Wow, what a ride. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I walked for Max Mara in Milan. But I still remember that September so well: partly because, before that show, I was starting to feel beaten down about modelling. It was spring-summer so there wasn’t much I could wear; I missed out on four shows because of wardrobe. And then I met the designer at Max Mara, and I remember, he’s showing me what he’d like me to wear and I said, “Wait, is that a hijab?” And, he says, “Yes. Because I had you in mind for this show.” And then I walked. And it was amazing. But it wasn’t until after that I realised what a big moment it was. Not just for me, but for so many young women who’d waited the longest time to see someone who looked like them on a runway. That day, I posted a photo to thank the designer for keeping my wardrobe requirements in mind. And this girl commented, “He keeps you in mind, he keeps us in mind. Now this Muslim shopper keeps Max Mara in mind.”
And that’s a powerful memo to brands everywhere: not just that faith and fashion can absolutely co-exist, but that representation reaps its own rewards. And I really feel this new momentum in the fashion world now. This sense that young Muslim women like me are finally accepted as consumers; finally, we can look at a magazine and see ourselves staring right back. And, sure, people say, “Oh, it’s just clothes, it’s just looking pretty.” But it’s way more than that. It’s about giving a sense of fearlessness to young women. That’s the thing I have to remind myself: after I did the Miss Minnesota USA 2017 pageant in a hijab, seven women from my community did the same the next year; seven. It’s the same with fashion: I’m doing this to make it easier for other young women. And not for one kind of woman, not just Muslims, but everyone. I feel super lucky to be part of a new era of diversity. Because it’s not just me: if you think about people like Maye Muske, the 70-year-old still killing it on the runway, or Winnie Harlow, who’s done so much for body positivity, they create this feeling that, right now, there’s never been a better time to be different; there’s never been a better time to be yourself.