Over the years as I grew up, I have had people question my religion. More like basically everything with me. I get questions like “why do you always wear a head scarf” ? “Why can’t you open your hair today”? What does your hair look like? Sometimes its oppressing as people can ask way more intimidating questions but I’ve learned never to get thrown back by these and one thing I always thought of being, asides a medical personnel was to be a Model.
Not your regular fashion “Victoria secret models” as my religion wouldn’t allow that but a different kind of model. A model that will stand out and be recognized everywhere as a unique one and I had that chance back in 2012 when I made my debut in the Nigerian Modelling Industry signing a contract with a Telecommunications Company (MTN) as a commercial model on their billboard campaign advert that year.
I was called for series of auditions in which only myself appeared with a headscarf. I had glances here and there and I thought to myself, “maybe I’m the wrong place” as other Models appeared in short dresses, 6″ heels, tight pants and I was there modestly dressed with my hijab.
Backstage with other models from a tiring MTN Televison commercial shoot
I got called back from among hundreds of models, along with another female model (Mildred Odimegwu Miss Tourism Nigeria) for the campaign Ad. I was so thrilled and never saw that coming because women who wear headscarves are usually shunned in the fashion/modelling world. I was reluctant at first but I eventually took it up.
Selfie backstage with a Beth model
Over the years I’ve been to various auditions, meetings with clients, gone for castings and I can tell you; every time I walk into the room, I am the only one using a headscarf. So much so that many other models present both male and female have consistently asked me if it was a costume or not because what are the odds? A muslim and a model? Something isn’t right they thought. But I looked beyond the odds. I looked at diversity. I looked at what the media thinks of Muslims.I looked at what the fashion industry thinks of Muslims and their fashion sense and these just plunged me forward, gave me the courage to walk into every cast I have ever been to and walk out only to be called back for the job. And when they ask most of the time but very politely “can you take off your headscarf”? I reply “No, i can’t..”With a smile. And we still work together at the end of the day! So much so that I don’t mind anymore when I appear among other models as the only model using a headscarf! It gives me great joy and a sense of fulfillment, Masha Allah.
Apart from being recognized as a Muslim Model, everyone I work with respects my religion and preferences. My relationship with other male models if I have to work with them or male make-up artists, stylists, directors, photographers, the entire cast per say.. they have always been mindful and respectful. I can remember being on a scene for a television advert for Galactic sweet (Nigeria) when the directors told everyone on set to allow me just sit for my scene instead of doing the choreographed dance like every other model on set did just to respect my religion because in the director’s words “he wouldn’t want a hijab wearing model to appear dancing on TV and to not stir up negative comments” . That was awesome!
Billboard ad for Purple Nigeria.
I cannot say it has been rosy all through, side comments, agencies requesting for my pictures without the headscarf for modelling jobs, tempting offers, and so on, but I have remained relentless in my vision to keep representing Islam in every way that I can and that includes being a practicing muslim woman and a model on the side.
I’m amazed at the response gotten so far from the modelling industries as I’ve always been called back regardless of my hijab and I have been approached to be represented by top modelling agencies in Nigeria and Africa recently. They get it. There should always be space for accepting other cultures, religion and diversity as a whole.
Alhamdullilah, over the years I’ve worked with various top Brands in Nigeria representing them and still being a Muslim.
Some may say modelling disagrees with the tenets of Islam but I disagree. As long as I’m dressed modestly and according to Islamic rules and that means not exposing any part of my body, I’m good. It’s just Dawah in a form, promoting the Hijab and Islam as a whole. Showing the world a different side to us than what the media might have proclaimed us as, and that isn’t forbidden in Islam.
Muinah Adebayo, 24.
Born and raised partly in Leningrad to a Nigerian Father and Russian mother. Currently living in Nigeria.
Full time Medical Biochemist and part time Model.