In April earlier this year, Maryam Basir was the subject of a CNN Newsroom segment entitled: ‘Bikini model: I’m a faithful Muslim’. Today we speak with Basir to check in and get her take on life post the CNN featurette.
Maryam, to get started, please tell Examiner readers some basic information about yourself
As Salaam wa Alaikum!
I was born in Detroit, and raised in Ann Arbor. After graduating university of Michigan, I moved to New York, never even thinking of modeling. Just interested in exploring my life in the big city.
You were recently featured on CNN (video) and referred to as a “Muslim bikini model”, has there been any backlash since the feature aired? What about messages of support and understanding?
Yes, there have been tons of people emailing me, on Facebook especially facebook.com/maryambasir. Some have been in great support, saying that they can relate and want to fulfill their dreams while still continuing practicing Islam, calling the CNN story inspirational. There have also been people emailing me to say that I am doing the wrong thing, leading [others] down the wrong path, and they will pray for me. I was hesitant to read comments because I was 9 months pregnant during that particular interview, and I didn’t want to get upset by ‘hate mail’ — however I was surprised because even the people who disagreed were very compassionate and came from a very loving place, which is indicative of what Islam teaches.
Some of the most interesting things to read were the debates people had, back and forth, on my page. I appreciated all of them because I really felt that they were trying to help, and do the best they could, based on what they knew and believed.
What do you say to naysayers from any of the following groups: Muslims, males, those who currently dominate the modeling industry, and/or the general public?
Allah is the only judge. I reject anyone else who attempts to place judgement upon me.
How do you balance your spirituality and religion with the demands of the industry and life in general?
My spirituality is what gets me through in a cutthroat, godless industry. I would not have come this far and been able to look at myself in the mirror and be proud of my decisions and accomplishments without my spirituality and faith in Allah and Islam.
What is your dream modeling gig or job?My goal is in film and television. I love to be a part of telling meaningful stories through amazing films. As an artist, essentially, I love the process, and the creativity and openness of filmmaking. It would be awesome to work with Leonardo DiCaprio in a film because he is an actor who can make you believe him by one expression. Amazing. And as far as characters, my dream is to do action films where I can display fighting techniques, martial arts, etc., like a female superhero!
As far as modeling, it would be interesting to do Sports Illustrated, because it has launched so many careers. I also love doing beauty campaigns.
Favorite model or most beneficial inspiration to you?
Iman. I grew up always admiring her beauty, and there is a depth to her behind the beauty that I can appreciate. I am never star struck because I have to be around celebs all the time. When I met Iman, she told me I had amazing legs and I almost fainted.
You’ve just celebrated your first mother’s day, congratulations to you and your husband! How do you plan to get your body back healthy and strong and is your next modeling booking already on the horizon?
My first Mother’s Day was amazing. Thank you! My daughter Sadé Esmeralda is the biggest accomplishment that I have ever made in my life this far. Having gone through labor and now motherhood is teaching me so much, especially humility and the ability to let go of control and simply accept… In other words, she’s the boss in our lives at the moment :)
Throughout my pregnancy I did yoga and walked a lot. She’s now 4 weeks old. I just started working out again yesterday, with a boot camp class, then today I did Zumba. I plan to continually work out and eat right – the only way to stay healthy and fit. My agency has called me to start working again, and I plan to start again in a few weeks.
Members of your family have broken into the entertainment industry, namely your brother, Director Qasim Basir, would you like to see more of your family involved in the industry?
I would love to see everyone in my family fulfill their deepest desires and dreams. I didn’t necessarily choose this industry, this industry chose me, and I fell in love with it. I support my family in whatever they choose. The most important thing to me is that they/we maintain the core values from my mother that we were brought up learning.
What can Muslims do in support of you and your career goals?
Fulfill their own dreams while maintaining their Islam. Not be judgmental. Give me positive words of inspiration and support. Love each other.
Ameen. Thank you so much for your time. We’ll continue to follow your career path and wish you and your family the best!
© Sakina Al-Amin