When she’s not winning awards for her incredibly thought provoking articles on gender and diversity for Vice magazine or bin raiding luxury items for Cosmo, journalist Salma Haidrani is busy being a finalist for Miss England- you know- no biggie. We sat down with the multi-talented writer to find out how she is changing the game for women of colour in journalism, what’s on her skincare shelfie and how she takes her tea of course.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a London-based multi-award winning writer and journalist. I write for a number of titles including i-D, Vice, Broadly, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, Grazia, Refinery29UK, Time Out London, Munchies, The Pool and more. My articles are diverse and have spanned the unique challenges that Muslim women with eating disorders can face during the religious holiday of Ramadan for Broadly, Vice’s female-focussed channel, a photo-led piece exploring how British Muslim women feel about being constantly spoken for and about for Vice to the first exhibition of its kind to celebrate Britishness from the perspective of WoC in the UK for i-D. I’ve won a number of awards for my writing and journalism, including ‘Young Journalist of the Year’ as well as “Best Feature”.
My journalism has seen me appear on national TV and radio, including BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, BBC Asian Network, Sky News and BBC Four.
I’m also an author! I’ve written a chapter in a forthcoming anthology: “It's Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race”. Published by Picador Press in February 2019, it’s now available to pre-order. On a more personal note, while I was born and raised in London, I count a lot of cities home, including Beirut, Dubai and Sheffield. Some surprising things you might not know about me: I’m a heliophile (hence why I love Dubai!), I’m an identical twin sister and I’m rarely spotted without my trademark red lippie.
2) You write such incredibly powerful and interesting articles around gender and culture. How did you get into journalism?
Thank you so much! It’s so lovely to see read such wonderful comments, I’m always touched to hear them! I first got into journalism at uni where I penned a blog documenting what I perceived to be gender inequality on my campus. This received a lot of national attention and I won my first journalism award for it at 21. This marked the first time I toyed with the idea of journalism as a full-time career. I then started freelancing for a number of national titles and have since scooped several more awards – the rest is history! It’s a privilege to be able to write for a living and I’m living proof that your passion can become your career.
A significant amount of my journalism challenges preconceptions of marginalised communities. In such a turbulent socio-political climate, particularly post-Brexit, humanising these communities has never been so pertinent. That’s a significant reason what attracts me about journalism – I can reach vast audiences who might never encounter the people I profile in their everyday lives.
3) What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There’ve been so many highlights to choose from! I’m proud of becoming a multi-award winning writer and journalist at 25. This July, I realised I’ve been nominated for 10 journalism awards in total so that was a memorable moment. I’ve written for some incredible publications so writing for British Vogue would be the pinnacle. I’d love to interview the England football team – I think there’s a great story in their legacy in challenging the toxic anti-immigrant rhetoric in Britain over this summer and how it feels to have united a country that’s felt incredibly fractured post-Brexit. Naomi Campbell too – she’s had such a rich career so she’d be the perfect subject – I’d grill her on everything from Skepta to what it feels to be dubbed the most ‘powerful person in fashion’.
4) Best article you’ve ever written?
In terms of the pieces I’ve proudest of writing, these include my six-page feature for Cosmopolitan documenting my adventures bin raiding across London in the hunt for luxury items (anti-bac is a must if you fancy giving this a whirl!) and investigating honour-based violence in the South Asian community in Britain, where I interviewed survivors who now live in anonymity, for The Debrief.
I’m also incredibly proud of penning the first piece of its kind profiling British Muslim women discussing how they feel about being constantly spoken for and about for Vice (the piece was written following the European burkini scandal in the summer of August 2016 and re-surfaced this summer once again after Boris Johnson’s comments likening Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’).
I’ve been very fortunate to encounter some incredibly interesting people and collectives over the course of my career – some highlights include the man who created a space for London’s LGBTQ+ Muslims during Ramadan, a community that is often ostracised from the mainstream Muslim and LGBTQ+ community. I also profiled the man whose summer camp for trans kids is literally saving lives and I love artists Erin Aniker (@erinaniker) and Jess Nash’s (@jess_nash) commitment to diversifying the often middle-class art world in the UK – they’ve held some incredible exhibitions.
5) You were a Miss England finalist! Tell us a bit about that!
Participating in Miss England was such an exciting and surreal experience! I’ve long been fascinated by beauty pageantry and the motivations for the women that take part in it every year. 2018 was the last year I could apply for Miss England (you can’t apply if you’re past 25!) so I thought I’d give the contest a whirl. I’d love to divulge more but my experiences will soon be immortalized in one of my favourite glossy mags soon (so watch this space...!)
6) What is the most challenging thing about journalism or any misconceptions people have about it?
The most challenging aspect of journalism is how WoC like myself are often expected to write about issues predominantly on WoC/Muslim women etc. I’m incredibly fortunate that I write on the topics that I am most interested in but for WoC writers starting out, they can be tasked with penning these topics alone. We’re just as capable of writing about the latest emerging designer or the newest exhibition so it can be frustrating if you don’t get these opportunities.
As a freelance journalist, it can incredibly challenging to say no to commissions/ opportunities, especially to ones you would have killed for starting out! There’s a preconception that you have to “suffer for your art” but I don’t think that should be celebrated as necessary step to success - we should all go at our own pace.
In newsrooms, internships, jobs and even the columns of newspapers and magazines, I never saw journalists that ‘looked’ or in any way resembled me. There’s more women of colour and people of colour than ever before but change is still slow. Recent stats found that it’s overwhelming white and most journalists attended private school. Even so, it’s still possible to be the change you want to see – I’m living proof of that as I write the articles I wish I’d read when I was starting out.
7) Talk us through your morning routine.
Mornings are where I’m at my most creative so I love getting stuck into writing. Otherwise, a typical one looks like: resisting checking emails, Instagram and Twitter and consulting my to-do-list! I’m based in Dubai right now so I’m also likely to be found checking whether the air con is working first thing...!
8) Any skincare or beauty Instagram accounts we should stalk?
I adore Genelle Seldon and @iluvsarahii (I’m obsessed with how she recreates different looks – I wish she could do my make-up for a night out!). I also love how IG has embraced the multiplicities of what is considered ‘beautiful’ thee days – Louise Northcote has used the platform to raise awareness of acne, for one.
9) What would we find on your top shelfie?
It’s absolutely bursting with products (I’ve got sent a lot recently which is such a great perk) but I don’t tend to venture enough out of my comfort zone make-up wise! I’m obsessed with my trademark red lippie and my black kohl I sourced from Italy. I’m also partial to getting my lashes and talons done if I’m in London!
10) Finally…how do you take your tea? :-)
Milk before tea is sacrilegious - if I ever see a colleague do that, I’ll never un-see it! It has to be the perfect colour – I aim for a ‘burnt toffee shade’ (not too milky, not too dark and no sugar!). I’ve never quite mastered a masala chai, although I’d recommend @goldentiffin’s concotion as that takes some beating..!
Show this incredible woman some love by keeping up with Salma’s latest work on her Instagram/twitter @classic_salma
Wanna have a cup of tea with us? We are always looking for more fabulous women to feature for Delhicious Talks. Drop us a line at email@example.com