Mariah Idrissi Meets La Crosse


Karley Betzler, Staff Reporter

Before 2015, no Muslim hijab-wearing model had been featured in a global campaign for the world-renowned brand, H&M. Mariah Idrissi changed the world of fashion and now she hopes to change the world.  

UWL hosted Idrissi earlier this week for two presentations. On Monday night in Centennial Hall, Idrissi began her presentation, titled “Muslim, Model, and Motivation”, sharing that this visit was her first time in Wisconsin. Idrissi later added, “I love Wisconsin!”  

Idrissi explained that her career as a model began in a shopping center. “…I got stopped by a casting director,” Idrissi explained. Idrissi had never planned to make fashion into a career. She went on to say she took the job because she had just graduated from a University and needed the money. After the photoshoot, Idrissi said that people were telling her, “You’re the world’s first hijab-wearing model.”  

At first, Idrissi didn’t believe this claim. Then, people began asking what political statement she was trying to make. Idrissi hadn’t originally thought of the campaign as political. This realization motivated Idrissi to do something more. “I saw the bigger picture,” Idrissi stated, “This became the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last at night.”

Idrissi explained, “It’s bigger than me just being a model.” Idrissi went on to say, “It’s more fulfilling to talk to girls.” Idrissi went on to become an advocate for various causes. She’s currently an active ambassador for Human Care Syria, which provides hygiene and sanitation products for women.  

Idrissi reflected on the responses to her H&M photos. “I was called a sign of Judgement Day. People said, ‘I’m boycotting H&M, they’re promoting ISIS.’” Idrissi laughed looking back at these remarks. Later she said, “A lot of the time I just ignore [negative feedback].”  

Idrissi noted that a quarter of the world’s population is Muslim, but they have little representation and when Muslims are in the media, they’re typically misrepresented with stereotypes. Idrissi aims to, “…showcase lack of diversity, representation, and inclusivity.” Idrissi commented that media representation is what the younger generations see and often young people can elicit change. Idrissi stated, “If you play it safe, you’ll stay in the same place.”  

During the presentation Idrissi went through her five keys to success. Idrissi’s first key to success is having a goal. “Having your intention clear…is so powerful,” stated Idrissi. She went on to discuss passion, saying, “If you never do anything with it, it’s worthless.”  

Her second key is work ethic. Idrissi explained that it helps the process when there’s a plan to get to the goal. Idrissi said, “Work towards what it is you want to achieve.” Then, Idrissi went on to talk about her third key; networking. She noted, “Through the power of networking is how I’m here today.” Idrissi encouraged people to network, especially women.  

She added, “It’s one of the most beneficial things you can do for your career.” She then went on to her fourth key, organization. Idrissi emphasized that without being organized, she wouldn’t have been successful. Idrissi ended with her last key; trust in God. Idrissi said to the audience that they if they didn’t believe in God, maybe the universe or energy could be their higher power. Idrissi expressed that, “…trusting in something that has more power than you,” is crucial to success.  

Idrissi has a new project in the works as well. Africa Made You Rich, AMUR, began with a poem written by Idrissi, which she performed in a YouTube video posted in June of 2017. The positive response to the poem motivated Idrissi to do something more. “I’m having a documentary made,” Idrissi stated. She went on to add that AMUR will feature six celebrities and show Africa in a way, “…not conventionally seen by the media.” AMUR is set to be released in 2018.