Stephanie Khalil Hijabi, white American Muslim

Modesty from a Former Model and White American Muslim

Share this post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Stephanie Khalil Hijabi, white American Muslim

Before choosing to dress modestly, you used to be a fashion model, appearing in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Italian Vogue, and Helmut Lang Spring 2004 campaign. In what ways are you still involved in the fashion industry (or just in fashion) while remaining modest? How is it possible? 

When I first met my husband I was a full time model so he was there as that world faded away from me. I was in Korea on a modeling contract and I kept seeing all these signs to get out. The major sign was the head of the agency telling me they were not going to pay me the $16,000 they promised through contract. They told me to stay and work anyways as an experience. I had heard this excuse of “experience” way too many times and was fed up from getting taken advantage of so I took a flight home the next day without telling the agency. They were really mad but it felt so empowering to stand up for myself.

Stephanie Khalil Hijabi, white American Muslim

I finished my degree and got jobs in the design/production side of the industry. I guess it can depend which company you work for but I worked at places with good people and never felt pressure to look “sexy” to do my job. It makes a difference when you are behind the scenes instead of in front of the camera. Without that pressure it was easier to make steps towards dressing modestly.
When starting Covertime in the Spring 2015, I started by entering the Muslim Modest Fashion bubble on instagram. The market is huge.

At seven years old, you were introduced to the textile and fashion industry very early in your childhood and made many of your own clothing. Do you have plans to start creating your own fashion line?

I have always wanted to do my own clothing line, but much of that stems from not seeing all the other career possibilities within the fashion industry. Having worked for mutliple designers I am aware how much money you need to get started, and that can be $20,000 – $200,000. But with an online magazine using technology and my time I don’t have to put much money into this project. I would say I have spent less than $1000, but I make up for that by working hard and doing most things myself.

Read your article on White Privilege on Covertime Magazine talking about prejudice you face being in an interracial marriage and relating it to wearing a hijab (head covering) as an American Muslim. I am in an interracial marriage myself and wrote about my experience being married to someone other than my race. I myself am Christian, but this kind of discrimination still definitely exists today regardless of race and religion the person in question is part of. Like you, I was also surrounded by Catholics growing up and felt a little distant from my classmates as a young child. What do you do to keep your head up high when others make ignorant and/or insensitive remarks to you? 

There is so much negativity, but I try to look at it like noise. You have to block it out and focus on the positive. DJ Khaled really preaches this and has built a successful career talking about “haters”. The hate can come from anywhere. Even ourselves, we are capable of hating and first step is to stop it in ourselves. And of course trusting in God! Because no matter what anyone else says you can be successful if God allows you. But we must be patient and content because he has a divine plan which outweighs what we “think” we want.

Covertime Magazine, modest fashion

Both your husband and mine are musicians! Mine being into rock music while yours is into hip hop in a group called Holistic. Being a modestly dressed woman, how are you able to handle or deal with your husband being in the music industry that is so rife with scantily clad women and sexual immorality? 

Wow we have so much parallel parts of our lives ?. The music has been a tough journey. Actually there are some muslims that say music is haram (not allowed). This confused me for so long. The reason why I converted was because the Quran seemed so logical and simple. I read the whole Quran before converting, there was no person that influenced me to convert, not even my husband. So the answer to your question is similar to how I explain to Muslims trying to tell me music is haram. It is too broad a category to make such a strong statement and it is not specified im the Quran. Each individual musician has a different experience and lifestyle. Some of the past Holistic music videos had girls in it, but how they dressed was their choice. My husband and his group didn’t involve themselves in the women’s dress. Actually I did the styling for a few of the videos. With women they are very sensitive and feel ashamed when you try to push your modesty beliefs on them. So I have learned that you can only be modest by example and even with Covertime I have had some Muslims tell me all the models should wear hijab but I don’t agree. I am not going to make someone wear the hijab that doesn’t already wear it in real life. Plus I don’t want to exclude people from this project. Coming across these judgemental people has only taught me to be less judgemental. There was a great quote I came across, “Some people have Modesty in their dress and arrogance in their heart.” That was a big lesson I learned this year having met some not nice people who dress modestly.  But I won’t let them push me away from dressing modestly which makes me feel more comfortable and dignified. We just have to be aware of hypocrisy, even in ourselves. Basically, don’t judge people.

What is your vision or goals of Covertime Magazine? How do you see it benefiting the modesty community in general?

There is so much going on in the world right now it can be overwhelming. Starting Covertime I thought it would be simple but it’s not. I have learned so much about people and myself. I realized that I like writing about interesting people within the industry and giving them a voice, so I have been focusing on those types of articles. I am always adapting because I don’t like to follow the crowd. I want to be different. We can show that more people prefer modesty and it is the majority. Also to humanize people of faith.

Now onto the touchiest question of this interview! A lot of modest fashionistas within MFN are non-Muslims. You and I have talked about modesty and other things despite our different faiths. What do you have to say to the others who share the same goal of modesty yet who may not be comfortable with Islam?

 I am used to touchy questions! I am the only Muslim on my side of the family. I am one of 6 siblings plus I have extended family in South Carolina and Arkansas some of the most anti Muslim states. I have a good relationship with everyone in my family, but it has taken time for them to see me as normal. It has been a gradual process, it is almost 11 years since I converted. At first my family thought I was brainwashed and they were scared. I understand because I was scared of Muslims too. I think my husband and his family were the 1st Muslims I got to know. People are scared of things they do not understand or know anything about, especially when the media focuses on the negative.
Non muslims are probably wondering where did all these American Muslims come from? Yes there have been immigrants (like all of our ancestors) and their children were born and raised here now in the young adult generation. Then in my husband’s family, his parents both converted to Islam around the 60’s, and they have 6 children (all muslim) with 4 spouses that converted. Then add 13 grandchildren. This might help to understand the rapid growth of Islam in the United States.
Stephanie Khalil Hijabi, white American Muslim

Stephanie Khalil Hijabi, white American Muslim

There are also things lost in translation. First, Allah is literally the arabic word for God. Why we like to use Allah across all languages is because the word God is many times used for other purposes like pagan religions and for people. We do not associate any person with God as he created the human species like ,for example, he created the dinosaur species before us.
Jihad translates to “personal struggle”. Some people have twisted evil versions of jihad. It is hard to explain and make sense why psychopaths do certain things. They have convinced themselves they are right. You can’t argue with them. Many muslim scholars have written to Isis with proof from Quran terrorism is wrong, but they don’t listen.
Someone recently told me she was afraid Sharia law might come here. Sharia is the arabic word for law. There are corrupt governments overseas that have really mixed up government law with their interpretation of religion. Like our country and many countries we have to understand corruption is hard to avoid when money and power are involved. So basically the oppressed muslims are fighting against this. We are on the same side actually. In Islam you cannot force your beliefs on anyone, we are supposed to be able to coexist in peace.
When I first converted my mother in law warned me that Muslims were not the same thing as Islam. It’s so true. Muslims are a huge group of people, some are Muslim by birth and maybe know nothing about Islam or only practice by obligation. When the world can realize the problem is certain people not religions, than we can make some progress towards world peace. Evil, shaitan (the devil) comes in many forms and likes to cause mankind to fight and divide. Good people have to unify to fight this force and also seek guidance from God. We cannot do this without God’s guidance.

What modest fashion advice or tips do you have for young women?

Wear things that make you feel comfortable that you like. Let’s stop trying to please other people. I have learned to be selective when buying things because realistically if you buy something that needs alterations or extra pieces you do not already own, maybe save money and don’t buy that item. Most likely it will sit in your closet never to be worn.
Covertime Modest Magazine
Share this post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
The following two tabs change content below.

2 thoughts on “Modesty from a Former Model and White American Muslim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *