I cannot even begin to describe this woman in a way that will do her justice, nonetheless here is my run-of-the-mill attempt. At twenty, Malak Heider has obliterated every field of work she has chosen to pursue. After graduating from Lycée Français d’Accra in Ghana back in 2017, she went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in business and economics from the Université Lyon II Lumière. With a fiery personality and a heart of gold, she’s empowering like-minded women everywhere. We could not be more excited to watch her grow; and I mean that literally, next fall she’ll be starting her masters in international marketing and business development in the South of France at a private school called Skema, (we couldn’t be prouder). After a four hour long conversation with Malak, I can assure you Malak’swardrobe is not even a fraction of the constituents that comprise her blazing character. At just six years old she found her mind brimming with the desire to “strut around in a red midi-dress and Louboutins around companies” as she tries “to make a difference in the world.” So mark your calendars, because in a few years’ time, we’ll be witnessing her do just that.
You’re currently a university student, how has the move abroad been? and what are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a uni student still trying to navigate a strong social media presence?
Malak is no stranger to the estrangement brought on by moving abroad, nonetheless she found comfort in the newness “The move has been GREAT. I’ve been moving around because of my dad’s job ever since I was a little girl so I never really had trouble adapting to new environnements. My biggest challenge was having to manage my time between studying, work, working out , keeping the house clean and still having a life. Putting out content regularly was also a bit tricky and it still is when you feel overwhelmed at times. It was definitely great in terms of exposure, it teaches you to break any cultural barriers that might exist because you meet people from all walks of life. It was just a bit hard because you learn to not get attached to anything but can be a bit difficult emotionally (especially for a kid you know?)”
What has your biggest achievement been thus far? How long have you been doing this?
My favourite question to ask Malak because it unpacks exactly what I mean when I say fiery personality, she literally started her own company when she was fourteen! “I had to shut it down when I was sixteen but it was great, I maintained it for a while long distance when I went to Ghana. It was a small project that involved making phone covers and pins and mugs and that’s when I really knew I was in love with business.” uhmm…need I say more? “Then, I got my bachelors degree at twenty so this is currently the achievement I’m enjoying the most. Last October I landed my first job at Start with Gratitude totally on my own by randomly walking up to a lady in a cafe and offering her my services. And right now, I feel like Malak’swardrobe is growing and I’m trying to help as many girls as I can to know their worth and help them with their problems seeing that I’m an Egyptian living abroad so I understand the culture without being judgemental and whilst having a neutral point of view. So just knowing that’s something I did or said helped someone also classifies as a huge achievement for me.” and again…I am left utterly speechless, I am telling you, this girl can do no wrong in my book.
Your platform has gone beyond a style page. You legit spend ages sifting through and answering their questions, engaging with them on a personal level. What made you take that initiative?
“Here’s the thing, people think that malakswardrobe was initially a fashion/style page. It’s really not. I do enjoy dressing up etc. But I mostly wanted to create a platform where girls could share their struggles privately and feel heard. Obviously it’s very hard to start a page like this and regroup people quickly. So I had to find a theme that I knew most girls would go for and that’s fashion. So I kept quiet about the page’s purposes until I hit 10,000 followers. That’s when I started actually doing Q&A’s. What made me take the initiative of starting the page was the fact that I see so much potential in women/girls and I feel like they just don’t see it. And I wanted to change things so I started with the Egyptian community because I see what happens on a daily basis, how they deal with things and how they perceive everything around them.”
I truly love and respect your unapologetic feminist rants, yet I can’t help but wonder how some of your audience reacts. Have you gotten any responses essentially asking you to ‘quiet down’, if so what was your reaction?
Malak is no stranger to hate comments. She’s witnessed first-hand just how toxic social media can be. Whilst she rarely gets rude comments about her feminism on social media by any of her followers (who endlessly support her) “there are times where I get a lot of blatant criticism, for example, when I released the ‘know your worth’ video, obviously by men who didn’t actually listen to the video properly. Some of their comments were brutal and really out of line. Basically, it’s rare. But when it happens it’s just awful. Then again, I knew what I was getting myself into so I don’t really get to complain. People are allowed to have different opinions. Some of them could just express them in a more appropriate manner. I was literally getting bullied and harassed through DMs. Some men kept saying women are to be obedient to their partners because men are men and that, I shouldn’t be brainwashing our girls into thinking they’re something when they’re not etc.”
Malak is fully aware of the fact that these comments arose from decades of breeding a culture of submission, “I read this quote somewhere, saying that ‘the more vocabulary you have, you’ll have less of a need to Insult’. For me they’re just ignorant and scared because they know that if the order changes and the patriarchy falls apart, they’ll be left with nothing. Also know that it’s not personal, he’s just projecting his own bulkshit around him. These people are to be pitied nothing more.”
An issue you are probably familiar with is the unnecessary policing of women’s bodies especially when it comes to fashion. It’s always “too cropped, too short, too revealing, too prudish”. How does it make you feel seeing a young woman’s worth curtailed to their fashion choices?
“I think it’s ridiculous. You are not what you wear, yes your style can say a lot about you (if you prefer comfort or bolder looks etc.) but it does not say anything about your intellect, your kindness or the person that you are concretely. Wearing a short skirt doesn’t mean you’re lacking intelligence. Your worth does not depend on your clothing choices. Just wear whatever makes you happy and feel like your most authentic self.” However, one thing she makes clear is the need to place oneself’s safety above self-expression in an exceedingly conservative society, “That being said, I don’t encourage girls to wear things that could put them in dangerous positions in certain areas.”
A lot of your content is centered around fashion, specifically styling clothes. With your body being your medium have you ever felt self-conscious or slightly insecure. If so how did you manage to reel yourself back into a healthy mindset?
“I’ve never felt self conscious on social media. I did get a phase in my life when I was bothered by my weight and the fact that I was very skinny but now I just don’t care anymore. I love my body and I’m grateful that it’s healthy. What helped me get back to my mindset was the fact that I understood that my body is here to help me move etc and that all bodies are beautiful in their own ways. Everyone has their assets and everyone has their flaws.”
Where do you see yourself in a year? What has fighting for recognition in your line of work teach you?
“In a year I see myself completing my first year for masters and hopefully having a much larger audience in Malak’swardrobe. Fighting for recognition has taught me that social media makes everything look much easier than it actually is. No one is actually themselves and the amount of work that it takes to keep proving people with content is crazy. It can also be mentally and emotionally draining. In a nutshell, it taught me patience, to be more understanding, to pick my words more carefully and to not underestimate content creators efforts.”
What is something social media has taught you that nothing else has so far?
“People who smile don’t necessarily lead happy lives. The amount of DMs I’ve received about girls who are suicidal, or that we’re being abused at home etc. is surreal. And if you look at their pictures you’d think they lead the happiest lives ever. This is why it can be mentally draining for me sometimes.” She also opened up about the overwhelming pressure she feels when addressing these questions, “having to wake up to messages like these really freaks me out. But it hurts my heart more than anything to know that someone feels this alone to the point of coming to me instead of their close circle. I tend to not have much background info which is why I have to be very careful with what I say. Most of the people who are hurt, are hurt by the people closest to their hearts and it just makes me ask myself so many questions.”
Who is someone you look up to? How do you stay motivated? What are some brands that are on your radar that you want to collaborate with in the future?
“I look up to my mother. She’s the kindest human being I know, she’s wise and supportive. I really lack the words to express how inspired I am by her. I stay motivated by reminding myself of how far I’ve come and by setting short term goals to keep myself wanting more and not giving up. I don’t really have any brands in mind, I take all the opportunities that come my way. I tend to prioritize smaller businesses because I want to help them gain recognition. But other than that, who knows what the future holds?” A wholesome response…brb while I dry my tears.
One thing people struggle with is dating abroad. Whilst to most it seems as though the dating pool has expanded beyond belief, it’s definitely a lot more complex. with your platform, your uni life and your social life, what has ‘love’ been like?
“Yes my dating pool has expanded but the expanse comes with its own challenges including cultural barriers. I am one to stay true to my principles regardless of the country I’m living in. Some of the pros include meeting people from all around the world and learning about their perspectives on things, it opens you up a lot more. Not to mention, it teaches you about what you truly want in a partner, however, this can also be tricky because I don’t settle for just anyone.”
How did your family react to your decision to start blogging at first? and how long did it take them before realising you were adamant and completely dedicated to your social media presence?
Just like many parents, Malaks’ were apprehensive in regards to social media as a whole. “My mom used to be very strict about social media when I was younger because she was so worried. But when she realized how stubborn I was being about it and about the message behind the page and my love for clothes etc. she automatically became very supportive. Both my parents still worry a bit but they’re my backbones and my hype people so it’s all good.”
What can you tell other teenagers who want to follow you down this path? What advice can you give young people wanting to become like you? What can you tell them about balancing life, what do you do to balance it all?
I could not have said this any better so I’ll let Malak do the talking, “Be patient, be consistent and your hard work will pay off. Don’t try to please people but rather release content you truly love. Know your worth and the people around you see it too. Time management is key, you don’t want to lose balance and give too much importance to one aspect of your life rather than another. it’s okay to take breaks to keep your mental health in check. Don’t drain yourself for the sake of putting out content.”
To whoever is reading this and wants to start something : do it! You’ve got this!
Malak you are a phenomenal young woman and I cannot wait to watch you grow.