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Melanie & Sebina Get Real on Insta-Live

Posted on Dec 28, 2017
Melanie Elturk

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This past weekend I sat down with my girl Sebina Hussain (@sebinaah) on insta-live and discussed a range of important hot topics, from the lack of Black Muslim representation at Dubai Modest Fashion Week to racism in the Muslim community to the challenges of being a blogger and style influencer -- we left no stone unturned and kept the convo 100% real and honest. It was refreshing to hear her views on these issues as a British-Pakistani, who's grown up in a community so different from my own, yet similar in a lot of ways, too. I loved reading your comments as we spoke and how engaged you all were (the beauty of live video is how interactive we get to be with you all!) Your input really helped move our exchange along. Stay tuned for much more to come in the future. Here are some key takeaways I took from our eye-opening dialogue.

Black Women were largely missing from Dubai Modest Fashion Week. This is indicative of a far deeper issue

In the organizers' defense, Halimah Aden, Saufeeya Goodson and Manal (@chinutay) were in attendance (I was told they invited two other Black Muslim bloggers who declined the invitation) and when the issue was brought to the organizers' attention, they were honestly surprised and hurt because they felt they put forth real effort to be inclusive of all backgrounds. 

That being said, a lot of emotion was behind the outcry, rightfully so. Unfortunately however, this is indicative of a much larger issue. African Americans make up the largest racial group in the American Muslim community, yet, unfortunately are the most invisible. As children of immigrants, our parents bring their own biases when migrating to this country. That, coupled with an already hostile environment and violent history against them makes Africans and African Americans doubly subject to racism in our community. As an ally, I believe change begins at home. If you hear or see microagressions or casual racism happening at home, call it out. Talk about it with your family. Is it subconsciously fostered and perpetuated? Stop, think, and discuss it. When I asked Sebina what she thought the best way to talk about this issue was, she replied, "Let Black Muslims themselves do the talking." As a Pakistani-British Muslim, Sebina expressed that she obviously is not the expert on their lived experiences, nor is it her place to explain their feelings or how they should feel. Advocacy and education are important, but so is hearing from them and giving them center stage. At this point I knew I needed to do an insta-live with a Black Muslim blogger to have an even deeper conversation surrounding this very important topic. 

Blogging is a tough gig; it's not all rainbows and butterflies

As a modest fashion blogger that has been at it for a few years now, Sebina expressed that over time, she has come to realize blogging isn't all it's cracked up to be. She expressed that while its great to get free stuff and go to fun events, 90% of the job is a lot less glamorous than it seems. Compared to other jobs where you have an expectation up-front of how much you can make, blogging is a lot more uncertain. There's no standard salary, it's unpredictable and you're expected to do so much for free. When you do receive free products from mainstream brands for example, you feel pressured  to post about it in order to nurture great relationships with those brands -- but as Sebina point out, you're not getting paid for any of that work.

Bloggers are human, too

A comment was made that bloggers display a lifestyle that is luxurious and unsustainable. That our rising fame makes us put on more makeup and wear uber-expensive brands and this influences people of all ages and can even cause some to go into debt trying to mimic the life displayed on our feeds. We empathize completely with their point - it's something I myself struggle with! As Sebina expressed, most of us aren't as decked out as we appear to be 24/7 -- whether we're running errands or simply going to work everyday (Sebina added that as an attorney she doesn't wear a lick of makeup to work). And while Sebina does love to get decked out for her IG posts, it's important she show all sides of her on her different platforms to avoid a warped sense of reality amongst her followers.  

We're not 100% ourselves on our platforms

Whether you're representing a brand (like me) or amass a following on a personal account, we're still catering to an audience and are subject to certain pressures. For me, I represent a whole team behind my brand and have to think about how what I put out affects the brand we've built. This can sometimes be a struggle when I'm tempted to try something a certain way style-wise, but have to hold back. Similarly, with content on Instagram, what seems to resonate with people is pretty-looking-things, because, as Sebina pointed out, people who scroll through their IG feeds tend to want to escape real life and are looking for stuff that is lighthearted and aesthetically pleasing. As a result, I've had to scale back on more substantive stuff on Instagram that could be read as too serious or even depressing and save it for YouTube and right here on the blog. This is really hard and it kills me! 

How our content affects viewers keeps us up at night

I lose sleep worrying about whether what I've put out there will lead someone to do something wrong. Is my content productive? Sebina's reply to this was: "So long as I know my intention is good, I'm ok. I can't be worried about what others may do - otherwise, I would never put anything out." Great point. As a group of us were huddled in a tent in Dubai the day it rained during Modest Fashion Week, Sebina commented that maybe God was sending a sign that He didn't approve of the event. My gut responded, "No, rain is a mercy -- it's a good sign!" Sebina's husband's comment hit my heart like an anvil: "Would the Prophet (S) approve of this?" I have to be honest, that cut me like a knife. What would he think? 


We all need community

For four consecutive Fridays last month, I was unable to make it to the mosque for Friday prayer. This reminded me how central my faith and community are to my life, well-being, and sanity. I'm so blessed to live in a city where the community is open and inclusive, and run by some of the best imams in the world! I really felt for people who lack this access, and Sebina reminded me that so many people from around the world come to our channels to feel a part of a community -- where they can re-fuel, recharge, and revitalize their faith and feel a sense of belonging. What a great reminder.

Did you guys tune in live? Do you want to see more? Comment below with people you'd like to see me live with next!


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