One evening I saw a beautiful face trying on this weird looking eyebrow stencil. I had never seen such a device. I mean there was a head strap involved! As I continued to watch I found myself on giggle level 10 (the scale goes up to 9)! Right away I just had to learn who the woman was that made such comedic gold. Her name is Bella Yusuf. Her instagram is full of photos and videos on skincare, makeup, and style. Her bubbly personality will quickly brighten up your day. Seeing a woman of color, wearing a hijab, doing makeup tutorials and reviews was so amazingly beautiful to me.
Time went on and then the horrible crime happened in New Zealand. At mosque, a place of prayer, there was a mass shooting killing 50 lives, wounding another 50 lives, and affecting millions of lives around the world. It made me think of the reality of hate in our world, and the power of love that is needed. I wanted to speak to someone of Muslim faith and hear from them what life is like. Bella was on my mind and we had an insightful conversation. From being a young refugee, to taking a stand for her religious beliefs, going from sharing beauty with the world, to sharing pain with the world. Bella’s story is one of remaining positive when negativity is thrown your way.
Heads up this is a long one, because it was too good to cut short =]
Bella is the oldest of 10 children, 9 girls and 1 boy. Her family migrated from Somalia to Kenya, and from Kenya they came to America when she was 7 years old. At the age of 10 she began wearing her headscarf. Once she entered middle school, she decided to stop wearing her headscarf. After high school Bella began diving deeper into her spiritual growth and made the decision to wear her headscarf again.
“I felt comfortable because there was girls who were older than me, who still wore the headscarf. They’re working in these wonderful companies. They’re modeling for this top brand…I said hey, if they could do it, I could do it”.
In sharing her story, I realized Bella and I are around the same age. We both have stories of what happened in middle school after 9-11. I heard from my childhood Muslim friend, how people treated him and his family so terrible, and how he had to explain to them he was not from the same country as the terrorist. While I was hearing my friend tell his story, Bella was living hers. She experienced a great deal of bullying as well. Bella told me a story of what happened to her Muslim friend one day while they went into the locker room for their daily time of prayer. While the two were praying a girl kicked her friend and began to say harsh comments to them. When Bella spoke up for herself the girl began to push her.
“Nobody wanted to be my friend. I was only in 6th grade…Nobody wanted to sit with me. My teacher changed my assigned chair; all the way in the back, so nobody else would make fun of me or tease me. To even talk about this makes me shake. I was only a young kid…I was really bullied”.
Through the pain I saw in my friend’s eyes, and the pain I heard in Bella’s voice, they remained positive and did not return hate with hate. Bella stated that her parents taught her to love everybody no matter their background, race, or religion. As time went on, Bella gained more and more confidence and faith.
“If this is what I wanna do, and this is who I am, I’m going to wear my headscarf. Whether a person likes me or not…I’m gonna show everybody who I am, not what I have on. Even though the hijab and the scarf represents me, I am gonna show that I am not a monster”.
As much as Americans grew in having a better view of Muslims, many still needed to grow and be educated. As an adult, Bella faced discrimination when applying for jobs. She stated that sometimes the positions you want, you may not get all because of your scarf. Bella shared with me that even though you may be qualified for a position, you’ll get overlooked. For example, she was turned down by 5 nursing homes because of her headscarf.
Bella said that America is her home. Can you imagine not feeling welcomed in your own home? Bella was a young refugee girl when she came to America, and this is her home. We all want to feel safe in our homes.
“You come to this country where it’s wonderful, and then you have people who are hateful. You have people who are disgusted. You have people that hate you for no reason. They don’t understand you. And as a kid growing up in America, its like the norm for me”.
Through all the hate Bella has encountered, she makes the daily choice to put smiles on every face she meets. She sets out to educate all who will hear, about her religion and culture. Bella informed me that even though there are many Muslims around the world, not all have the same culture. At the core Islam is peace. I’ve learned, seen, and heard from Bella that Muslims are peaceful people, loving people, and caring people.
Bella went on to discuss with me a little more about the Muslim faith, her experiences as a Muslim woman, and Friday prayers; which is what was happening during the New Zealand shooting. Jumu’ah (Friday Congregational Prayer), is a holy prayer, and in the midst of this time of holiness, lives were taken.
“What happened to New Zealand was horrible, very horrible. Stuff like that scares me. I cannot go nowhere without somebody coming with me, especially a male figure. Stuff like that will happen in a gas station, at a store……Somebody will block you off, or you might just look at somebody and they will just probably shoot you, by just looking at you. I always have my guard, because you could just look at somebody and smile, and they would shoot you”.
To live your life, having to remain on guard is tough. I know many people of color feel that way or have felt that way at some point in their life. We must do better! Bella shared that she is thankful for all the people she has come across in America that are not like those fueled by ignorance and hate. She focuses on the positive in life and not the negative. She greets dirty looks with a smile and warm greeting. Bella hopes that, by her sharing love, that one day it will be just that small gesture of a smile, that will cause someone to turn their life around.
I want to share some things about the Muslim faith and culture I learned in our conversation: If ever you are invited to a Muslim household to share a meal, eat everything! They will treat you like royalty and out of love and respect, eat all that is before you. Muslims are very kind and helpful people. They are all about spreading love, peace, and positivity. Bella taught me about the 5 prayers a day Muslims pray. She also mentioned how she is not a stereotypical, quiet, Muslim woman, and has always been outspoken and bubbly. She was always the good kind of loud! Bella also taught me about Ramadan and all the wonderful good deeds Muslim people seek to do for others, and how it is a time of holiness for them.
As our conversation began to wrap up Bella began to share with me about life as a Muslim Beauty Influencer. She explained to me that some non-Muslims and some Muslims do not support her rocking her make-up, arched eyebrows, and how she wears her scarves. Bella believes theres no harm in playing with colorful makeup, and explained she understands where other Muslims are coming from, but she enjoys what she does. Bella said she does not wear makeup all the time, but loves it; and it washes away. She informed me that getting brand deals is difficult, because many companies don’t want to hire a black girl with a hijab to be a face of their makeup, and it pushes her to work ten times harder. Bella did give a shot out to Fenti, Urban Decay, Wunder2 Cosmetics, Beauty Bakerie, The Crayon Case, and Mented Cosmetics; all of which I will be looking into! She gravitates towards brands that cater to her skin color and are willing to have images of women in headscarves.
Bella spoke on how her faith also plays a role in what she is willing to wear and not wear. For example, she doesn’t wear tight clothes and would never show her cleavage, whereas I see many makeup artist glittering up their boobs to match their glowy makeup looks. I shared I’m guilty of rocking things short and or tight at times and many Christians would disagree with how I dress and rock makeup as well. I just told my mom today when discussing how she likes her shirts to run big, I said jokingly, “I want it tight, low at the top and high at the bottom!” Bella shops for clothes that are beautiful, comfortable, and stylish.
Bella Yusuf’s words spoke to my mind and my heart. I am grateful to her willingness to be transparent and teach this curious girl. In the end it all points to showing love, giving love, and spreading love. Now show some love on Bella’s Social Pages! Thank me later for introducing you to her =]