This post originally appeared on Girlboss.
The Jersey native, of Jordanian and Palestinian descent, has been a powerful voice in the fight against Islamophobia and on the importance of diversity in media, and since starting muslimgirl.com in high school, has amassed huge commercial success.
“Our entrepreneurialism is a means to an end,” she told Forbes last year. “We don’t do this because we woke up one day and we decided ‘alright, let’s make a business’. We do this because it’s the only way that we can survive.”
Let’s get to know her, and her work, a bit better.
What was your very first job?
Probably my earliest job was helping out my dad in his electronics store when I was a kid. He sold video games in our hometown’s indoor flea market. In between playing Sonic the Hedgehog on our old school Game Gear sets or Tony Hawk Pro Skater on the Playstation we had set up for demos, I would help customers out with what they were looking for.
I always knew the most about video games than any of the boys in school, which became one of the skills that my brown ass would use to fit in. Watching my dad earn and value every sale, to pay our bills, really taught me the definition of hard work.
What do you “call yourself” now and, briefly, how’d you get here?
There are a lot of labels placed on me, but personally, I call myself a fighter. I had a surreal moment last summer when I was invited to Janelle Monae’s “Fem the Future” inaugural brunch, where I found myself taking selfies with her, sitting across a table from Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o – suddenly surrounded by people whose work I’ve deeply admired for so long.
You’re only ever in competition with yourself.
I was seated beside Chuck Lightning, one of Janelle’s producers, and I said to him, “I have no idea how I got here…” and he said, “Yes you do. You know exactly how you got here.” It’s been a cycle of sacrifice, hard work, and serious bootstrapping (the stories that social media doesn’t always tell). And sometimes you don’t even realise you’re doing it, either.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
You’re only ever in competition with yourself. It’s so true. Especially with everything you see on social media, it’s so easy to get caught up and compare yourself with others and what they have going on. But your only job is to keep outdoing yourself, challenging yourself, bringing your own vision to life. Everything else naturally falls into place.
My personal measure of success as the founder of MuslimGirl.com is bringing our startup to the point of self-sufficiency, where we can financially empower women and not have to depend on anyone else. I want us to have an institution we can call all our own.
How do you manage stress?
I’ve been running more lately. I put on my most take-on-the-world, flex-on-his-ex type music and let it rip. Plus, good fitness will never ghost on you – am I right, ladies? Recently I started stealing my roommate’s humidifier and getting jacked up on essential oils. It’s honestly so relaxing! It’s also important for me to make time to see my friends and re-centre. My inner circle is still made up of my truest from college.