Posted on Jul 22, 2019
Haute Hijab Staff
Other than Melanie, it seems like pretty much the most loved Haute Hijab team member member is Emma Williams, our senior customer experience associate. You know Emma! She is the warm and friendly person who answers your emails, tries to fix your problems, listens to your concerns and makes sure all things regarding your hijab orders are handled with the proverbial white-glove treatment! But, she is much more than that! Did you know that her family is very international, hailing from Serbia, Japan and Nigeria? Or, that she intensively studied Arabic for a year? Or, that she is an ardent feminist and is inspired by HH's message of Muslim women empowerment?
Get to know Emma as she answers 15 fun (and a few deep) questions in our ongoing summer team-focused series - "15 Things You May Not Know About ... "
Emma in Paris!
1. What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
My favorite thing to do in my free time is spending time with my friends. I have to say that in my life right now, my work and friends are the main two sources of fulfillment and joy. I have lived all over the world, so I have friends from all over who are so different and yet such incredible people. Never underestimate the power of friendship. As a very social/extroverted person, my free time is dedicated mainly to hanging with those I love most - my chosen family.
2. What are your hobbies? What are your dream hobbies?
My hobbies include physical exercise: I love playing squash, any racket sport really, running, pilates, etc. I also love to read. I am currently reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book The Thing Around Your Neck. It’s a compilation of short stories that are heart wrenching, inspirational and beautifully written.
I also love to watch GOOD movies - IMDB top 250 list is popping. I think I’ve seen every movie on there.
I make collages for fun too and share them on social media (Instagram exclusively). If you want to see, check out my page @nodilemmas.
My dream hobbies include extreme sports like skydiving, rock climbing and free falling - I haven’t had many opportunities to engage but I know I’d love the adrenaline rush!
3. What is something you hate doing?
I hate ironing more than anything. Give me a vacuum, swiffer, a broom, even a chainsaw hahaha - literally anything other than an iron!
4. If you could eat something on an endless loop, what would it be?
Thai food. Be it pad see ew, pad thai, red curry. If it’s Thai, I’m happy.
5. What feeds your soul/when are you at your happiest/best?
House music. Whether it’s tech-house, indie-house or afro-house, house music has a transcendental effect on me that I find difficult to describe with words. It gives me goosebumps, or a physical sensation of power, company, courage and motivation. Or, simply a wave to ride. There are few situations that are not enhanced in some way by music, so I listen every chance I get.
6. Who do you look up to the most and why? (living or dead)
I am an ardent feminist, so I look up to women like Frida Khalo, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, Maya Angelou, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi - women who against all odds entered a male-dominated space and, quite frankly, became legends. Legends because they left (beautiful) marks on the world through all sorts of mediums, be it painting, literature, fashion, etc. They were able to influence others for the better, represent those who are mis- and underrepresented, evoke compassion and bring female oppression to people’s attention in artistic, highly effective and controversial ways. And, they generally empowered women by fostering solidarity through their social, political and economic commentary.
7. What is something, if you could go back and change in your life, that you would?
During my gap year I studied Arabic intensively for hours on end every day for months. However, I stopped abruptly once I started university, so I have almost nothing to show for all of the effort I put in learning the language. I wish I had continued my studies because I absolutely love the language, I speak three languages already, but I would love to be able to include Arabic as one that I’ve also mastered. If you are studying a language right now, don’t stop! Languages are very easy to forget if not practiced regularly.
8. What is your biggest challenge in life?
My biggest challenge in life is not being geographically close to the ones I hold dearest to my heart. I’ve had the privilege of living and traveling all over the world, which has given me the opportunity to make friends and have family members who live all over, too. But, that also means that I am constantly missing people whom I love dearly, which is definitely not easy.
9. What is something about you that people would be surprised to know?
I was born in Manhattan, my father is American, my mother Serbian. When I was 11, I moved to Dubai where I lived for seven years. Then I moved to New York to do my undergraduate studies at Columbia University. After that came Paris for a year to study abroad. After I finished university, I moved to Serbia where I lived for two-and-a-half years before I moved back to the Big Apple. I’ve had the privilege of traveling to 36 countries by the age of 25. My family is also a sort of United Nations - I have Serbian, American, Japanese and Nigerian branches all in one big disjointed, wonderful family tree.
10. What is that big dream thing you want to accomplish in life? Or if not one thing, a few things?
(Emma and her sisters to the right) My biggest dream is to empower women. As general and vague as that might sound, my studies at university, where I majored in gender/sexuality studies and human rights, have greatly informed my life’s purpose, which is to uphold social justice and empower those who are marginalized and oppressed.
When I think about my life, I truly have been so lucky - the life I have been able to live, the opportunities presented to me, the person I’ve been able to become as a result. I am so happy and grateful, and yet I look at all the kinds of lives that exist - the pain, hunger, violence, oppression, and I think, how is it that life can be so deeply unfair and unjust? I realize life isn’t fair, and it is silly to ever think it will be, but I also don’t like the complacency inherent in that statement, “Life isn't fair.”
We can always improve things, better lives and generally be good people. This also drives my whole passion for social justice and human rights, I want to share what I have - extend it to as many as I can - because I certainly didn’t deserve what I got and other people don’t deserve what they get. I feel it’s my responsibility to spread as much of my privilege to whomever I can, hopefully in a structural and systemic way instead of a “bandaid”-type response.
As you might imagine, I am so happy that I work at a company that empowers women both Muslim and non. I know that I will always have this goal be at the forefront of what I do because it is a passion of mine that simply cannot be ignored. How I empower women might change down the line, but it is my dream to always have that be the driving force in my personal and professional life.
11. To the non-Muslims - what is your favorite OR not-so-favorite thing about working at a Muslim-owned company? Or, what is one thing you’ve learned that surprised you about Muslims?
I love working at a Muslim company because I can relate culturally in so many ways. I grew up in Dubai (yaa3ni), and I have so many Muslim friends, I even feel somewhat Arab because of my upbringing. Some people would have the misconception that I work for a very religious, conservative company that doesn’t know how to have fun. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only does Haute Hijab combine fashion, modernity and open-minded thinking with tradition, faith and the importance of upholding one’s values and religious identity, we also have SO MUCH FUN DOING IT!
12. What does a typical Friday night look like for you?
I like going out a lot, listening to my favorite DJs at venues like the Brooklyn Mirage or Gospel and dancing the night away. That is definitely what my favorite kind of Friday night looks like.
13. What’s the strangest or most fun family tradition you have?
Ohhh where do I start? I guess the best family tradition that I have is our annual trip to a new country each year. Given that my family lives literally all over the world and planning can be very difficult in terms of getting everyone together, it’s so magical when we are all able to meet up in a totally new place and have a family adventure there together.
14. Cat person or dog person (or some other kind of animal)?
Emma and her dog, Miroslav!
DOG PERSON ALL THE WAY. We’ve always had a dog in my family, and now I have one of my own! He’s a white Maltese named Miroslav. Miroslav is a traditional, old-school Serbian name. When I got him he was only two months old, a tiny, cute, puff of a creature. I looked at him, and I was like, he’s got to have a serious name because he’s literally the exact opposite. So Miroslav it was. Miki is his nickname - I find it hilarious when non-Serbs try to pronounce his actual name though!
15. If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be and why?
“A woman who is convinced that she deserves to accept only the best, challenges herself to give the best. Then she is living phenomenally.” - Maya Angelou