Hey lovelies! So after the most awe inspiring interview with Lisa Vogl which you can read here, it sparked the idea to do a series of these type of interviews to further inspire people. I must admit that I'm barely into it, but it has thus far been an amazing journey reaching out to people to share their hijab experiences with me and my readers. Here is our second international interview on Islam and Hijab. Chelsey from her Youtube channel Chelsey Hijab Love, is an American revert. She is a Vlogger and has posted videos about her journey to islam and hijab on youtube. She often also makes her own clothes and puts up some very interesting Tutorials. Here is my little chat with her.
1. Hi Chelsey, could you tell us a bit about yourself for those of us that don’t know?
Well my name is Chelsey. I am 26 years old. I was born and raised in Forida, USA.
2. Where you very religious growing up?
I grew up in a loving family who wasn't very religious. We celebrated all the Christian holidays, but we weren’t a family that attended church, nor was I taught too much about God. But my family was fun and loving. Typical American family, I'd say. I grew up by the beach, with bikinis and flip-flops being an average weekend get up. I grew up very open-minded and free spirited about life.
3. What influenced you to find Islam?
I began to look into Christianity when I was 11, than again around 15 or 16. I will sum it up... I simply lacked faith and found myself questioning so many aspects of Christianity. Around this time I began modeling and competing in USA Beauty Pageants. I loved it! I did that until I got married to my long time boyfriend at 18 years old. We began dating in 2001. He entered the United States Marine Corp in my senior year of high school. He wanted to make a better life for us. Later that year in 2005 we got married and I moved to California. Not only was I away from my family but, he was soon shipped out to war the following year. He was then deployed 3 times throughout our six year marriage. This unfortunately brought us apart. In 2011 I began realizing my life wasn't heading in a direction I liked. I also sought out God, but never felt connected to any faith. I had considered myself Atheist for most of my life and thought of religion as kind of a joke. Realizing I never researched Islam properly, and having had some Muslim friends I decided to dive in. At this time my marriage was going down the drain and we couldn't hold on any longer. We ended up parting after almost 12 years together. Although it was the hardest thing I had to ever do, I knew in my heart Allah swt had other plans for me. I soon decided to convert.
4. Wow, what then made you start Vlogging?
Soon after I got involved with my now husband. Allah swt blessed me with love again, when I needed it most. We were engaged for a while, me having just got out of a marriage, I didn't want to rush anything. Around then I started wearing hijab and began my YouTube channel. I wanted to do beauty videos, but soon realized their wasn’t many converts speaking about their journey to Islam, thoughts, struggles etc. I began using this as my main topics. I’ve made some friends and inshAllah has helped a few girls along the way. This past April, my husband and I decided to make it official. We got married in the Mosque; very simply. Then not too long after getting married were we blessed with a positive pregnancy test. We couldn't feel more blessed to have a little boy on the way. So, I continue my channel with Pregnancy Vlogs, sewing vlogs, life topics and I have gotten back into some beauty videos, since my education is in Cosmetology. I'm working on being my own boss inshAllah. I'd really love to create a modest fashion line. It’s slightly been in the making for a while. When Allah wills, it will all come together.
5. There is a common fear amongst some non-Muslims that Islam is the religion of a group of extremist. What light can you shed on this about Islam to non-Muslims?
It simply comes down to ignorance. I find that many people fall into manipulation and education from the wrong sources. Non Muslims see war and corruption from Muslims and Muslim countries, but fail to notice the corruption around them. They point fingers at whole groups, instead of individuals. Most people grab hold of negativity, stereotypes and one sided information and run with it, as if they've mastered in Political Science. I would kindly suggest that if one wants to truly know what Islam is and who muslims are, as a majority and not the minority, they should visit a Mosque or seek a Muslim for information and stop relying on networks whose entire agenda lies around the destruction of Muslims and Islam as a whole.
6. What where your thoughts on the hijab prior to reverting and after how long did you start to wear hijab?
I started researching hijab prior to my converting because I knew it was something I might have to do if I made the choice to convert. I began watching hijab tutorials and researching hijab fashion. Although were not supposed to wear hijab for the beauty of it or fashion, I came from that lifestyle, so ultimately there had to be an appeal for me to jump-start my desire to wear it. After seeing how beautiful it could be I thought, "I could wear this, but maybe later on in my life." I was a model, a hairstylist; I wasn't ready for all that just yet. As my faith grew and my desire to not be seen as a sexual object anymore increased, I saw not only the beauty of in fashion, but I saw the true beauty of it in faith. A year after I converted in August 2012 I put it on, and although I'm not perfect, I haven't removed it alhumdulAllah. I now feel naked without it.
7. How has wearing the hijab made you feel?
I've always considered myself a bit of a feminist, and unlike most who feel its liberating to reveal their bodies (which I did at one point) I know feel this liberation within myself to control how others perceive me. I focused so much on my outer beauty growing up, having been judged for it...literally. I started to see how men looked at me, how I'd always been known for my hair or my body, and thought "What the heck kinda feminists am I?!" I fell in love with a great man, whom I wanted to show my beauty to and him alone. I started to see the world differently, our priorities as women as humans. My opinions on hijab may be liberal at times, but I am also very dedicated to my decision. Its apart of who I am now.
8. How has your family reacted to you reverting and wearing hijab?
Well my father and I have always been very connected on the same mindset of religion, so when he found out I was looking into Islam he kinda thought I was silly. My mom of course being very open minded, still found herself only understanding what she had seen and heard of Islam and Muslims from the news and papers. She was more or less very frightened for me. When I began wearing the hijab it was just too much for them. My father got used to it a bit faster than my mom, as she still doesn't get it, but they both stay very supportive of my change and choice now. My parents see me happy and responsible, they have also been able to learn a lot about the misconceptions, and have opened their minds a bit more. AlhumdulAllah they love me so much and just want to see me happy.
9. What were the challenges that you faced in wearing hijab in a Western Society?
I didn't really find too many challenges really. I've always been a self thinker, and continue to be confident in my choices and who I am. I never really cared too much about others judgment, opinions or stares so my only challenge would be getting used to the lifestyle change. I grew up by the beach wearing skirts and bikinis, swimming with my family in pools. I've missed laying out by the pool and absorbing the sun, but hey I guess its a skin cancer preventative. I also miss my hair being out at times, being a Cosmetologist, I love hair, especially my own. I've come to truly understand and except my choice though and wouldn't change it.
10. In most western societies Hijab is seen as oppressive toward women, what can you say against this common thought and what in your opinion are the advantages of wearing the Hijab?
Oppression is truly perceptive. What one society or culture finds to be oppressive cannot always be related to that of another’s. In the west we know to be beautiful, live life up, work in the fast lane, and whatever you can do, I can do better. This is no difference whether you’re a male or female. Women here forget how long it took for us to receive certain rights we do now. We feel that earning our own money, being a businesswoman and making choices for ourselves as individuals make us liberated, but I can say the same for women around the world. Muslim women, for the most part, decide to wear the hijab for one reason or another, but not because it oppresses them, but liberate them in one way or another. For me, I feel liberated from this sexual identity I've been characterized into. I feel liberated to have a choice of how people perceive me, not for my long legs or size of my chest, but for my character, my thoughts. Of course a beautiful women is a beautiful women regardless, and of course dressing modestly could prevent many unwanted stares, but for me veiling myself as Allah has requested gives me that extra something that allows me to feel just a little bit stronger in my independence of making my own choices, for what's best for myself.
11. How has your dress sense evolved since wearing hijab and how would you describe your fashion sense?
Well being a curvy girl that modeled, it felt more attractive to be in more form fitting attire. Also living in Florida shorts and sundresses were a must. I also kinda grew up with the idea of "if you got It, flaunt it.". (Giggles) .Of course in a classy way. I was the high heel, short shorts wearing, red lips, Miami/Florida girl type. (Not sure how to sum that up.) Some used to say I was Barbie-ish minus all the fakeness (chuckles). Now I find myself being more bohemian, but still liking my black leather jacket and Ray Bans. I wear flats much more and oversized shirts are my best friend. I don’t know if I can really sum up my style. If one were to look on my instagram they would see I'm all over the place. I try to still stay true to myself, but a more modest version.
12. What type of hijab style is your everyday and what is your favorite?
Again my style is really all over the place. I love turkish style but I don't find it universal with all outfits. I loved turbans for a while, but now just get annoyed with finding a way to cover my neck. I've fell in love with maxi hijabs. So that's kinda my go to. The way I wrap it really varies on the outfit though.
Hmm difficult question. I find myself really enjoying my individualism. I wouldn't say I'm inspired by anyone in the terms of style. I like what I like, and anyone, or anything can inspire at some time or another.
14. Do you have any style tips to share with memrsme readers?
Be yourself. Find what works for you and work it. Some girls look beautiful in flowing maxi dresses, and others rock out kicks and oversized tees. Don’t feel like you have to put yourself in any category and try new things.
15. I know that you make your own clothes tell us what inspires you in this regard and who is your favorite clothing designer?
I just love to create. I really find joy in making things. I've always found myself to be more on the creative side, but inspiration is one thing that makes it difficult for me, as I believe it to be with many artist or creative minds. With clothes, I love fabric. I have to see it and feel it, and than I find myself thinking about what I can make from it. I also find inspiration and other garments, but recreating them to be modest. My sewing skills lack a bit, as I haven’t been sewing for long. I'm still learning and gaining education on how to make certain things, so I haven't been able to conquer certain designs I have drawn down. I know this might be strange, but regardless of all the things I've been into...modeling, cosmetology, art, make up, fashion design...I've never studied ones art enough to have favorites or people that inspire me. I guess I never want to feel like someone else's work turns into my work. I like to be free thinking and open. I unfortunately don't have a favorite designer.
16. What advice can you give to Muslim women who are afraid or feel that they are not yet ready to wear hijab?
First we have to be educated properly on our faith. We need to know what hijab is, not just as a scarf around our hair, but our dress, our character and the modesty that starts from within first. So many girls get wrapped up in covering their hair, they forget to be nice or compassionate. Also many girls who think about wearing the hijab become nervous that they can't, or they have to live up to some unachievable idea of what hijab is or entitles. No one is perfect, by far, but any step we can take towards that perfection is a step in the right direction. Don’t wear it because of make up or friends or vain images of not being beautiful anymore. Wear it because it males you happy, wear it because Allah has requested us to. Everything else will come in time.