She strikes you as the Arab reincarnation of Elizabeth Taylor with her well-defined, thick eyebrows, dazzling smile and a distinct fondness for turbans. Meet Winnie Detwa, an Egyptian-American lifestyle blogger with a penchant for vintage items and maxi skirts. Detwa spoke with our style writer, Alnas Zia, about her unbridled take on fashion and life in general.
“Style has always been a priority. Ever since I was a little girl, I would draw sketches, but I never thought that I could pursue what I loved, until I began my blog with the encouragement and support of the people around (me),” she told Zia. Besides her blog, she also documents her life on her YouTube channel, Facebook page, and Instagram (WinnieDetwa).
Aslan Media: What is fashion for you? How would you describe your personal style?
Winnie Detwa: Fashion, to me, is the way that someone can express themselves, and most of all their personality, through an exterior form. Many people say that one should focus on their internal factors, dismissing their exteriors, but I don’t believe that- not one bit. It is always important to be a walking billboard for what you stand for or believe- and in my case, it’s femininity. My personal style is filled with floral prints, skirts, lace and extravagant prints (not to mention, a bold lip). My style can be laid-back, but for the most part, it’s very ladylike.
AM: What is the story behind the name “Winnie Detwa?”
WD: As for the name, I’ve always loved the name ‘Winnie’. My nicknames were always so ugly, so I would basically ask the people I knew to nickname me Winnie, but nobody ever would. When I began this blog, I realized that if I ever met any of my supporters, then they would call me Winnie, and that’s when I had decide, that I would change my name. As for ‘Dètwa’, it was my own take on pronouncing Detroit in French, except I butchered the spelling. I still thought it was awesome though, so I kept it!
AM: Have you always been interested in fashion? Do you remember any stories from your childhood that would indicate that you were a fashionista in the making?
WD: Yes! I loved dressing my barbies and dressing up/giving my little sister a makeover! But, as a Middle-Eastern, the subject of pursuing anything, that wasn’t law, engineering, or medicine, was almost taboo. I was constantly surrounded by people that did not follow their dreams, so I put my ambitions and passion aside for school. For the longest time, it was one of my hidden talents, but I was just too afraid to defy the norm.
AM: When and how did your blog come along? Was it after you started your youtube channel?
WD: I initially started off blogging with pictures of my everyday style. It wasn’t until, about, a month later, when many people had asked for my scarf/turban tutorials. I did a few, until I realized that there was an overwhelming amount on YouTube. That is when I began doing “look books” and more personal ‘get-to-know-me’/behind the scenes’ videos.
AM: What was the reaction your blog and YouTube channel received from family, friends, community?
WD: From family and close friends, it was mostly positive. Yet, with my community, it was mostly negative. I’ve heard comments such as “How does she think she’ll be able to pay her bills”, “Does she think anyone will marry her?”, “What she’s doing is haram (forbidden in Islam)”, “If anyone likes her Facebook page, they will go to hell with her.” But, I couldn’t let any of that get to me, because this is, and had always been, my passion.
AM: What are you studying? Do you plan to take up fashion as a career in your future?
WD: Currently, I’m a senior in college, studying political science. I do plan on taking up fashion as a career, in the future. It has began to take up so much of my life, that I would not mind it consuming my life.
AM: Who are your fashion icons?
WD: PEOPLE. I love watching people. Everyone is so unique, in their own way, and it’s nice to be able to take inspiration from street style.
AM: Where do you like to shop from? Any favorite designers?
WD: Can’t afford designers, but if I ever could, it would definitely be Ellie Saab. I shop from all places, everywhere, from H&M, Topshop, J.Crew, secondhand stores. I definitely recommend secondhand stores though.
AM: On a typical day, what would we find you wearing?
WD: Probably something floral or lace, my turban and a flowy skirt.
AM: Your favorite item in your wardrobe?
WD: My peach skirt from Urban Outfitters. I wear that at least 3 times a week. Is that sad?
AM: For some people, the hijab is a symbol of oppression but a lot of young Muslim girls, including you, have proved that it is possible to stylishly incorporate the hijab into your outfit whether it is in the form of a turban or in a draped style. What do you say about managing modesty and fashion?
WD: It’s definitely not that difficult. Each of us have our own ideas of modesty but what most people need to realize is that hijab isn’t just about covering our hair, that is just a part of it. Hijab is the way we carry ourselves. I have never felt oppressed by hijab. It was my choice and still is. Never be afraid to express your style as long as it conforms to your beliefs of what modesty is.
AM: There is often a debate on your Facebook page and personal Instagram account amongst Muslim girls about the turban not being the “correct” form of hijab. Some of the comments made can be harsh and really hateful. What is your philosophy of handling criticism?
WD: Not everyone is going to like what you do, but there will be the few that do, and will support you. It’s those few that should always keep you going. Even if there is not one person out there that like what you’re doing, as long as your content with yourself then you should continue what you’re doing. Always be confident and never let criticism get to you. Take what you can (constructive criticism), and disregard the rest.
AM: You have started a project on Instagram called “Turbanation” to show the many different creative and stylish ways of taking the hijab. Tell us a bit about that.
WD: #turbanation is a movement created for everyone, not just hijabis! There are non-Muslims and Muslims that “turban-ate,” and I thought that it would be a good idea for all of us, turban-istas/turban-ers, to come together. There are Sikh men, Asian women, African women, Middle Eastern, Caucasian women that are constantly ‘hashtagging’ their pictures #turbanation and it’s really cool for inspiration.
AM: Muslim fashion is a growing market in the US, and there is a high demand for local designers of hijabs, abayas, kaftans and other modest Muslim fashions. What do you think of it and the niche it has created for itself in the American society?
WD: I think it’s awesome that Muslims have created a name for themselves in Western society and market! It’s a breakthrough and I am constantly in awe.
AM: What is in the future for Winnie Detwa?
WD: Many, many, many things. Prepare to witness.By Alnas Zia, Aslan Media Style Writer