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British beauty blogger Amena Khan has nearly 320,000 YouTube subscribers, 570,000 Instagram followers and her own makeup line, Ardere Cosmetics, of which she's a co-founder. But this week, Khan is taking her industry prowess to the next level: She's the newest face of L'Oréal Paris UK's Elvive hair-care campaign, of which Winona Ryder is also a face here stateside.
While the coveted beauty contract represents a serious milestone for any fledgling model, blogger or erstwhile influencer, Khan's is especially significant in that she's the first hijab-wearing woman to front a major hair campaign. (Khan is fronting ads for The Pink One, a series of Elvive products formulated for dull hair to boost shine.) According to a recent Vogue UK interview, Khan has worn a headscarf in public since her 20s and felt that joining this campaign would help others understand that hair is an important part of her identity, despite whether her head is covered.
"For me, my hair is an extension of my femininity," Khan told Vogue. "I love styling my hair, I love putting products in it and I love it to smell nice. It's an expression of who I am. And even if that expression is for my home life and my loved ones and for me when I look in the mirror, it's who I am. If I know my hair is greasy but I have a scarf on it, I still feel rubbish all day — even if it's covered."
Khan went on to explain that L'Oréal Paris UK has also given her an opportunity to explore a lifelong dream of working in television or media — "It was always a cause of celebration when you saw a brown face on television!" — and that, if she saw a campaign of this nature when she was younger, she wouldn't have waited as long to pursue what she called "a pipe dream." "I think seeing a campaign like this would have given me more of a sense of belonging," she said. "I trusted L'Oréal that they would communicate the message well. If the message is authentic and the voice behind it is authentic, you can't deny what's being said."
The representation of Muslim women in fashion and beauty is vital, yet still very much untapped. That visibility is gradually becoming more of a priority for mass brands like L'Oréal Paris UK: Nike Pro dropped its campaign for the company's first-ever sports hijab last month, while American Eagle began selling a denim hijab — the campaign for which was fronted by Muslim "It" model Halima Aden — over the summer. And while many brands are, in fact, taking strides to ensure that all consumers are represented regardless of race, gender identity, religion, ability or otherwise, there's still certainly plenty to be done. But it's also important to note that progress is still progress, and we look forward to seeing Khan's work with L'Oréal Paris UK continue to take shape throughout 2018 and beyond.
UPDATE, Jan. 22, 12:46 p.m.: Following controversy surrounding Khan's past social media posts, she has stepped down from the L'Oréal campaign. The tweets in question, which have since been deleted, were called into question by critics for being "anti-Israel." On Monday, Khan took to Instagram to announce that she would be severing ties with L'Oréal "because the current conversations surrounding [the campaign] detract from the positive and inclusive sentiment that it set out to deliver."
A spokesperson from L'Oréal Paris U.K. commented on the matter to the BBC, saying, "We appreciate that Amena has since apologised [sic] for the content of these tweets and the offence [sic] they have caused. L'Oréal Paris is committed to tolerance and respect towards all people. We agree with her decision to step down from the campaign."