A Qatar-based fashion and beauty blogger has made a video describing make-up trends around the Gulf as part of a wider effort to show the “real face” of Khaleeji women.
In the vlog, Layla Asgar Al Siyabi, who is part Omani and has lived in Qatar for 20 years, models six different styles of “face” worn by women from each of the GCC states.
While her short film is light-hearted in tone, she said it is also a means to convey a deeper message that challenges many people’s perceptions of Gulf women.
Al Siyabi added that social media is increasingly helping more women from the region get “out there,” giving them a means to show their faces and establish a more public presence.
It has long been frowned upon for all but a rare few Gulf women to be in the public eye. Though things are changing, it is still considered taboo in some circles for women to have their photographs published in the media or online.
However, 28-year-old Al Siyabi, who is also a fashion designer, said this is starting to change as more Khaleeji women launch online shops on Instagram and take to Snapchat to talk about their micro-businesses and themselves.
Speaking to Doha News, she said:
“Through my blogging and videos, I try to empower Muslim and Khaleeji women. I want to show that I am not doing anything wrong by being ‘out there’, that it’s ok to be in the media, it’s about time,” Al Siyabi said.
She continued: “Social media has really helped in this – I have had lots of support from other women, Khaleeji and expats. To be a Muslim woman in social media right now is very empowering.”
In her YouTube video Beauty standards of the GCC, aka Khaleej, Al Siyabi takes the viewer on a short tour through cosmetic fashions in the region and models the different make-up styles herself, which she admitted has raised some eyebrows.
“It can be tricky for a married Muslim woman to be on camera, but for this I thought why not do it myself? I am part-Khaleeji.
We get foreign models to play the role (of us), but we have our own women doing the same thing really well. It’s time to represent ourselves,” she told Doha News.
She admits that responses to her attitude have been mixed. It has attracted criticism, but the positive comments still outweigh the negative ones, which is a sign of some social change, she said.
“I definitely think attitudes there to women are changing. It is more accepting now more than ever and that has made having a career in social media much easier.
I want to use my blogs and vlogs to get women from this region into a more positive light and for people to better understand who we are.”
Part Omani, with Bangladeshi and Canadian heritage, Al Siyabi describes herself as “a woman of the world.”
She said she spent months researching online and in person similarities and differences of the styles of women from the six GCC countries.
Al Siyabi said she wanted to bust the myth that women in the Gulf are submissive and oppressed and to show their massive consumer power, particularly in fashion and beauty.
This is a sentiment shared by other Khaleeji women.
Sarah Al Motairi, a Saudi national living in Qatar, said Al-Siyabi was trying to use fashion as a means to “break barriers while eliminating borders.”
“Muslim women in the Gulf are some of the highest educated and most fashion forward in the world. With love for empowerment and independence, and of course, fashion, today’s modern Gulf woman is one of the world’s largest fashion and cosmetic consumers,” Al Motairi added.