Hani Sidow, known to her 102,000 Instagram followers as Hanihanss, is a 22-year-old beauty guru on a mission to be what she couldn’t see. As she releases her first book Insta-glam, she gives Stylist the lowdown on how she became a social media star.
I only joined social media because I had to. Creating an Instagram account was part of my university degree – I studied advertising and public relations – but when I saw that my posts were getting attention I was like, ‘Oh, people actually like the make-up I’m wearing.’ It started to become fun. It was the words of encouragement, the ‘this is amazing, this is nice’ comments underneath my posts. They motivate you so much to keep going.
There weren’t many people who looked like me. I didn’t see faces like mine in the blogging world, and when I saw brands reposting people it was rarely somebody I could identify with. It was often someone white, someone completely different to me – I could never think, ‘Oh, we’re probably the same foundation shade.’ So I started talking more about representation.
I knew people wanted modest fashion inspiration. I saw a lot of Muslim women struggling to put outfits together – it’s difficult to get something from a store, you feel like you’re in a bubble and can’t buy everything because not everything is modest.
I started styling things like fitted skirts and trying to make them look more modest by wearing long duster jackets on top; just putting outfits together in unique ways to cater to women like me, women who wear the hijab. And that’s when my personality started to come through a bit more, too.
There are downsides to becoming well-known on social media. People online have no filter. But you can filter out those comments – if you don’t want to see a specific word you can use settings to make sure you never see it.
It gets to the point where you grow a thick skin, though. I always wanted to put my beauty looks on Instagram before but I held back because I was worried about that aspect of it. I was worried about not feeling safe. But the positivity I get is much more important.
I live two completely separate lives. There’s my scruffy Hani life and my @hanihanns life. A lot of the time people message me saying, ‘Hey I saw you earlier’, but they don’t often approach me.
I don’t assume I’ll be recognised when I go out but if someone Somali is looking at me, I’m convinced they know me [Laughs]. Somali women are my main audience. I was always searching online for someone who looked like me, so I knew there’d be other women searching for a similar thing.
Seeing yourself represented online gives you hope. It makes you realise you can do anything you want to do.
In school they don’t tell you that blogging is even an option, that you can make a career out of just being yourself on social media. And kids these days are so tech-savvy that it’s definitely an option for them. They just need to see themselves represented.
Insta-glam by Hani Sidow (£10, Octopus) is out now.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Body Politics series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
1. We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
2. We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
3. We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
4. We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
5. Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.