Posted on Jul 26, 2019
An ophthalmologist and surgeon, an interior designer, a fashion maven, a pastry sous chef and an aspiring ballerina. We shined a spotlight on five extraordinary women to help celebrating the launch of our new Heritage Collection, in honor of Haute Hijab's tenth anniversary.
We wanted to highlight women who were making waves, big and small, in their chosen areas of profession and life. Women who understood and valued the importance of honoring one's heritage and pursuing one's dreams, who owned their own narratives and could help inspire the rest of us to work harder, dream bigger and be proud of ourselves as Muslim women.
And, these women did not disappoint.
Here they are gathered for you in one space - check out their interviews and let us know in the comments who'd you like for us to interview next!
1. Dr. Noor Amra
Dr. Noor Amra knows who she is and what is important to her - this makes up the crux of her work and her dedication to her family and her career. She is a board-certified eye physician and surgeon in California who uses her professional and personal experiences through her active social media presence (find her on Instagram @eyegirlmd) to inspire other Muslim women to pursue their dreams. We loved it when she said:
If you’ve ever been in my position - told you don’t fit in, you don’t look the part, or you simply don’t belong or will not thrive - I hope that you can see past the negativity and toward the amazingness that is your future. In becoming a surgeon, I have certainly faced my share of obstacles. And sadly, yes, many arose because of the presence of my hijab. But I refused to disavow such a central part of my spirit and my soul. I am a hijabi and proud of it.
2. Saudah Saleem
Saudah is an award-winning, nationally published interior designer (find her on Instagram @saudahsaleeminteriors). With exquisite design taste and an eye for fashion and styling, she creates beautifully curated, vibrant spaces tailored to exceed her clients’ expectations while fulfilling their unique lifestyle needs. One of our favorite quotes from her interview was when she talked about the heritage of African American Muslim women:
Many Americans’ first encounter with Islam in the U.S was through African American Muslims. It can be said that African American Muslim women were innovators of Muslim style in the U.S. After converting to Islam, with limited options on the market, many created their own stylized version of Muslim dress (dating back as far as the early 20th century).These women maintained their African American heritage while embracing hijab. For them, hijab was not seen as a symbol of oppression or as this foreign figure reduced to a black cloth, but as symbol of empowerment, choice, honor and distinction.
3. Mademoiselle Meme
If you are a consumer of all things modest fashion and media, you’ve probably heard of Marwa Biltagi, whose nickname is Meme. She is the California-bred brains behind Mademoiselle Meme, a digital media lifestyle magazine. After graduating with a degree in art history and relocating to the United Kingdom, Meme officially launched Mademoiselle Meme in early 2015. It remains a must-read international fashion and lifestyle website for anyone interested in the intersection of modesty and fashion. We appreciated when she spoke about heritage:
When I think of heritage, I don’t think about my ethnicity. I think of my tradition, the Islamic tradition. That, for me, is my heritage, my story and my identity. Being a Muslim in the Western world allows me to celebrate that fundamental foundation through my work, my interactions with others and through my manners. Wearing hijab is one of the ways I get to celebrate my tradition, as it is a clear marker of that important identity.
4. Sumaiya Bangee
Sumaiya Bangee has been working in kitchens for ten years and has a thirst for knowledge and a continuous curiosity for everything food related. Sumaiya moved to New York to work as a cook at Eleven Madison Park, and she’s currently shaking up the culinary world as a pastry sous chef at one of New York’s hottest new restaurants, Crown Shy. When she spoke about having to work extra hard because she stood out as usually the only hijabi in whatever kitchen she worked in, we felt it:
I started wearing my hijab when I was in sixth grade. There were moments of struggle early on when sometimes I felt like when I walked into a room, all eyes were on me. But that ended up playing into my strengths as I got older. The hijab played many roles in my journey as a chef, first as mentioned before about all eyes being on you. No one ever forgets me because I’m usually the only one in any cooking space wearing a hijab. So with the added bonus of always standing out, I knew I needed to always work extra hard to be great at my job, because people would always remember me for it.
5. Stephanie Kurlow
At only 17 years of age, Stephanie Kurlow took the world by storm when she shared her dream of becoming the world’s first hijabi ballerina online, launching a fundraising campaign to pay for a year’s tuition at a professional ballet school. Dancing since the age of two, Stephanie, who lives in Sydney, Australia, had all but given up on her life’s ambition after converting to Islam in 2010. She decided to continue her career after being inspired by ground-breaking athletes who also wore hijab. We loved it when she spoke about how she did not want her hijab to be seen as a barrier to achieving her dreams:
My hijab is really close to my heart. I reverted to Islam in 2010 and started wearing the hijab full time at 11 years of age. There has never been a professional ballerina who wears a hijab, so it’s been a challenge to have people become more accepting to the idea and possibility. I hope to live in a world one day where the clothes we wear are not stereotyped or ridiculed but instead accepted and welcomed.
We hope you enjoyed these interviews! Comment below to let us know other Muslim women you want to see interviewed here on our blog!