‘I’m not only a Muslim woman model; I’m also a dark model, a tiny model, and a model who is absolutely unique.’ It doesn’t imply I’m not human or a decent model just because I’m humble.
Most agencies now have at least one hijabi model, although they can sometimes seem like a throwaway. This is why Umma [the first modest model agency in the world] is so successful. They are a representation of all modest women, not only Asian, Moroccan, or Pakistani ladies.
Umma has aided me in several ways. If there had been an agency like this when I first started, it would have made my work a lot easier. I no longer have to be concerned that I won’t be able to be myself in case they think I’m being tough. It eliminates the need for me to have difficult conversations with clients. Without my knowledge, Umma put things in place. When I get on set, they have arranged for me to have my own dressing room and have taken into mind my nutritional requirements. If there is meat on set, it is either halal or there is a vegetarian choice, and any desserts are free of gelatine. With a thorough email, they put those things in place ahead of time. They state what I’m not going to display, so I’m never expected to show up on set nude or anything. When I book with a more mainstream agency, I have to tell them that I won’t be showing much flesh and that I can’t eat certain foods.
I was New Look’s first hijabi model, and I remember my manager making sure they knew I was Muslim before I went on set. He informed them of what I will and will not be able to do. On site, there was a dressing room for me. The staff at New Look were fantastic, and we immediately began discussing my wardrobe, including how tight the pants were, how much neck I wanted to show, and how much wrist I wanted to expose. ‘Amina stated she wasn’t satisfied with the form of the dress,’ the photographer recalled, so I had a scarf on and it was thrown over my shoulder in the first shot they took. They took that into account, which I much appreciated.
I’m not aiming to be an influencer; if that were the case, I’d be battling for likes and recognition on Instagram. I’d like to do something bigger. I’d always wanted to be a model; that was my fantasy job.
I believe it was the lack of representation of individuals like myself in the media that inspired me to pursue a career as a model. When I was little, I used to be puzzled as to why no one in the cartoons I watched could relate to me. I wasn’t furious, but I would have laughed if someone had told me where I would be right now. It was so far-fetched that I assumed it would never happen, you know. I wasn’t angry that I didn’t have legal representation, but I was disappointed.
I am a very motivated individual. I’ll always find a way when it comes to getting things done. I didn’t go to an agency at first; instead, I tried one magazine since I didn’t know what else to do or whether an agency would take me. I went to a magazine with several photos to see if they thought I had promise. ‘This is never going to happen for you,’ they effectively said. I just can’t imagine somebody wanting to appear like a Muslim woman because you don’t have the look, you don’t have the attitude.’ That’s all the media cares about; they want people to connect with my picture. This was long before Mariah Idrissi, long before the H&M campaign, and long before Halima Aden.
Umma assisted me in meeting a variety of brands. They provided me with several possibilities, including placing me on guest lists so that I could network, as well as introducing me to designers and other professionals. I worked with them during London Fashion Week, I worked with Madessa, a very prominent brand in the Muslim market, I did a piece for Buzzfeed, and I shot for a magazine in New York.
I’m not worried about modeling for fashion week [when there is very little space to change backstage], since I’ll just have to work around it. If a changing room cannot be created, that is OK; I will change in the restroom. That is the unfortunate aspect of the profession; there will be times when everything is out of your control, but if you want to fight for what you believe in, you must seize those moments.’
ROSETTA CAMPAIGN FASHION has trimmed and shortened the interview.