We're back with another installment of our "10 Questions" interview series, where Couturesque spotlights the creative voices that are inspiring us today. These individuals are using their talents to make innovative art, create communities, and imagine a brighter future for the next generation. You can find our full archive of "10 Questions" stories here.
To round out the SISTERHOOD issue, we spoke with rising beauty innovators Salwa Rahman, otherwise known as @urgalsal_, and Farzana Ahmed, a.k.a @textbookbeauty, whose fearless, no-rules take on makeup are breaking the "Instagram beauty influencer" narrative. With a combined social following of over 15k, these East Londoners aren't teaching us how to carve our cheekbones out or achieve a "no makeup makeup" look. Instead, Rahman and Ahmed are hyping us up to use products unconventionally, draw outside the lines, and see makeup as artistry.
Introduce yourselves and tell us about what each of you is working on
Salwa: I've co-founded a small collective with two of my wonderfully talented friends Umber Ghauri (@umberghauri) + Alia Romagndi (@a8lia), it's called the Bideshi Collective (@bideshicollective) and we are a South Asian creative group that specialises in the production of photoshoots or projects. We just finished a big project that should be released in the summer, so I'm looking forward to sharing that with everyone and not having to be so cryptic!
Farzana: [I'm a] graphic designer based in London that also focusing on redefining beauty through different media, decoding beauty, ripping up the textbook norms, and encouraging everyone to stunt their self-worthhhhhhh bihhhh. Also, loads of fun projects in the works, TOP SECRET soz.
When and where did you first meet?
Salwa: I think I first knew of Farzana from Instagram – a few years back, the landscape of finding creative Bangaldeshi's was a little scarce so when I saw how talented she is and how beautifully her page was curated and then on top of that she was Bengali – I was obsessed! After that, by chance we met on a photoshoot for @muslimsisterhood and we just really hit it off.
Farzana: The first time I met Sal was on a photoshoot for Muslim Sisterhood. It was literally our first-day meeting, and we just hit it off. I think actually on that same day we went to the cinema to watch Isle Of Dogs - we bonded over our love for Wes Anderson movies.
What qualities do you admire in one another?
Salwa: I think most definitely is her work ethic – she is incredibly hardworking and her love for and the quality of her content always amazes me. She's got a really good eye, super helpful when you need a selfie ha!
Farzana: She's a great vibe to be around, and she always cracks me up. She's always down anything which I LOVE.
How have the influences of strong femme relationships within your lives
contributed to who you are today?
Salwa: I would say that it reminds me of the beauty of being a woman. Society has a habit of turning your gender against you, but when you have friends who you see as sisters it brings you back to a place of love and kindness – and for me, that's a huge thing. Just making sure that your characteristics and mannerisms perpetuate kindness.
Farzana: Definitely what Sal says - women continue to be pinned against each other, dealing with life's challenges, pressures, and stigmas. Being linked to people who clearly care about you as an individual, as well as the mental health of people you are around, is a powerful thing. I have emerged bolder and brighter with the help of strong femme relationships.
What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?
Farzana: Trust your process, and just know the harder you work, it will always come back to you - not to let anything hold you back from your potential - family, religion and the fear of the unknown.
Salwa: Start actively finding people to do weird stuff with – and by weird stuff, I mean doing wacky looks and taking photos. Also, focus in school!
What is an issue that you are passionate about and what should we know
or be doing about it?
Farzana: This is difficult, because there are so many issues we face today that I am so passionate about and it's hard to just pin point one. I could go on the ages, so I'll just list a few things I am wholehearted passionate about off the top of my head: environmentalism + how to be more sustainable, clean beauty re: how products are being created, animal testing, halal beauty, and metal health sigmas within the Black and Asian communities. Oh, a really great platform that I love that covers literally every single topic that I am passionate about is Refinery29 - Shady.
Salwa: The environment is a pretty big thing for me, I suppose now the threat is becoming a lot more imminent but especially in the beauty industry there are lots of avenues that create landfill waste. So I suppose it would be just to assess how you're using stuff – focus on second hand items or package items (Lush are great at that btw) and slowly start to change your lifestyle habits for the planet!
How do you see our generation redefining the concepts of beauty?
Salwa: I think the box is slowly breaking. I'm seeing more artistic and careless (I say that in a good way) makeup, and I just think it's going to grow from there - whether it's using technology to portray beauty or expanding on the trend of sticking stuff to your face.
Farzana: I definitely think beauty has a really exciting future. People are now taking a different approach on how we look at beauty and what images we want to see. I think now brands are being forced to think outside this beauty standard and differently about the way they communicate beauty today. With the use of technology and social media, I believe that we see beauty as more than makeup products - foundation, mascara, etc. to application tutorials - it has become a springboard in creating new communities for people.
Top 5 beauty products. Go.
Salwa: Glossier Boy Brow, Ohii Beauty Toner Pads, Trinny London Lip2Cheek, Revolution Pro Brush in 230, and 3ina Waterproof Definition Mascara.
Farzana: Glossier concealer, 3ina mascara, Rimmel lash sensational primer, Milk Makeup blush in Werk, Ciate dewy stick + (I know it says five, but this one is a must) Fenty lipgloss.
If you could collaborate with anyone - dead or alive - who would it be
Salwa: I'm a sucker for Wes Anderson and his vision – I would love to create a makeup short with him. So cute.
What is your life mantra?
Salwa: Focus on yourself, as everything else is momentary.
Farzana: What would you do if you are not afraid, what are you waiting for?
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