At the age of 30, I tried hijab modelling. I do less of it now, but I would like to document my experience before I forgot everything about it.
Charlotte McKee on Instagram. A girl crush.
When I first stumbled upon Charlotte McKee’s portraits on Instagram, I felt like I want to create similar things. At that time, I didn’t know which roles suit me better – the photographer or the makeup artist. I never thought I could be the model.
So, I went to learn how to do makeup. Youtube videos were my best friend, and I took one cheap class from Groupon. I guess I’ve learned a thing or two, but I still fail at dolling up my own face. My amateur-ish skills, however, do get me hired to do makeup for my siblings’ weddings (Fatimah, Khodijah, Maryam and my sister-in-law, Aisyah) and two engagement events (my cousin’s engagement and my sister-in law’s friend, Hannah).
Then I learned a bit of photography. I bought a basic photography online course on Groupon (again, and disclaimer, this blog post is not sponsored by Groupon) I managed to grab some basic. At least, I know how to play around with aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Also, I understand how to set white balance and focal range. I took a lot of my kids’ pictures and once tried to shoot a model at KLCC Park. The outcomes are amateur-ish as photography needs talent and consistency on top of the technical things. I didn’t give up, but I didn’t really practice photography keenly enough. One day, my kids broke my 50mm 1.8 lens, and I gave up my DSLR (a Canon T5i) to my little brother.
I love to try new things, but I am also an easy quitter.
The pro – I have many skills
The cons – They are mostly at the beginner-intermediate level
I didn’t think I could be a model because I’m already old. I have darker tan skin which does not necessarily mean ugly, but I don’t feel representative and empowered in a country where hijab models are mostly fair. Dark-skin girls spend on whitening products (cream, pills, powder) like it’s guilty to be born coloured.
From my early childhood, I was so conscious about my physical appearance – a round-shape nose, dark skin, uneven eyebrow, and weird body shape – narrower top and broader bottom (pear shape, we call). However, many people said that I have a model-like feature on my face. Later, I understand that it is my bone structure, my face is almost square and masculine, and as the trend now is the edgy masculine model face on billboards, I started to believe that I could make it.
How I started
So I try modelling during my unpaid leave last year. I tried to search for #hijabmodelwanted on Instagram and found this ad of a studio looking for hijab model. I send my best Instagram picture to the photographer, and he called me for a test shot and got myself listed in his model catalogue as an in-house beginner model. I also actively searched for jobs/collaborations outside that studio.
I started mid-July 2018 until end of October 2018 before I returned to work in November. In total, I did over 30 gigs in less than three months.
Things I learn from modelling
New things are fun, and possible.
Again, it’s the same message from me, you can do whatever the hell you want as long as you put your mind into it.
Networking is key
A quarter of my gigs were collaborations, meaning I didn’t get payment – but it’s good for experience and portfolio. It is also the way I understand the connections. I got many more paid jobs from people who recommend me to other people from the collaborations. I think that applies in any other thing that we do.
Pretty pictures are work of makeup and good lighting. It’s really a lot of work and can be deceiving.
Do I still want to do modelling?
So now that I’ve started working 9-5, I still take modelling jobs on weekends, but they are not my priority.
How is modelling connected to minimalism?
To be honest, I’m not so sure how minimalism is directly related to minimalism. In a way, it is somehow contradictory since photos of the model are shot for advertisement. Advertisements promote consumerism. As a minimalist model, please forgive me. I don’t even buy or wear brands that I model for, at least most of them.
But what I want to highlight is, I can never get to do hijab modelling without minimalism.
Minimalism clear my life from meaningless things, so I have more resources to do what I want to do. The unpaid leave I managed to take despite having commitments (kids, mortgage, etc.) can never be done without having enough saving; enough saving can never be done if I am materialistic and finish all the money I got from work.
I’m grateful for the experience.