Make-up Shake Up: YouTube’s Muslim Make-up Sensation

The MMW Friday link lists often highlights the disparity between non-Muslim perception of Muslim women’s experiences and the lives Muslim women actually live.

Hence the recent spate of incredulous articles about hijab fashion websites. For Muslim women, the concept of hijab fashion is nothing new, but for Western journalists, Muslim women having the inclination and freedom for frivolity is unexpected.

So for me and I expect many readers of this site, a Muslimah giving make-up tutorials on YouTube is no big surprise. Especially considering the maximalist approach to make-up favored in many Muslim-majority countries.

Makeupadikt, aka Asma Yakub, is a U.K.-based sister with 60 videos on her channel. Her tutorials cover western, Arab, and Bollywood make-up styles as well, color schemes, tips and hijab style.

Her videos are shot at home and scheduled around her work as a freelance architect and looking after her two children. Despite this, she has over 23,000 subscribers, is #27 on the list of Most Subscribed Gurus on YouTube and her Facebook page has over 10,000 fans. When you consider that she has only been posting videos for just over a year, the statistics become even more impressive.

As someone who has to dust off their make-up bag before I (occasionally) use its contents, I may not be the most qualified to explain her success. However, I think her appeal may be due to the way she provides step-by-step guides of the type of dramatic looks that are difficult to perfect without someone guiding you, unless you want to use a ton of cotton wool and patience to wipe away any mistakes.

Asma covers her hair in her videos and has made some hijab how-to videos. Aside from that, she doesn’t mention Islam in her videos (that’s a statement of fact, not a criticism). However on her channel page she makes a clear statement to any holier-than-thou haters:

“If you are Muslim and you don’t like what I am doing then just don’t watch. There is no point writing viscous comments since they will be removed and you will be blocked” (sic)

While the popular misconception is that Muslim women live in fear of death or violence if they are perceived to “step out of line,” the actual truth is far more mundane; hordes of Internet warriors telling you just how haram you are.

She then reminds any Islamophobe commenters that their comments are equally unwelcome. This neatly skewers the twin torments of any Muslimah who dares to stand out: a disapproving community telling you that you are too bad for your religion and the bigoted and ill-informed saying your religion is too bad for you (and society).

Intriguingly, she is less forthcoming concerning her ethnicity, stating that she “Doesn’t believe in categorizing herself so crudely.” She is entitled to this stance, but it makes me wonder, not what her ethnicity is, but why she does not wish to disclose it. Is it fear of racism or prejudice? Or because by putting herself in one category, some may find her multi-ethnic make up less appealing or authentic?

Asma’s slogan is “Embrace Your Inner Diva!” While I fear my inner diva may not be the touchy feely sort, I do feel her channel is a very positive representation of how vibrant Muslim women can bust through the pallid stereotypes.

Thanks to Farhad C. for the tip!

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  • Jasmine

    I love watching Makeup tutorials on youtube, as do lots of muslim and non-muslim girls I know. We’ve ALL done a makeupadikt tutorial!

  • Saba

    Her work is amazing and her tutorials are great! Generally not for every day make-up, but I think everyone is tempted to go for a dramatic look once in a while. And I do think the way she plays with make-up is more about artistry rather than covering up all the ‘bad spots’ on your face and conforming to the beauty standard (though she does do both occasionally).

    Anyway, I love that she’s a proud architect, mother, make-up artist and Muslim all in one. Muslim women (and even women in general) are never portrayed to be so complex in the mainstream… And I do remember watching one of her “FAQ” videos where she addressed the perceived dichotomy between her faith and her make-up hobby. She talked about growing up in a fairly liberal family who encouraged her educational/career ambitions, but were actually caught off-guard by her decision to wear the hijab. I can only imagine people assume the opposite when they see her covered up…

  • Samar

    I have been following her for quite some time and I enjoy her vids. And as Saba mentioned she does have a video where she addresses her faith. Go to the playlist: Non-makeup vids and you will find it there. Also she promotes her brothers channel Noorbox which provides the Quran in Arabic with modern English translation (to which some of her followers were offended by her promotion of this as ‘unprofessional’, but she stands by it, alhumdh) So I’d say shes quite open and honest about her faith. Of course it’s not something she addresses all the time since her focus is makeup.

    In regards to her ethnicity I find that odd too. Most people are proud of their heritage and celebrating it but perhaps she stays ambiguous about it in order to appeal to a broad range of viewers (as not to form any ethnic ‘alliances’).

  • The Q

    As someone who has paltry glam skillz, I’m thankful for these kinds of videos. It’s like the older sister I never had!

  • Lara A

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Thank you for your comments. I will definitely have to check out her FAQ videos, thanks for the tip.

    I also think it’s great seeing such a well rounded and ‘real’ Muslimah as opposed to the stereotypes we are usually presented with. More power to Makeupadikt* and her make up brush!

    *When I first saw the spelling of her Youtube name, the pedant in me winced, but it makes her very easy to Google, she’s a smart lady.

  • Dina

    She made many videos adressing Islam actually – she spoke of Ramadan, fasting, not doing videos during that time, she made Eid makeups for both Eids last year, she did videos on why she is wearing hijab, she did one video “I am not oppressed” where she adresses her faith.

    If asked she tells about her roots in Pakistan or India, and one side of her family having roots in Saudi Arabia. She does not seem to be “monoethnic”, but she is upfront with her minority status. I don’t think she presents any “disturbing” reasons for not talking about her concrete ethnicity a lot.

    She does talk about her own bridal look in one of her two “pakistani/indian bride” videos etc.

    Sadly, she took a time out for health reasons for two months now. Many people keep her in their thoughts – in that one year she touched many IMO. Hope she gets better soon!