Modest Street Style

Creating Your Own Opportunity

Photos Courtesy of  Joshua Kissi  NYC

Photos Courtesy of Joshua Kissi NYC

The future is so unsure. Seems like nowadays things—people are so uncertain. Some of us are up then some of us are down, and we just fluctuate from being up and down then down and up again. I’ve noticed this since I’ve recently been deemed as whole ass grown adult that life is fluid. And, that at the end of the day we all have choices—whether we think we do or don’t. You have a choice and so do I. Doesn’t matter how bad or good something is, you can say yes or no. Perhaps, even maybe.

I remember in my teens and early 20’s that I longed for someone to tell me the “right” way to do life things. I wanted people of age to give me the answer, that golden truth of success and belonging in this world. For the most part, the people who knew nothing about me or wanted me to fall in their content with “whatever I’m given” footsteps told me what I should do, who I should be. I rebelled because if life looked anything like what they were handed, what they accepted then I wanted no parts in it.

For the few folks that I regarded with high esteem and respect, they would always tell me something along the lines of “create your own opportunity”.

I’d grumble internally, angry at the fact that they hadn’t given me the answer that I so desperately wanted, that I needed. I needed an adult to tell me what to say, how to think, and most importantly tell me what my voice was. What it sounded like. Where to find it.

“Create your own opportunity, Leah,” the voices of mentors echoed.

I couldn’t comprehend what they meant. I looked at the shit I had—which was zero and found it impossible to create something viable from nothing. These adults must’ve had it all wrong. Clearly, they’d been set up much more lucratively than I. I was never going to be the person I was looking for.

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I still never stopped asking myself as well as others about this so-called self-made opportunity.

Although hard-headed and rigid in my thinking, I’ve got to give credit to myself, I have always been curious. Curious to know how stories and narratives came to be. To exist. I’ve always been curious to know why some of us have and others have not. What characteristics does one have to possess to be on the other side of greatness.

To me, greatness was always something I’ve dreamed of, yet hadn’t known exactly what it entailed. But, I always knew it’d be good for me to experience.

I complained a lot about the resources I didn’t have. I’d explain my ideas to different artists and friends, and they’d be like, you should do it. And, I’d always reply, “I’m Black, I’m fat, and I’m a poor woman. You’ve gotta have resources to pull that off.”

There were times in my life where I hadn’t had shit. Like nothing. But, looking back, that’s not fully true. I remember one time, I had upwards of ten calls per day coming from bill collectors. My bank account was in the negative. Overdraft on top of overdraft. The phone calls were getting to me. I couldn’t pay them no matter how bad I wanted to. So, they continued to blow my phone up.

“I’m stuck,” I cried. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I got up and opened the door.

I returned to the couch, sniffling and watching the clouds go by. I was angry that I was so educated and had no job. And, that the jobs that were paying were 8 and 10 dollars an hour. Which would only put a dent in my piling debt. I was mad that my husband at the time could only afford to hold down the rent and nothing else. I was mad that my mom was mentally ill and that my daddy wasn’t there. That my family hadn’t reached out nor was financially able to lift me out of the shit show that I’d created trying to educate myself in America.

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I cried and cried and cried some more.

After that, I asked myself a question: what can you do right now for free instead of crying and feeling sorry for what you don’t have?

I answered myself: I could probably write. I mean, I do like writing stories and I do want to be a serious writer one day. I could write for practice at least.

So, I wrote.

What else can you do for free? I can post my stories on Instagram.

So, I posted things on Instagram.

There were fashion events and networking events that I could meet people at. Some free and some not. For the ones that weren’t free, I emailed the organizers and told them that I had no money but would like to attend. 90% of them would send me complimentary tickets.

I created content and emailed people. When that batch was a fail, I created more things and emailed it to more people. Most of them were rejected or ignored. I had my times where I was like fuck this opportunity shit. I need a real job. My bills aren’t going to get paid from “opportunity”. Which meant that in-between jobs that I absolutely loathed I created content and emailed people.

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My thoughts were that if I kept doing this that one day someone would be like hey! She’s not only talented but diligent. For the most part, I would hang onto the hope that one day I’d get the yes that I was looking for. I knew that I was good, but I needed others in my fields to validate my talent on a larger scale. I couldn’t do it alone.

When I tell you to create your own opportunity, I am telling you something that has been said to the folks before me and will be told to the folks after me until the end of time. You might not get it right now and maybe you will not understand it, but there is so much wealth in that simple statement.

Opportunities are everywhere, all around us just floating around. Many of us don’t see it. Many of us miss it. Many of us allow them to pass because we are too scared that we aren’t qualified. That we will make a fool of ourselves. We get that “what will other people think?” syndrome going on.

But what would happen if you just did it anyway? Learned as you go. Grabbed that opportunity by the arm and molded it into something cool and great. Something with purpose.

Stop waiting for an opportunity to stumble upon you. Go out there and capture one.

 

xoxo,

 

Leah V

Inclusion: The Perception of Perfection in Islam

Photos Courtesy of  Eric Puschak

Photos Courtesy of Eric Puschak

Recently, I’ve been politely shunned because of the kinds of videos I make and the kinds of things I say aren’t ‘halal’ enough for Islamic audiences. I’ve also been outright told by another Islamic organization that I “don’t meet the needs for their current student body” and was denied a speaking engagement. Times like these I want to move further away from so-called Islamic organizations and communities.

Because I talk about bikini waxing, I’m not Muslim enough.

Because I talk about dating, I’m not Muslim enough.

Because I wear tight jeans and turbans, I’m not Muslim enough.

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Ever since I was a young, Black Muslimah, I’ve always felt displaced. No matter how hard I tried to outwardly appear Muslim and fit in, it was never enough to just believe. To the Arab-speaking Muslims, I wasn’t Arab so I was immediately dismissed. They wouldn’t give me salaams even though I’d offer it first or embrace me like they would other Arabs. I was ignored, pushed to the side. When I was in the Black Muslim communities, I hadn’t covered my face with niqab or wore black all the time, so to them I wasn’t Muslim enough because I was chasing the Dunya.

I’d go to the mosque seeking spiritual cleansing just to be stared down for wearing pants or bright colors or nail polish. I’d been told that my prayers weren’t going to be accepted. Basically, why are you even praying was what I heard. I always thought that in Islam, you come as you are.        

When I think of Islam, I imagine acceptance and openness and beauty and a sense of calming. Instead, I am met with opposition, fakeness, sexism, and criticism.   

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I’ve been invited to speak at the University of Ottawa next month about Islam and feminism. I was so shocked that Muslims at the collegiate level wanted me to speak about such a taboo topic. I thought that I’d reach out to other Islamic organizations as well and propose to lecture on topics like prejudice, sexism, and feminism within the communities.  

It’s 2017 and with all the community based campaigns that have been going on about tolerance and acceptance, I thought that perhaps some change had occurred.

I’ve emailed about 60 organizations. Not one has accepted my invitation to speak. Will my Black face tarnish the other male speakers or the perfect Middle-eastern or Indian hijabi speakers? Will my turban, red lipstick, and nail polish create a frenzy at your panel discussion?

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It’s funny how I’m too risqué for certain Muslims. What uproar do you see when DJ Khaled partners with Ciroc or when French Montana was dating a Kardashian but was openly fasting during the month of Ramadan or how Nouman Ali Khan was playing the field but still keeping it halal? How interesting that communities want perfect, virgin Muslim women to speak, be in the forefront, but men are judged on an entire different level.

The truth is, I don’t belong. And, I’m not sure if I should be sad about it or liberated. I’m too out there. Too opinionated. Too real for the organizations who like keep up appearances. How sad that we can’t include all Muslims in discussions. Include all Muslims in community campaigns and events. As a Muslim woman, why do other organizations welcome me with open arms? The LGBTQ community, the body positive community, random artists, and loners and the small amount of Muslim sisters who rock with me. With no judgment. They care about my character more than my appearance as a human being.

As for me, I’m going to reach out to other organizations that can handle and will celebrate a fierce, Black Muslim girl.

 

xoxo,

 

Leah V