Asalamu’alaikum! Happy Friday! It’s that time again! Our lovely Muslimah of the Month is Leah Vernon, a fashion-forward woman who is taking the reins and owning her journey! So grab something to eat and let’s chat!
Unakem: Tell us a bit about who you are? Where you are from? Your background?
LV: My name is Leah V. I’m a fat, Black Muslim from Detroit! I’m pretty old. I have two master’s degrees. I’m a style blogger, body-positive activist, humanist, and Sci-Fi novelist. I also model, sometimes. I like long walks on the beach and tropical smoothies. And books are cool.
Unakem: What is body positivity?
LV: Body positivity means that you love, appreciate, and take care of the body you’re in now. Not the later body or the pre-body, the ‘now’ body. It encompasses all bodies of different sizes, heights, and abilities. It’s an amazing movement, and I’m happy to be a part of it.
Unakem: How did you get involved as a writer for MuslimGirl?
LV: Funny story. I’m actually very anti-freelance because I have ‘commitment’ issues. And I don’t like being told what to write and when to write it (yeah, I know. I’m a rebel). So, this girl on FB sent me a message saying that one of her friends worked for Muslimgirl.com and they were looking for African American voices. She said they were looking for just one essay. I ended up messaging one of the editors. She asked me to send samples. Before I could even send any, she had already read my blog and asked me to come on board as a guest writer. The rest is history.
Unakem: What were, if any, your initial fears when starting?
LV: Since, I kind of ‘jumped in’ to blogging, I didn’t really have any. My idea was just to share a different version of beauty. You either liked it or you didn’t. When I rebranded in the beginning of 2016 was when I had a few doubts. I was going to focus less on clothes and more on life. Would people get it? Would they shame me because of what I was sharing? How would I work with brands? Fear will always be there, it’s just about how you react to it that makes a difference.
Unakem: Where did your passion for styling begin? When?
LV: I’ve always loved fashion even when I was small. My family always tells me this particular story about these white leather sandals. I think I was like 5 or 6 years old and my mom let me pick out these gladiator sandals. When I couldn’t wear them, I’d have a tantrum. Still rings true now. LOL. Even throughout my adolescence, I used to read fashion magazines heavily and study up on the latest trends.
Unakem: How did you enter the modeling realm?
LV: I took photos for my blog because that’s what bloggers do. LOL. Never considered myself a ‘professional’ model in any way, shape, or form. I pushed myself as a stylist at the time. I worked on some shoots and creative projects, but wasn’t making any headway in the city as a stylist. One day, a vintage store owner I knew asked me to model some turbans for her business page. It turned into a full-blown shoot. After that, people and businesses started requesting for me to model their clothes and accessories. So, now I call myself an indie plus-size model since I’m not signed to an agency.
Unakem: When people hear your name, what do you want to come to mind?
LV: Fearlessness. I want them to be like, dang, she did that! Whatever ‘that’ was at the moment.
Unakem: How do you navigate through the naysayers and criticisms?
LV: Usually, I ignore them because most negative people only want attention. But if I see a legitimate point to a criticism, I will respond to try and get a better understanding. Not all criticisms come from bad places. Some actually help you exponentially.
Unakem: Were you born and raised practicing Islam?
LV: Well, we are all born Muslim, technically. But, my mom converted when I was very young.
Unakem: Why Islam? As an adult, what attracts you to Islam?
LV: I’ve had my ups and downs spiritually. I just got divorced this year, so I was struggling to maintain some sort of balance. I had a few ‘aha’ moments that gave me the courage to push on and stop allowing doubt of whether or not you’re a good or bad Muslim to trump everything. What attracts me the most are the teachings of forgiveness. To me, that’s so powerful.
Unakem: What would you say keeps you grounded in your faith?
LV: Remembrance. When I derail, something or someone always brings me back. And that’s what counts. Just remembering who you are and what you believe in.
Unakem: What are your blog aspirations for 2017?
LV: I want to grow my blog audience. I know that more girls and women (and men) need to learn about self-love. It’s too much fear, hate, and misunderstanding going on and it’s really affecting us. Seeing a fat, Black Muslim girl talk about mental illness or having an eating disorder or talking about social justice issues will create conversation, in which will hopefully lead to understanding and tolerance. I’d like to become more comfortable in my skills as a writer. I’m starting some new nonfiction projects about my life and I find myself pausing due to ‘artist’ insecurities. I want to just be able to jump in a project wholeheartedly and be confident. Another aspiration, would be to travel the world. Some life changing things occurred this year, and I’m ready to burst out my local bubble. The third thing would be to continue to triple my audience, spreading more self-love and worth. Too many of my fellow girls and women are hating themselves and comparing themselves to false internet ads and media. It’s about time we redefine beauty.
Check out more from this fab sister here at her blog site:
and also her Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lvernon2000/