I can’t believe that I made it. For a long time, I hadn’t thought that I could.
Many of you who have followed my blog or my Instagram feed or even know me in real life understand that 2017 was filled with high highs and the lowest of lows. Having to navigate the world as a freshly divorced Muslim woman who was left with zero. Zilch. After ten years. Separating myself from toxic family members. Being dragged into bullshit by supposed friends, trolled by Muslims, and fatshamed by strange men who knew nothing of me when my dance video went semi-viral.
It has been an emotional rollercoaster to say the least.
As I sit on my bed with two pillows propped behind my back and under two old blankets, I am reminded of 2017 and all its adventures and struggles.
In January, I was severely depressed. Being only a few months post-divorce, no job or insurance, I had no prospects. It was winter, the sun was barely shining, and I fought to hang on. I was still blogging and trying to restart my YouTube page and look for a low-paying job with two masters. I tried to keep myself busy and took a shot at applying for an artist fellowship. It took me a month to complete the packet. But, I did and submitted it.
Maybe I’d get it and maybe I wouldn’t.
Things were quiet. I had to sit with myself. Figure out who I was and what I was made of.
During the silence, I’d cry when I thought about what was done to me. What I’d been through. I started to get spiritual because it was the only thing that was going to save me. My life was spiraling out of control.
I told myself that if I was to come into any money, I was going to book a trip somewhere in the world.
I’d hurt my knee in 2014 at work and the job treated me so badly, claiming because I was fat was the reason why I got hurt when clearly a patient attacked me on camera and I ended up falling over a chair.
My lawyer called me and after three years, they finally wanted to settle. Although they screwed me mostly and my lawyer took almost half, I had money to last five months. I decide to book my trip and live off the rest and try to pursue my creative career.
I was so scared to book the trip to London and Paris. I’d never been overseas by myself before. I called all my friends who traveled, just freaking out. They were just like book the damn tickets and stop trying to control everything. I booked the tickets and almost threw up. Every day, I regretted booking the flights, but there was no going back.
That trip was the most exhilarating thing I’d ever done in my life. I didn’t know what to expect and took everything moment by moment. Hell, I didn’t even have a working phone. I relied on strangers and my own intuition to get me through. I modeled (without an agent) for large companies, got my wallet stolen in Brixton, got lost a thousand times, I went on a date, I ate sushi, and semi-hitchhiked with a Russian. I made connections and I challenged myself like never before.
I came back refreshed and ready to take on the remainder of the year. During that time, I wrote another book. I’d written three books before this one, but they were all Sci-Fi. This was the first book about my life. I started with a story about being a poor fat kid growing up as the only Black Muslim in the neighborhood. Then the other stories began to spill out of me. The real story about my divorce, Mom’s mental illness, and my body image issues.
Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim was written in three months. I didn’t seek representation for it because I was running out of money and needed to look for a job. So, I put my project away. Many months were wasted filling out apps and sending my resume to hundreds of companies and not one responded.
I was being tested and failing miserably.
A few gigs rolled my way and I was able to work with Go Red for Women on a social media campaign about body positivity and health, flown to New York to do a video about Muslim women for Conde Nast, and then hosted the Allied Media Conference’s opening ceremony at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
June rolled around and although I was gaining momentum, I still hadn’t found a stable job.
I started to have very bad anxiety attacks. Like the ones that come out of nowhere. Like the kind where you think you’re going to die because your heart is beating so fast and it feels like a heart attack. And, usually they’d come every once in a while, but they started coming like several times a day. I tried all the techniques and they weren’t letting up. I became severely depressed.
I was quitting everything. The blogging. The modeling. The writing. I shouldn’t have gotten a divorce; I should’ve stayed with his emotionally abusive ass because I hadn’t deserved anything better. I wasn’t shit. My work wasn’t shit. I was a fraud. But, most of all, I was alone.
Withdrawing from close friends, they tried to call, and I ignored them. I was a dark cloud and didn’t want to be bothered. No one could help me, I thought. Finally, my friend called again. I answered. She invited me to the mosque for dinner, it was free, and it was Ramadan. I was broke, so I went.
I sat down at the table as they chatted, happily. The plate in front of me went cold. Their attention went to me. They asked if I was okay. I wasn’t. They tried to help, and I started crying. My one friend ushered me to the bathroom. I told her about the depression and anxiety attacks. She allowed me to cry on her shoulder. I asked her what was I supposed to do? What had God wanted me to do? I didn’t have anything left to give.
“You are not lazy. You put in the work. I see you putting in the work. You’ve gotta let go and give it to him. You’re not in control. Let it go,” she said.
Her words swirled around my head that night. The next morning, I woke up with the heaviness that had plagued me for the last few months gone.
A few days later, the Kresge Foundation emailed me and told me that I had won the Gilda Award, which came with a $5,000 grant, beating out 750 applicants.
I didn’t plan on crying on stage in front of a room full of white people when I accepted the award. I planned on gracefully showing how I appreciative I was. The tears I shed were ones of gratefulness. That for once, I’d been deemed as a prolific writer when not too long ago, I wouldn’t even dare to call myself a writer let alone a creative.
After the Gilda award, I bought a ticket to LA (where I hope to reside one day) and booked a few modeling gigs and met up with the Movers and Shakers. I went to the beach and laid there in a polka-dot two-piece and an Amber Rose cut. Listening to the waves as I soaked up the rays. I started crying again because my broke-ass had been blessed to make it to LA on a coach ticket and find a couch to sleep on.
As the summer winded down, I got a chance to work with Adidas Originals on their EQT launch, I was invited to do several video projects with the city of Detroit, I dropped a body-positive dance video that was viewed by over 200,000 folks and was featured nationally and internationally on CBS, CBS, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Bustle, and Teen Vogue (just to name a few). I was on local news! I was flown out to the University of Ottawa to talk about feminism and being Black and being fat. I was just featured in Elle Magazine. Yes, the hard copy.
And, the biggest accomplishment was that I was able to shop my memoir around. I sent my book proposal out to 100 agents in the matter of days. My fingers hurt from sending out all those emails. About twelve agents responded. Most of them offered me representation on the spot. On my 30th birthday, I was officially represented by a literary agency in New York. I one-day hope to see my fat ass face on the shelves of your local book store.
I never knew any of this was possible. And, I surely didn’t think my life would take this route, but I am so hopeful about the coming year.
Although, I’m still broke and figuring out how to make a living as an artist, a true artist that is transparent and raw and real, I know that my followers, my friends, and select family members will hold me down. I will hold me down.
My grandmother passed away last week, and we just laid her to rest. She was an avid reader, was photogenic, and loved makeup and fashion, like me. She was a pillar and the backbone of our family. Although, she had her quirks, like every other human, I’m here because of her. She even named me when I was born.
I have no choice but to go forward now. To push twice as hard as I have this year. To do the best I can to continue to show beauty where the media tries to hide it. To advocate for the little voices, the underrepresented, the folks that get shitted on daily. To push unconditional love and acceptance and equality of the sexes. Body positivity. Eradication of Islamaphobia and fatphobia.
To be the fattest, Blackest, Muslim with the loudest voice and the most contoured face you’d ever seen in your entire life.
2018 is gonna be litty.