Inspiring Women Rocking Hijab and Breaking Barriers
Happy World Hijab Day, VELA girls! While we believe in celebrating hijab and those who wear it every day, we’re taking the opportunity to highlight hijabis who inspire and empower us. Here are 8 incredible women making big moves in the world.
The Skateboarding Entrepreneur: Layla Shaikley
Layla Shaikley (@laylool) began her career building robots during an internship at NASA. She studied architecture at MIT, co-produced the viral YouTube video Muslim Hipsters: #mipsterz, co-founded TEDxBaghdad, and co-created her first startup – all before the age of 30. She has since co-founded a software company called Wise Systems, where she is a design and experience leader. Outside of work, she hosts a podcast called Muslims Doing Things, which highlights the careers of thought-leaders and visionaries in the Muslim community, loves to skateboard, and shares career advice on TikTok for working moms and anyone looking to break into the tech industry.
The Fashion Editor and “It” Girl: Yusra Siddiqui
Yusra Siddiqui (@thatgirlyusra) is at her core, a journalist. She began her career interning for fashion brands and publications, including Nylon, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Fashionista.com. She began writing for Who What Wear as a contributor and worked her way up to Associate Fashion Editor. She reports on the latest fashion trends and news from the fashion industry, often from a lens of modesty. She recently published two cover stories featuring Jenna Ortega, who stars in the hit Netflix series Wednesday, and Madelyn Cline, who plays Sarah Elizabeth on Outer Banks. As if that wasn’t enough, she is always inspiring us with her fire fits on her Instagram account.
The Village Auntie: Angelica Lindsey-Ali
As a certified sexual health educator, Angelica Lindsey-Ali (@thevillageauntie) has been teaching women about sexual health, intimacy, and emotional well-being for over 20 years. She combines her clinical, cultural, and religious training to focus on educating women about sex and intimacy through an Islamic and African lens. Since creating her “virtual village” through her website and social media, her platform has grown to over 50,000 women spanning 86 countries. She believes that a woman’s foresight and clarity into her sense of self through bodily autonomy and spiritual awareness is a catalyst for liberation. She began The Village Auntie Institute in 2020, which provides a space where girls and women go on a journey of self-discovery, empowering them to unlock a rich world of fulfillment.
The Black Belt Who Ran for Congress: Rana Abdelhamid
Rana Abdelhamid (@ranaabdelhamid) grew up as the daughter of Egyptian immigrants in New York City. She watched her parents work night and day for the family business in order to make ends meet. At the age of 16, a man ripped off her hijab and assaulted her on the street. She became a blackbelt, learned self-defense and started Malika, a community-centered non-profit organization that has helped train thousands of women around the world in self-defense, anti-hate crime advocacy, and emotional healing work. Through her job at Google, she has worked to create economic opportunity and safety for women through technology. She ran for Congress in the 2022 election and continues to organize in New York City, fighting against gentrification, supporting small businesses, addressing challenges of food insecurity, and rallying for Black lives and gender justice.
The Social Worker Turned Social Entrepreneur: Amany Killawi
If you’ve supported a fundraising campaign, project, or creative idea, there’s a pretty good chance it was on Amany Killawi’s (@amanikillawi) platform. Amany is the co-founder and COO of LaunchGood: a global crowdfunding site for social enterprises from the global Muslim community. Since 2013, Launchgood has raised over $155.6 million for 1,500+ projects, ranging from Muslim mental health programs to a luxury miswak brand. She was named one of Inc. Magazine's Top 100 Female Founders in 2020.
The Movie Making Maven: Lena Khan
Lena Khan (@imlenakhan) is a writer and director. Her first feature film, The Tiger Hunter was released in over 70 cities nationwide and received rave reviews from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and more. Soon after the release of her first film, Disney recruited Lena to direct Flora & Ulysses, a live action family comedy that was among the top streamed movies in the world for multiple weeks after its release. She has recently filmed several episodes of Mindy Kaling's Netflix Show, Never Have I Ever and is now working on several feature and television projects.
The International News Journalist: Malika Bilal
Malika Bilal (@mmbilal) is a journalist, TV host, and moderator based in Washington, DC. She graduated from Northwestern University in Illinois, where she studied journalism. She then went on to attend the American University in Cairo to learn Arabic. Her career in journalism began in newspapers and magazines at her university. From there, she wrote for the Chicago Tribune newspaper, National Public Radio, and Voice of America. She now works for Al Jazeera English as the host of The Take podcast and Vantage Point, and is the former co-host of The Stream, an Emmy-nominated news talk show driven by social-media. She has reported from across the United States and the Middle East, and has covered big stories such as Egypt’s first election after the revolution as well as the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. She has interviewed world leaders, Hollywood and Bollywood stars, and artists and activists from all around the world.
The Eye Surgeon Mom: Noor Amra
Noor Amra (@eyegirlmd) is a board-certified ophthalmologist who is driven by the opportunity to help people. While she loves her career and title as an eye surgeon, she is equally passionate and proud of her roles as a wife and mother. She began her social media accounts to share her stories and create an honest and open dialogue about how hard (and rewarding) it is to balance a career as a mom and wife. She uses her platform to keep followers informed about the latest in eye health, living a healthy lifestyle, and empowering other women to not only chase their dreams but achieve them.