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Shade Diversity: Zahra Khanum

From The Infinite Wardrobe: ELLEN DRESS by ELLIATT

There is nothing more beautiful and admirable than someone who is confident in their own skin.

In your ideal community or society, how does diversity look like to you? 

It is where individuals of different races, ethnicities, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, gender and sexual orientations practise understanding and respect for each other’s unique ideas and perspectives of those around them, and collectively work toward common goals for the benefit of the community.

Could you share some personal experiences that led you to realise the importance of diversity in our community?

The moment I realised the importance of diversity was when I entered the schooling system. I recall, as Muslim girl in a Catholic school, I had friends who told me that it would be better to follow Catholicism instead of Islam, which was definitely insensitive to a religion that I follow and practise. 

As a Pakistani girl, I tend to have more hair on my body. I had friends who would make that a prominent feature of mine, and either pluck the hair out as a game or simply mention the fact that I am extremely hairy for a girl. However, I did have friends who told me how much they loved that feature of mine, and that definitely made me feel comfortable and confident about myself.

Being in the modelling and media industry, I would have to say that people with my skin colour are not as well represented as we hope to be. It is rare to find castings for anyone other than a Chinese representative. I’m thankful to win the Miss Universe Singapore pageant and represent the minority community and inspire other girls to try new things and not the fear of rejection or circumstances stop.  

What about your skin tone do you love and dislike? Share with us how you dress to flatter your skin tone?

I love that my skin tone is a little tanned. There’s nothing I dislike about it. Haha. I have started to wear brighter colours to complement my skin tone, such as yellow, red, orange and mustard, mint green and blue, which is my favourite colour as I feel it brings out my personality. Picking colours to complement a tanned skin tone isn’t too difficult!

What are some advice or tips you could share with someone who is currently in the journey of embracing their natural colours? 

Never doubt yourself. 

When I was younger, I used to think there was something wrong with the way I looked. But as I grew up, I realised there is nothing more beautiful and admirable than someone who is confident in their own skin. There is nothing more empowering than believing in yourself, and standing up for it. Once you realise that and start fighting for who you are, society will start to realise that there are loopholes that still need to be addressed and changed for the better. Let’s all do our part in this together, and don’t lose hope. 

Congratulations on achieving the title of Miss Universe 2018! What was that journey like? 

The journey was tough but worth every moment of dedication and hard work. It’s not a competition where you simply have to look good – although I had to start taking care of my diet, and going to the gym at least 4 times a week!

Instead, it is a competition that looks at both your inner and outer beauty. I had to dig deep to share my ideologies, hopes, and dreams. In the journey of inspiring others, I, myself, was inspired by all the empowered women I met during this experience. 

What was the defining lesson that you learnt from your Miss Singapore Universe experience?

After going through my pageant experience, I realised that no one can take your passion away from you. 

Also, don’t be afraid to dream big. I never really believed in that until it came into fruition – just know that you’ll need a lot of determination and consistent hard work to get there! 

Apart from being a personality, you also have a day job as a teacher. How similar and different are your jobs, and what’s great about that?

Although the two jobs are different on many levels, they both have the same purpose to me. They both teach me how to adapt and grow as a person, and I get a great deal of satisfaction and accomplishment from them.

I’ve always had a love for children and education. Children have a sense of innocence and vulnerability, and it’s surprising how much we can actually learn from them, too! When you create a safe space for children and watch them excel, it’s an extremely rewarding feeling.

Being a beauty queen has its glitz and glam, but there’s a lot of hard work and discipline behind the scenes. It has also pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me come out of my introverted shell. Of course, the opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life is truly heartwarming. 

Do you have any advice for someone who juggles multiple career roles like you?

I would say that balance is key. Self-care is also important for your health and sanity. Have time to yourself just to get away from work for a while, even if it’s just taking a stroll in the park, or watching your favourite movie. I’m very much a homebody, so I usually spend time at home with my family, or meet my group of friends and just chill with them! 

Another important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing, because the process is what motivates you to do better each time.

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🌟 Thank God It's The Weekend 🌟

A post shared by Zahra Khanum (@iamzahrakhanum) on

Beat the stereotypes and embraces the differences. Find out more about our celebration about diversity in our community from our interview series:

About Author

Ashley is fun-loving, and pens down anything that’s got to do with food, fashion, and films. She occasionally indulges in pop-culture narratives and secretly loves FPS games (betcha she can beat you in it!) Nothing excites her more than a trip with a scenic view -- mountains and fjords included. Her favourite apparel piece is a skirt, for it's flexible and flatters her height-- an added bonus if it comes with pockets!

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