Sana Saleh – Welcome to my corner of the world, friend! I am a wife and mother of two sweet little girls – as well as a fur mama to two kittens.
1) You mentioned that you were a social worker by trade and switched to being a beauty entrepreneur. Can you walk us through the transition of how that happened?
When I went to college, I knew I wanted to work with people – but did not understand how I would do that. Social work fell into my lap and I fell in love with the work. Eventually, I landed my dream job as a child protection social worker and started working on the front line, with neglected and abused children. It was very rewarding but also very taxing. I was emotionally exhausted and was having a hard time disconnecting from my work when I got home. I became pregnant with my first child and that is when I realized I had another calling. I had my baby and went on maternity leave, and that is when I started pondering the idea of starting a business from home as I was a beauty junkie! I loved all things related to skincare and makeup. I started doing makeup on local friends and eventually brides. It became an actual business where I was eventually booked solid to do makeup for entire wedding parties, with my kiddo at my side. That is when I became pregnant with my second child, and I realized I wanted to be at home with them more than ever. I stumbled across my beauty business and have never looked back. I have been able to grow it across the world in several countries, and have a newfound passion for empowering women and boosting their confidence. I always tell people I am still in the line of social work (empowering others) but I am taking a different approach to it now as I am now helping women feel good about themselves!
2) Have you experienced any cultural/systemic barriers when you started building your business where beauty standards are more Eurocentric?
I was actually the first “known” hijabi girl in my current beauty company – and I knew I stuck out, as I looked nothing like the other girls. I struggled a lot, feeling self-conscious as I knew I was not the same as others. That changed once I moved to Ontario (I was born and raised in British Columbia) as I started growing a following of women who were more similar to me. That is when women who were similar to me, started following me online – and I started to grow my business more in the Muslim community. I realized that I just needed to diversify a little more, and find confidence in who I was. When I embraced myself, that is when everything started to change and get easier.
3) You mentioned that you are in an interracial marriage. How does this work in the brown culture?
This is probably one of the number one questions we get as an interracial couple. There are dozens of people who reach out to us on a weekly basis, in similar situations as us – asking for advice. It took time for my husband to be accepted into my family, but it has been a blessing ever since. We were lucky as he spent a few months in Pakistan and immersed himself in the culture, so it never really felt like we could not relate to one another. We have made it work since day one – and of course, it helps that he is Muslim, so he understands everything to do with the religion, even more so than myself!
4) Can you share a time in your life you felt lost and hopeless? How did you overcome that phase?
When I was trying to convince my mother to accept my choice in marriage – that struggle lasted for 5 years until she finally came around and said yes. It was hard. Sometimes it felt like she would never say yes, but one day our patience paid off and a miracle happened. Out of the blue, she had a change of heart. I feel like the only thing that helped me overcome that phase was my patience. If you are struggling with anything in life, have faith – be patient and let time do its thing. Even if it takes a few years, you will be surprised to see how far you eventually go. You can move mountains when you keep walking. Don’t get down and feel like you can never come back up again.
5) Brown women are struggling to find a space in the body-positive world because the definition of “body-positivity” in the North American culture doesn’t include our traditions and clothing. What are your thoughts about that? How can we create that space for ourselves?
I embraced wearing a hijab when I finished university. It was NOT easy. Coming from a town where no one wore it, I completely felt out of place. As time went on, I realized it was mostly in my head. People were not really staring at me like I thought they were. And ultimately, if they were staring – it did not mean I was any less powerful. I feel like I felt MORE empowered the moment I embraced who I was and how I dressed. Now I am a voice for thousands of girls who are in the same spot as me – finding their way and navigating the waters. Truly, all it takes is a little confidence and powering through it. We can stand up and be proud of who we are, after all – who else will if we don’t?
6) How are you managing motherhood, entrepreneurship while challenging norms as a brown woman?
I have two little girls and every day they watch me run my business. Not only am I teaching them about discipline and how to become financially independent, but they are also seeing how confident I have become as a woman. Anytime my daughter asks me about my “work” I tell her I am doing it for her, and her sister. They will grow up knowing that they are in control and they are worthy of doing whatever sets their heart on fire. I won’t say it is easy, because it is not. Owning your own business takes a LOT of work, but in the end, it is rewarding as YOU are in the driver seat. You get to choose how far you want to drive. Always remember, being a mama is hard – but your children will thank you and appreciate everything you do for them.
Empowering women through self-love
Follow us at @msbrownplus
Interviewed by Sumu Sathi
Edited by Sharmila Sivasankaran
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