Hijabi YouTube Sensation Aysha Abdul On Beauty Standards & Representing Women of Colour

The young Canadian woman is a face for her generation.

YouTube video sensation Aysha Abdul in her hijab

At only 22 years old, YouTube video star Aysha Abdul is a beauty vlogging veteran

The Toronto-based Muslim woman (of Ethiopian heritage) started her channel in 2011 when she was just 16 and has since grown to almost 154,000 subscribers. “As I grew, I noticed that there wasn’t really anyone covering beauty on YouTube at the time that looked like me — that was black and also wore the hijab,” she says. “It was out of the norm and because of that I didn’t really tell anyone, not even my family.”

In the past few years, though, she’s seen a shift in the way the media covers women of colour (WOC) and women who wear hijabs (hijabis). “For example, Halima Aden wears a hijab and she was signed to an international modeling agency,” says Abdul. “We’re finally getting coverage, but I never had that representation in the media back in the day.”

Now Abdul is one of the young women showcasing her diverse looks so the next generation can grow up seeing role models they can relate to — in her case, a woman of East African descent who wears the hijab. “It’s so great to be able to act as a voice for them,” she says, “Because we are one of those communities that is very underrepresented.”

Adbul chatted with Best Health about a few topics near to her heart, including wearing a hijab, testing foundations and promoting beauty inclusivity:

On wearing a hijab on YouTube

“When people see my channel at first glance, they see the hijab. That’s what sticks out to them,” she says. “They may think my content is only for people who look like me, but that is totally not the case. Of course there are going to be Muslims and hijabis that watch my YouTube video channel, but there are also people that just love beauty and hearing reviews. Once you get past the hurdle, there’s a lot more behind the hijab.”

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On representing WOC

“I do a lot of foundation and makeup reviews,” she says. “And the best comments I get are when people say they haven’t found someone on YouTube before that has the exact skin tone as them that reviews products. They say it’s so nice to see a woman of colour creating content that they can relate to.”

On ignoring negative feedback

“Negative comments don’t really affect me because I know that these people that find my channel and post nasty things are not my subscribers or supporters,” she says. “They’re just trolls that are miserable or have had a bad day. I’m totally fine with blocking and deleting them. And there’s also this cool filter you can set up on YouTube, so I don’t even see the hate comments.”

On diversity and inclusivity in the beauty world

“It’s frustrating when I see campaigns with beauty brands and fashion brands and they’re not being inclusive at all,” she says. “Or if they are trying to be inclusive, it’s more like tokenism — having that one black person in a whole campaign, or having that one hijabi. Tokenism does not equal inclusivity. I think when brands make a conscious effort to be diverse, people really notice and appreciate that.”

On her advice for young hijabis and WOC

“Don’t be afraid to step outside of the norm,” she says. “What I do on my channel is completely out of the norm for my culture. But if you have a passion for something, you can accomplish it if you put in the time and effort. Follow your passion no matter what you look like and be confident.”

Abdul will be speaking at YouTube’s Women to Watch panel on March 8, 2018 on the topic of redefining traditional standards of beauty with fellow YouTuber Molly Burke and curvy model Elly Mayday.

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