For some, a lipstick is just a lipstick. But for others, it's a source of strength, creativity, and expression. In our series Power Faces, we'll explore the relationship between strong women and the makeup they choose to wear — or not. Our third subject, Miski Muse, is a model and student living in New York City.
You'd be surprised by the amount of people who assume that you're bald or don't care about your appearance when you wear a scarf. There are so many people who are like, 'Why do you even style or dye your hair? Nobody's going to see it.' That shows that you're doing things for other people; I'm doing them for myself. I still want to feel good — who cares if no one sees it? I see it and that's very important to me.
Because I cover my hair, wearing makeup allows more personality to show through. You take something, and you put it back; it's simple math. I do think a lot of people equate modesty with being boring, though. After I was featured in Vogue, someone tweeted at me and said, 'Nice to see a hijabi woman in Vogue, but it's sad that you have to have all those pounds of makeup." When did modesty mean not taking care of myself? There's nothing in the Quran, which is our holy book, that says not to. It actually says that you should.
Growing up, I had no introduction to makeup. My mother put on eyeliner, and that's it. I started experimenting with colors and makeup in the seventh grade, and my mom did not get why I would wake up every morning and do that. She was like, 'You are beautiful just the way you are.' That's always what my family would reiterate, so in the back of my mind, I know that I don't need makeup, but I like it.
My family is not judge-y about me wearing makeup — they just don't understand it. It could be a lack of communication, or the fact that they had a different kind of upbringing in Somalia. I think what they learned was that the less makeup you wear, the more beautiful you are. I didn't grow up there, so I don't even have that concept in my mind. I'm trying to balance both worlds, and, at the same time, be myself.
For me, makeup is a form of expression and also how I combat my depression and anxiety. Some days, if I'm feeling down, putting on a little bit of concealer gives me that push that I need. Whenever I do a deep lip, I'm like, 'What business are we handling today?' As I'm applying, I'll say, 'You can do this and it's going to be okay.' Knowing that I put five minutes of my time towards myself instead of lying down or going through Facebook makes me feel good.
It's not about being done up, because I don't think that's a prerequisite to feeling beautiful. But I like knowing that I've put effort into myself, whether that's braiding my hair or whatever. It's a form of self-care for me.
Growing up, I was hugely self-conscious about my lips and my eyes, because kids were mean. They would tell me I had owl eyes — that was my nickname throughout elementary school.
I used to get teased a lot for having darker eyelids, too. People would be like, 'Why are your eyelids a different color?' I wasn't comfortable accentuating that, so I didn't want to put on eyeshadow or draw attention to myself at all.
It's funny, because those are the features that I love now. I would have done anything to have smaller lips or smaller eyes back in the day, but now I wouldn't trade them for the world. It's interesting the way that comes about. I think that it shows growth. Now, eyeliner makes me feel like I can conquer anything. It's crazy how a little line can have that effect.
You hear about how representation matters, you hear it, and you think, whatever. But people don't understand how huge representation actually is.
When I was younger, I used to rip out every image of a Black woman who was featured in a magazine, which was no more than 10 pages per issue. I would pin them up and every month, they'd be on rotation.
To go from seeing someone who looked slightly like me in a magazine, to seeing someone like Halima Aden, who literally looks like me, on a cover — that's a feeling I don't know how to explain. I bought the magazine and was crying, and the cashier at the register was also wearing a hijab. She looked at me and we had a moment. It's no longer just a dream now — it's tangible.
It's still weird to call myself a model. I go to events and people are like, 'What do you do?' and I don't know what to say. I'm getting better at it, but I feel like a fraud. I know that's really dumb. I've done work and people tell me that I'm a model and in my head, I am a model. But then I'm like, Wait... but am I?
It's not so much about the connotation; I really don't care what people think. But I'm not the average model; I'm not six foot and size two. Even though I'm comfortable in myself, I'm still not seeing enough people who look like me to be like, I can be a model, too. And that's some growing that I have to do internally.
In the end, if you wake up and you decide that this is what you want to do, then that's what you're going to do and no one can take that away from you. That's your power and I've come way too far to put it in someone else's hands.