You know what’s an an awesome thing that happened this week? The fact that CoverGirl has announced an important first: its debut Cover Girl who wears a hijab. This is especially monumental as it comes in a time of political turmoil and anti-Muslim bigotry, and just three weeks after naming the 17-year-old makeup artist James Charles its first Cover Boy.
24-year-old Nura Afia, a Colorado native, always loved taking part in beauty routines. She first started watching online beauty tutorials in 2011 while breastfeeding her baby daughter, Laila. Afia was married at 18 and had her daughter at 19–while spending time at home with her daughter, she would often look for new tutorials, but found there was a lack for Muslim women. This is why she started to make her own, which she explained to the New York Times:
“While there was a lot of content focused around fashion and how to dress, there were still very few videos out there for the massive audience of observant Muslim girls who love beauty and are constantly on the hunt for cosmetics. “I just felt there was a real void — especially in videos produced by Muslims living in the United States, and because the dramatic looks many women who wear hijab choose to wear can take real practice. So I decided to have a go at creating videos myself.”
Five years later, Afia signed a contract to become CoverGirl’s latest ambassador. This means she will star in commercials for the beauty giant, and one of those gigantic billboard in Times Square, repping the new So Lashy BlastPro mascara, alongside celebrity representative, such as Sofia Vergara and Katy Perry. How cool is that? As of now, she has more than 215,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel and 13 million views of her video tutorials. She has also previously worked with Revlon.
Afia, of course, is still processing everything–and can’t believe it’s all happening:
“When I first saw the email from CoverGirl earlier this year, I just couldn’t believe it. I actually took two or three days to reply because I thought it must be fake. I felt it had to be some sort of joke given they had never had an observant Muslim campaign face before.”
What you may not realize, as reported by the Times, is the fact that the Muslim personal cosmetics and care market is worth more than $54 billion. It’s even expected to reach $80 billion by 2020–a welcome change to the beauty industry that often tries to whitewash people. This also shows a growing change in how women use beauty projects (i.e. they want products that mirror who they are, not a model who doesn’t look like them).
Afia, who once felt uncomfortable wearing her hijab, is now glad to be part of a movement promoting Muslim inclusion into the beauty industry:
“Frankly, I feel proud to be part of a movement that is showing the hijab in a positive light for once. The more of us who can wear them as representatives of these big household names on TV or billboards the better. It is a reminder that the hijab can take us to amazing places, and not hold us back from achieving our wildest dreams like some people say it will.
These brands aren’t exploiting us. It’s more about including us and making us feel like we matter. It’s about them finally showing us that they know we are beautiful, too.”
Well said. This can’t come at a better time–and hopefully her visibility will shed stereotypes about Muslim culture.