If you had three wishes, what would they be?
1) That here would be no need for organizations like UNICEF as every child would have access to basic necessities
2) To bring wifi to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya so that the students there could have access to smart boards and could communicate with educators around the world
3) To some day host my own talk show interviewing fascinating people who are changing the world.
If you could personally witness any event in history, what would it be?
Amelia Earnhart’s journey comes to mind as she was a woman accomplishing firsts. As someone who hops on a plane regularly and rarely thinking about the skill and training of those leading to my destination, I have to stop to admire that she achieved such a feat and put female pilots on the map. Based on what I’ve read about her, I respect her work ethic. She has a handful of quotes that have really resonated with me, but I’ll share this one, “Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.”
What is something that you have never done that you want to do?
I would love to land an acting role. We are starting to see hijab-wearing characters on some TV shows but none are played by actual hijabis. I feel I could bring authenticity to this role. So Hollywood, if you are listening, call my agent!
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Too many to count! I don’t want to spoil a future TV show by telling you!
What’s the most regrettable beauty trend you’ve ever tried?
Under-eye baking. That doesn’t even look right
If you could hear one song performed live by any musician what would it be?
“Dilemma” by Kelly Rowland. There was maybe one radio in the refugee camp and we would listen to that song. When I first moved to the U.S., there wasn’t an English-language immersion program at my school so I sat in class not learning anything as I didn’t understand anything anyone was saying. After my first week in America, my mom was expecting me to be fluent in English so she handled me something and asked me to read it in English. I grabbed the paper and said the only thing I knew in English, Kelly’s lyrics: “No matter what I do, all I think about is you. Even when I’m with my boo, you know I’m crazy about you.” I fooled my mom… briefly
What’s something people wouldn’t know about you?
Most are surprised to hear that I haven’t moved to a fashion capital and still live in Minnesota. I am such a proud Minnesotan and often joke that I am on the state’s tourism board. I will tell anyone who will listen about how wonderful my state is.
In a world full of influencers, who influences you most?
Cliché, I know, but I have to say my mom, who is not on social media (thank goodness). She fled the Somali Civil War 12 days on foot to get to Kakuma Refugee Camp. Later she brought my brother and me to the U.S. She would walk to my school every day (we didn’t have means for transportation), and while she couldn’t communicate with my teachers because she didn’t speak English, she just wanted them to know she was present and cared.
What motivates or inspires you?
I am one of the lucky ones from the refugee camp who got out. I don’t want to take anything for granted. I was given the opportunity to live the American Dream and I don’t want to pass up on any experiences (no matter how tired I may be). For many, they will never leave the camp. I am motivated by the messages I get from people around the world who connect with some part of my story. That can be a young girl from small-town Wisconsin who looks nothing like me but sees that small-town girls can go on and do big things. Or a Christian mom who thanks me for making modest wear look cool, or a woman with skin cancer who thanks me for making her aware that a swimsuit exists that can fully protect her on the beach, or young Muslim and hijab-wearing girls who have never before seen someone who looks like them represented in the entertainment space, I have to push and keep going because I don’t want to let these people down. I want to show them that if you are willing to put yourself out there and take risks the benefits always outweigh any negatives.
Do you have a self-care ritual or a creative pursuit?
My mom is all about natural ingredients and doesn’t like putting things on your face that you can’t put in your mouth. I made a lot of honey, turmeric and aloe masks when I’m not on the road traveling for work.
What’s your guilty pleasure snack?
Looking back, what advice would you give to your 14-year-old self?
Plain and simple: Be unapologetically yourself.