The Arab-American style blogger on the importance of promoting body diversity and why she shies away from being considered a role model.
Fashion blogger Nadia Aboulhosn: ‘I want to show all sides of my life’
In a cyber world where being a fashion blogger is measured by the number of Chanel Boy Bags you own and first-class flights you take, the Arab-American style blogger Nadia Aboulhosn is a breath of fresh air. Instead of prancing around Paris for fashion week or lining up all of her high heels for a photo shoot, Aboulhosn ensures that her social-media platforms are devoid of fashion frivolity and exude a different kind of energy.
Humorously non-glamorous, Aboulhosn’s I-don’t-care attitude is clear from the outset. A recent photo on Instagram shows her sporting nose strips and bleaching facial hair, with a caption that reads: “Face hair bleach and blackhead session, followed by shaving 95% of my overly hairy half-Arab body.” Another shows her imitating Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda lap dance on her cat. “I make it a point to take plenty of pictures of myself with no make-up on, when my hair isn’t done and when I’m wearing my glasses,” says Aboulhosn. “I try to show all sides of my life so people understand that there is still a human behind social media.”
Not to mention that her body isn’t a size-zero, stick-and-bones shape that has become representative of the fashion industry. Though many would label her as a plus-size, she claims that at a size 14-16, she’s on the “cusp” of being plus-sized, and recommends that the term should be done away with altogether. “I generally don’t like labels like ‘plus size’. I feel like it’s just a way to separate people,” she explains.
Aboulhosn, 26, was born to a Lebanese father and American mother and spent her childhood in Florida, before moving to New York. She started blogging in 2010, and has since modelled and campaigned for Stylist Magazine, Addition Elle, American Apparel and Boohoo.com. She has been touted as an “Instagram star” by Stylist Magazine and today has more than 180,000 followers on the social-media platform, with anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 likes per post. While many of her posts are quite risqué and provocative, Aboulhosn does, like other fashion bloggers, post photos of her daily looks a few times a week. Her outfits of choice include bralette tops with high-waisted skirts, cut-out bodysuits, plunging V-necks, power jumpsuits and white skinny jeans. She also posts photos of herself wearing bathing suits and lingerie, often opening the door to negative comments from followers. “People talk about how fat and ugly I am,” she says. “Sometimes I get comments about how I’m conceited or that I’m not a good role model because I dress half-naked.”
But Aboulhosn explains that she doesn’t view herself as a role model. She understands how her confidence and nonchalance about what people think could be inspirational to followers, but feels that being a role model comes with a lot of pressure to uphold a positive image. “I curse a lot and I don’t always do things that should be praised. I don’t want to be given the title of a role model just because I’m considered to be in the spotlight,” she says. “That’s too much responsibility.”
While one may assume there is pressure to dress conservatively due to her part-Arab heritage, Aboulhosn says that the criticism is stirred by her body shape rather than her culture or background. “I’ve noticed many people believe I should cover my body because of my weight, not because of religious views,” she says. “They feel uncomfortable when someone my size is showing off [her] body.”
When asked how she relates to Arab culture, she responds, “My eyebrows! Just kidding.” In fact, Aboulhosn capitalised on her satirical portrayal of the bold, thick eyebrows inherent to many Arab women by designing a T-shirt that reads: “Eyebrow game too strong”, accompanied by an illustration of sultry eyes with thick lashes and brows. The design retails for Dh110, and is available though Nylon Magazine’s website, at www.shop.nylon.com.
Aboulhosn is more in tune with her Arab side than her followers may think. In the United States, she worked at a Middle Eastern restaurant from the age of 14 to 22. “Hummus, manakeesh and zaatar were my favourites as a kid,” she says. She also endorses the Palestinian cause by attending Gaza rallies and posting photos of her traditional kaffiyeh scarf and black sweater with the words “Palestine is on my back”.
Last month, she travelled to Lebanon for the first time. Her usual street-style posts were replaced with photos of scenic mountain views, Beirut’s Blue Mosque, her grandfather’s house in Btekhnay, Syrian refugee tents in the Bekaa Valley and Palestinian refugee schools. She also caught up with a few of her followers.
Aboulhosn says a few differences between eastern and western style trends stood out during her trip. She describes Lebanon’s fashion scene as more bright, colourful and feminine than that of the Big Apple. “I also saw a lot of wedges and sneaker wedges, which I don’t see too often anymore in New York,” she notes. She also observed that more women wear make-up on a daily basis.
Aboulhosn’s plans include starting a clothing line of her own someday. “I also want to throw myself into charity work,” she says, inspired by her trip to Lebanon and first-hand experience with refugees there. Her average day, she says, isn’t too exciting, and involves working on her blog and reading news stories online about current events in the world. “I spend most of my time working; I don’t really party.”
It’s refreshing to have a candid, down-to-earth conversation with an influential blogger such as Aboulhosn, since others in similar ranks would drone on about the celebrities they’re meeting, resorts they’re visiting and big brands they’re coveting. As a matter of fact, we may be on the brink of a blogging revolution. Aboulhosn says that when she began blogging four years ago, the fashion scene was monotonous in the sense that girls in the industry all looked pretty much the same, in terms of body sizes and features. “Over the years, bloggers have sort of influenced this wave of self-acceptance and body positivity and diversity,” she says “I hope it continues and changes beauty standards.”