This is the fourth instalment of SevenSixVoices, a series where, throughout April, members of our Influencer Network give their take on inclusivity within the influencer marketing industry.
The writer Anaïs Nin once said, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. Unpacking this statement, the way in which we make sense of life and the world is often influenced by who we are, and who we are is an amalgamation of various factors including our life experiences, values and cultures. As a black Muslim woman, particularly a Somali woman, I’m afforded a unique lens through which I see and process practically everything, and this naturally informs the content I create.
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In 2011, I started a beauty blog called Muslimah Beauty when I was just 19 years old. I was a plucky business student, determined to get my foot through the door and into the beauty industry, and I believed that blogging would get me there. I was right. In fact, within months the blog gained traction and was nominated for awards from the likes of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, and I was awarded with Best Indie Beauty Blog in the P&G Beauty and Grooming Awards amongst industry titans. Why? Because of that unique lens I previously referred to.
From the blog’s inception, I always intended to approach beauty differently. Despite being that girl who always flicked to the beauty pages in a magazine first, the writing didn’t always serve me. In fact, at times I felt excluded particularly when it came to articles on hair care or makeup, because there was no way I could relate to a piece about finding the perfect nude lipstick when it was implied that nude was a colour instead of it being relative to your skin tone. The internet was therefore a welcome change as it democratised the beauty industry, and I was able to write about beauty and how it intersects with numerous things from business to politics to religion.
I’ve always loved taking something as mundane as nail polish and discussing it through my perspective as a Muslim woman, for example. When preparing to pray, one must perform an ablution ritual and this means that nothing can obstruct water from reaching where it’s supposed to clean, the nails included. With nail polish being waterproof, it’s important to find appropriate solutions if you want to pray. I’ve therefore written about water permeable nail polishes and the merits of a good old nail buffer.
Now, in terms of my identity as a black woman in particular, my Somali heritage has undoubtedly influenced my content. One of my most well received posts was where I wrote about how beauty rituals such as henna and burning frankincense have allowed me to connect with my culture, as well as falling in love with where I come from. The post resonated with many, so much so that it was published in an anthology about navigating the pursuit of beauty.
Image credit: Hafsa
Today, my interest in beauty also overlaps with wellness. Interestingly, my identity plays into my content now more than ever before. Last year, I was invited to speak on a panel about how ancient wellness traditions can be applied in the modern world, and of course I was compelled to talk about centuries-old Somali customs like infusing water with frankincense. With wellness being a hot topic, I feel it’s imperative to make note of the cultures where certain wellness trends actually stem from, as it’s easy to forget them and assume that things like adaptogenic lattes or reiki were born in a vacuum. With that said, I also want to shine a light on them too, and so with my food page Dish Your Herbs, I share recipes inspired by my Somali heritage and incorporate herbs and spices that are key in the cuisine.
If you were to deconstruct my identity - black, Muslim, woman - you would find that each of these characteristics are distinctive in their own right. My faith lends one perspective, my blackness another and being a woman too. When they intersect, there’s a sweet spot that not many brands have considered. As brands increasingly work with black and other underrepresented content creators, they would stand to benefit from not seeing them as a monolith. For example, though we would be similar to some degree, a black Christian woman will naturally have different life experiences, views and perspectives, but still valuable, to myself the same way an Asian Muslim woman would. With that said, if intersectionality is in mind when it comes to working with content creators by honouring each characteristic, I believe that’s when the magic happens!
My identity isn’t something I’m able to detach from what I create, even if I wanted to. It’s given my content a certain richness, depth and context that I’m incredibly proud of. As Anaïs Nin said, indeed we do see things as we are, and we create as we are to.
Hafsa is a content creator passionate about all things self-care, health and wellness. She's also a part of our Influencer Network! You can sign up to be a part of our network here for access to industry events, career support and partnership opportunities.