’s clothes and looking great while photographers and make-up artists fawn over you. The reality is that yes, you’ll certainly experience your fair share of glamour and excitement. But there’s a flip side to this picture, one that outsiders rarely suspect. You’ll be away from family and friends for extended periods, in my case, its my dearly beloved husband. 

Some days its plenty of pavement pounding, personal sacrifices and not to mention the seemingly never-ending loads of rejection. Trust me when I say that modeling is no walk in the park but despite the downsides of being a model, I have never been discouraged because 1. I know what it takes 2. I have what it takes and 3. Fashion is a deep passion of mine. To be a fashion model, it takes more than just pretty face. You need to keep reinventing your self and I am naturally a creative and artistic person so that sock eye for me. I love fabrics, colours and turning plain things into something fabulous and imaginative. I always excelled in Art and other creative areas such as Creative Writing in school. My mom is a professional seamstress and my dad was a fashion designer-turned business man, so growing up I spent my time making clothes for my dolls and myself, sketching designs for my mom to sew and reading fashion magazines. When I saw this particular contest, I stopped, and for a moment in time I realized, then and there this was everything I ever wanted....right there in one ad. I figured all my previous attempts to get to Dubai and become a professional model had been delayed for this moment. How many times have I attended Emirates Airlines recruitments in hope of eventually getting to Dubai? Ask my friends they know. My life-changing experience on my desire for wanting to become a professional model, and the road it led me down, all came into play. 

Despite what people may think of me, I have the same ups and downs and intimidations as everyone else, but its most important for me to believe in myself more than anyone or anything. There is so much more to life. When my world fell apart, I realized that life is so much more than working and trying to maintain and control everything. I’ve found that Allah is the only constant thing. People will let you down, and things will come and go, but Allah will always be there. He is always there to guide me through my day and the many decisions I make. Today, I am still modeling but now I see my identity is found in who I am...as a MUSLIM woman and not what other people think of me or who they think I should be. Its my choice and I am happy with it. Yes I do get the "modelling is Haraam etc" but I believe that as long as its done within the confines of Islam its not Haraam. Allah is my first priority and goes into every part of my life, including my husband and my work. Being a Muslim  and a woman brings tremendous influence with it.We all have gifts...what matters most is how we use them to help others.With regards to the Muslim fashion industry, a lot of companies/ designers tend to push one image to represent or promote their brand. Perhaps that's why not as many diverse Hijabi bloggers/ fashionistas/ models etc. get noticed. It's quite noticeable when a certain race of Muslims are portrayed for almost everything, especially for bigger well known brands. At times I feel as though we resort to the same standards and ideals of mainstream industries, while hypocritically acclaiming empowerment in Islam. Why has a line be drawn to divide us? Condoning such stereotypical behavior brings the spotlight on the main issue: A LACK OF DIVERSITY. You'd think the Muslim fashion industry, would go against catering to the same cookie cutter look, that that the mainstream fashion industry desires and although there are few like myself that want to put a stop to such narrow minded views, we're talking about breaking down decades of creating an unrealistic ideal of a woman...Hijabi or not. When folks try to drown out those who want to fight for diversity we must stay determined and make our voices heard whether it's to an audience of 5 or 50000. Death to favoritism, bring life to an industry and by extension a society that is accepting of us all, no matter what we look like. There is no glass ceiling! Not in this life and certainly not in Islam! We can all reach the top, all of us who are willing to keep pushing and making the decisions and taking the chances to succeed.There are too many young Hijabi girls in need of Hijabi role models and to see Hijabi women like themselves, whether that woman is latino, black, plus size size, or in the middle. I know because I was there once.... maybe more. We all deserve to be seen and heard, not just some of us, but all of us. Now that I am on my way to making my dreams come true...from doing to being...it is my hope that you feel inspired and go after what you want no matter what the odds turn out to be. Take a look at your life. How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times. There are things we dream of doing one day, then there are things we wish we could forget. I challenge you to take a moment to look in the mirror and smile at everything that makes you beautiful. Put absolutely no limits on the possibilities.

 “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Besos, Naballah