Palestinian-Irish influencer Marwa Biltagi makes strides for inclusivity

Born and raised in California, Palestinian-Irish Instagram star Marwa Biltagi is one to watch. (File/Getty)
Updated 05 August 2019

Palestinian-Irish influencer Marwa Biltagi makes strides for inclusivity

DUBAI: Born and raised in California, Palestinian-Irish Instagram star Marwa Biltagi has created a niche for herself as a hijab-wearing influencer who appeals to fans outside the Muslim community.

With more than 28,000 followers on her Instagram account @mademoisellememe — where she posts snaps from her travels and shows off her feminine-to-funky style — the blogger spoke to Arab News about her career and the rise of modest fashion around the world.

“It started as a creative outlet. I wanted to build a fashion and lifestyle platform that was not based around my life in the traditional blogging way, but about a total lifestyle that I curated for my readers in my own personal taste,” Biltagi told Arab News.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Closet essential: a statement coat. @moeez #modiststyle

A post shared by Marwa Meme Biltagi (@mademoisellememe) on

“I used my nickname, Meme, because I wanted my ideas, writings and content to be received by a wide audience instead of being labeled as a Muslim or hijab-focused website that is too niche for others to read,” she added.

However, Biltagi is a keen supporter of being identifiably Muslim on social media, saying it creates a “more diverse and inclusive environment for self-expression.”

It can be difficult to adopt fashion trends that don’t adhere to modest fashion guidelines, the influencer admitted, but she has become an expert and twisting trends into her own style — a skill modest wear lovers from around the world have had to hone over the years.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

DELPOZO Two piece jacquard suit from @themodist, Hijab from @hautehijab @moeez

A post shared by Marwa Meme Biltagi (@mademoisellememe) on

“I don’t follow trends closely, but if there is something in particular that tickles my fancy, I will incorporate it into my closet in a way where it doesn’t look like I am trying too hard… In general, I don’t think all trends are meant for everyone. For instance, the biker short is not for a modest fashion girl. One might try to incorporate it in a modest way, but it just doesn’t make sense. Not all trends make sense for a modest dresser just like not all trends work for certain body types and heights,” she said.

The influencer, who is regularly spotted at New York Fashion Week, has not had an easy road to the top and opened up about the struggles of being self-employed.

“The major difficulty has always been the struggle of being an entrepreneur (who) is paving a path no one has taken… Inclusivity is still very new in 2019. The political climate adds to the hardship of being a Muslim working woman. Even with that said, I am very hopeful for our role in fashion and the arts in the future.”


Iconic Algerian raï singer Cheikha Rimitti gets square named after her in Paris

Cheikha Rimitti gets square named after her in Paris. (File/Getty Images)
Updated 17 November 2019

Iconic Algerian raï singer Cheikha Rimitti gets square named after her in Paris

  • Earlier this week, the Council of Paris designated an area of the French capital's 18th arrondissement to honor iconic raï singer Cheikha Rimitti
  • The square bears the name of the late singer

DUBAI: Earlier this week, the Council of Paris designated an area of the French capital's 18th arrondissement to honor the late iconic raï singer Cheikha Rimitti. Situated between Rue de la Goutte d'Or and Polonceau, the square bears the name of the Algerian musical pioneer.

Often called the “grandma of raï music,” Rimitti was born Saadia El-Ghizania to a impoverished family near Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria, in 1923.

After being orphaned during childhood, she went on to join a troupe of traditional Algerian musicians and sang and danced at weddings and celebrations around West Algeria before moving to the rural town of Relizane and writing her own songs.

During her decades-long career, she composed more than 200 songs that tackled themes of colonialism, poverty and immigration that have inspired some of today’s most celebrated raï singers, including Cheb Khaled and Rachid Taha.

She moved to Paris in 1978, where her music went on to garner international recognition. In addition to performing in sold-out tours in major cities across the world, she also collaborated with Robert Fripp and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The iconic singer died in Paris in 2006 at the age of 83 from a heart attack, just two days after performing at the Zenith.