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It’s our pleasure to introduce you to Zain Shah (they/them). Zain is a London-based beauty and fashion influencer and the next storyteller we’re spotlighting in our #OWNYOURGLOW x PRIDE initiative.
As a gender non-conforming South Asian, Zain (@zaddyza1n) is constantly thinking of new ways to combine creativity with social activism. Their goal is to continue working towards expanding the narratives of Brown LGBTQ+ culture, rather than reinforcing stereotypes, to help ensure a wider range of representation.
We invited Zain to share their story with us and now we’re sharing it with you. Here’s what they had to say:
AAVRANI: What rituals do you follow that bring you joy and make you feel like your most authentic self?
Zain Shah: I’ve always looked to skincare to give me confidence and calm. My AM routine is all about preparing myself for the day. I use the mornings to give myself positive affirmations while applying my skincare. In the evenings I reflect on my day while removing my makeup.
AAVRANI: How are you taking care of yourself? What does self care mean to you?
Zain: Nobody knows what you need as much as you do, so be kind to yourself and have regular check ins throughout the day. I take care of myself by finding moments of peace, especially on busy days. Whether that means taking breaks or saying no, I check in on myself regularly to make sure I’m listening to my body.
AAVRANI: When do you feel most in-touch with your mind, body and soul?
Zain: I feel most in-touch when I’m living in the present moment. Taking in the sights, sounds and smell. When I’m not on my phone but grounded in what’s actually happening around me.
AAVRANI: What do you do to re-center yourself when you’re feeling disconnected?
Zain: I like to take myself on holiday. Traveling on my own was the best decision I’ve ever made. If I can’t go away I go on a digital detox and take some time away from any screens and go for a walk.
AAVRANI: Can you talk about your identity journey and how that may or may not have been impacted by your South Asian heritage?
Zain: One thing we don’t discuss enough within Asian households is mental health. You feel the pressure of upholding traditions at the risk of your own well-being. Learning to accept my queer identity growing up in a South Asian household was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
AAVRANI: Although we’re at the end of the month, July is social wellness month! What does “social wellness” mean to you?
Zain: Social wellness is about having positive connections with family, friends and the wider community. As someone that felt (and still feels) alone in so many ways, I think it’s so important to find people that can understand your experiences and offer advice and support to enrich your life.
AAVRANI: How has Instagram/your social media following contributed to your social wellness and sense of belonging?
Zain: I didn’t have much confidence before I started content creating. At first I used it as an outlet for my creativity but as my following grew, I realised that so many others were looking to express themselves authentically. I was able to seek out other queer South Asians which made me feel less alone and gave me a sense of community. There are so many barriers for us, which is why I campaign for representation. We should all have a seat at the table.
AAVRANI: What are some ways you aim to promote social wellness in your everyday life for your friends, followers, and yourself?
Zain: I actively talk about my personal experiences as a public queer South Asian figure. They’re not always positive experiences and if anything is going to change, we have to call out discrimination and problematic behaviour. First and foremost we all deserve to be safe and exist peacefully. By sharing my positive experiences too I hope that other queer South Asians will be inspired to be creative and embrace their cultures in their own unique way.
In partnership with Zain, we will be making a donation to The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization and the worlds largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth. You too can donate to The Trevor Project by heading over to their donation page.
Challenging expectations means there is no standard in beauty. Join us as we celebrate members of the South Asian LGBTQ+ community and give back to their favorite charities. As we continue to share stories, you are encouraged to give us your thoughts, express your feelings, ask questions, and everything in between by emailing us at email@example.com or DMing us on Instagram @AAVRANI.
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