Naballah Chi is a certified girl boss.
Not only does the 26-year-old work as a full-time health care professional in Trinidad, but she's also an innovative fashion blogger and YouTuber on the side. Her specialty? Breaking the "traditional" style mold by bringing her killer hijabi looks to the forefront.
As a modest Muslim woman, according to some individuals around her, Chi didn't exactly fit in to what some may consider "conventional" beauty standards. As a result, she often felt forced to choose between her faith and her passion.
"I did [a university beauty pageant] audition with my hijab and was chosen to be among the competing 14 girls," she recalled on her blog. "As the competition progressed, my conscience got to me. Some of my Muslim friends stopped talking to me and often times, I found myself wearing my hijab for some of the events and not wearing it for others. This made me feel like the biggest hypocrite in the world."
"I felt as though I was cheating myself out of who I really was and what I stood for," she continued. Chi eventually made the tough decision to withdraw from the competition to focus on her faith.
This wouldn't be the only time Chi would feel pressure to remove her headscarf.
A few years prior to taking the entrepreneurial route in the fashion world, Chi recalled a time when she was advised by a fashion photographer to remove her hijab, in order to become an international model.
"I was told they would make me a superstar," she shared on her platform. "How could that not influence me? Initially I thought these people are crazy, there's no way I'm doing that. However, after a while the idea started to seep into my head ... a lot."
She continued, "I struggled because every day I feel conflicted between the demands of being a model and the tenets of my faith. It's pretty clear where the two differ. Where my faith focuses on Almighty God, work points me to the almighty dollar."
Chi has since moved forward from these incidents, and now uses them as motivation to merge her religious beliefs and her style, to make it clear to other hijabis that you can dress modestly and still look sensational.
"I believe in myself and my purpose," she told HuffPost Canada Style. "It's straightforward. My faith comes first, because it is what gives me direction; it is what I stand for and stand by. I'm not going to compromise my beliefs for the sake of blending in with society. I love my Muslim identity. I think [my] hijab is refreshing and empowering."
"I struggled because every day I feel conflicted between the demands of being a model and the tenets of my faith ... where my faith focuses on Almighty God, work points me to the almighty dollar."
And while hijab visibility is still widely underrepresented in mainstream fashion, Chi is definitely doing her part to make inclusion the norm.
"There is no glass ceiling!" she exclaimed. "Not in this life and certainly not in Islam! We can all reach the top, all of us who are willing to keep pushing and making the decisions and taking the chances to succeed.
"There are too many young hijabi girls in need of hijabi role models, and to see hijabi women like themselves, whether that woman is Latino, black, plus size or in the middle," she continued. "We all deserve to be seen and heard, not just some of us, but all of us. Fashion-conscious Muslims spend so much on fashion, there are several Muslim modelling agencies throughout the world now that there's no need to feel left out."
But if you're still in need of a little style inspiration, Chi definitely has you covered.
With over 10,000 subscribers on YouTube, more than half a million video views collectively, and about 3,200 followers on the 'gram, the fashion guru is definitely your go-to girl when it comes to the best tips to looking glam for any occasion.
And Chi has hope for the future of diversity in fashion.
"A few years ago you'd never see a physically-challenged individual or someone less than four feet walking down the runway or gracing magazines in high fashion," she said. "Now we have that and more; transgender [models], hijabis, plus-size women, people with skin conditions are gracing the runways in fashion events worldwide."
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