Zahra Moosa | Fashion Model

Somali | Fashion Model | Pre-Med Student

Interview by | Elaine Pizzini | 2021

I bring Uniqueness | Individuality | Swag

Zahra Moosa, Somali fashion model | Minneapolis, MN found her way to modeling via an interest in fashion design; however, she realized early on that fashion designing was not for her. In the early days of deciding what area in fashion she wanted to participate in, she pivoted to modeling. She knew that she enjoyed the world of fashion, the photos, styles, and clothes but to be a fashion designer, she would need to sketch, and this one area was what she found most challenging. She did not enjoy drawing the needed skill of sketching to design clothes. With this in mind, a suggestion from her siblings, and knowing that she loves fashion, she maintained her interest in fashion and pivots to modeling.

Zahra speaks five languages, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Somali, and English. Moreover, an additional insightful tidbit is that her love of biology and interest in public health, and the desire to bring awareness to people of the importance of public health has put her on the path to a career in health as well. She will begin her medical studies in the Caribbean this Spring to fulfill her dream of becoming a physician. Zahra is surprisingly personable and open provides a peek into who she is during the interview. In one instance, she states, “I’m very funny; I’ve a goofy side and I’m interested in science fiction and true crime documentaries”.

Being a Somali fashion model in Minneapolis comes with its own challenges as it is not New York or Los Angeles, she states; however, she overcomes, perseveres, and continues to enjoy modeling. So, take a few minutes and share in her story of insights, experiences, and opportunities.

Elaine | How old were you when you had your first audition? And after the audition were you chosen?

Zahra | My first audition was at my Meredith Model Talent Agency, I was 20 years old. The reason why I was not chosen was that I had no experience nor was I a professionally trained model.

Elaine | What was the first feeling you felt when you walked the runway for your first show. And do you recall the emotion or emotions you felt at the end of your first fashion show?

Zahra | Yes, I definitely recall that feeling till now. I was nervous and excited. Since I was not trained, I had a hard time walking in high heels.

Elaine | Will you continue to work as a fashion model going forward or do you have other plans for your future? What does your future look like?

Zahra | I definitely have plans to attend medical school but will always continue modeling.

Elaine | In what area or areas of fashion modeling do you prefer to work? Print|runway, commercial, etc.

Zahra | I prefer runway and often I get modeling opportunities for runways.

Elaine | Are there any areas in modeling that you would like to participate in that you have not yet worked in?

Zahra | Yes, I would love to participate in commercial, print, and hand modeling opportunities.

Elaine | What kind of modeling do you often find that you are hired?

Zahra | Runway.

Elaine | What two fashion shows have you participated in within the last three years and choose one show that you would like to share regarding your experience.

Zahra | I participated in the UMN Fashion Show at the University of Minnesota for three years in a row. I also took part in Sisterhood Boutique Fashion Show. Both experiences were very rewarding. During the UMN Fashion Show, I was approached by a Muslim man and he said he loves how I am representing a Muslim black woman and how diversity and inclusivity are essential.

Elaine | How are you compensated for participating in a show or event? And is there a need for a more supportive compensation than currently exists for aspiring and freelance fashion models?

Zahra | I feel like experienced and freelance models should definitely be paid more. Before I was signed with agencies, I would do each show or event for free because I was still learning and wasn’t experienced. But now that I am trained and signed with agencies, all jobs are paid.

Elaine | How were you compensated in the past for modeling at events, shows, etcetera?

Zahra | Well, before I was signed with agencies, I would model at events or shows for family and friends.

Elaine | What is that you believe you bring to every fashion show that you have participated in?

Zahra | I bring individuality, uniqueness, different style, and swag.

Elaine | How often would you say that you participated in fashion shows or events prior to COVID-19?

Zahra | Six to ten fashion shows or events a year.

Elaine | Have you modeled outside of the Minneapolis | St. Paul area?

Zahra | No, unfortunately, due to Covid all events outside the Twin Cities were not possible.

Elaine | Do you participate in other activities outside of modeling?

Zahra | I play soccer, volleyball, and yoga.

Elaine | Are you a freelance fashion model or currently contracted with an agent or agency?

Zahra | I am considered both as I am not bound to only work with one agency. The agencies I chose were based in my state so I got more work opportunities and also they are ranked the best in the Twin Cities.

Elaine | How do you go about finding modeling opportunities and would you recommend hiring an agent?

Zahra | Yes, I do have modeling agents. But before I was signed, I would connect with designers and photographers. They are a very good source for an aspiring fashion model.

Elaine | Did you attend a modeling school? If so, what was your experience?

Zahra | Yes, I attended a modeling and acting school called John Casablanca. I chose to attend because I wanted to be a professionally trained model. The school really helped me become who I am today. I learned a lot from them.

Hire | More Black Hijabi Models

Elaine | Are you of the Muslim faith and do you currently practice your faith?

Zahra | Yes, I am Muslim.

Elaine | As a fashion model, have you run into any challenges because of your faith and how did you overcome the challenge?

Zahra | Definitely, yes, I had to tell designers that I can only wear modest clothes and will not take off my hijab. Most designers do understand and are respectful about it.

Elaine | Have you modeled for any Muslim fashion designers?

Zahra | Yes, Ramadhan | Ramadhan Designs, I did a couple of shots with her. She was launching her website in 2019.

Elaine | Is there anything that you would like to see change someday in the fashion industry?

Zahra | Yes, I would love the industry to hire more hijabi models.

Elaine | What do your friends and family think about your choice to model?

Zahra | Family and friends are very supportive of it. My parents are happy as long as I have a bachelor’s degree which I do and still pursue my dream of becoming a physician.

Elaine | What is one thing that you would like people to know about you as a person and as a fashion model?

Zahra | Some people get intimidated by me once they know I do modeling. I am more than just a model is what I would like people to know about me.

Elaine | What advice would you give to a person interested in becoming a model?

Zahra | Yes, there are scammers and predators in this industry. Be aware and ask questions about any opportunity. And never go alone for a casting call or photo shoot, always take someone with you.

Elaine | Why did you choose to become a fashion model?

Zahra | I feel like you can express yourself and grow your confidence.

Elaine | How long have you been modeling?

Zahra | For the past five years.

Elaine | As a Muslim woman and fashion model, have you found any challenges in the world of fashion that you would like to see changed or improved upon?

Zahra | Yes, I would love for the world to be more supportive of Muslim models and not be too judgmental.

Elaine | Overall, as a fashion model, your experience as a model has been…how would you describe?

Zahra | It has been a learning journey. I grew as a person and learned a lot from this industry and from myself. I know I am not an|IMG| model yet but the overall experiences have been rewarding.

Elaine | What would you like people to know about you via your experience as a fashion model?

Zahra | I would love people to know that behind this face, there is a woman who’s funny, goofy, loves true crime documentaries, speaks four languages, and is a future dermatologist.

Elaine | Which city do you closely identify with as your career location currently, Minneapolis, St. Paul, or another location?

Zahra | Minneapolis.

Elaine | What’s the modeling scene like in Minneapolis for starting models? And did you experience any challenges that you would like to share when you first started modeling?

Zahra | Yes, Minneapolis is not the city for modeling, especially runway; it’s been challenging finding runway job opportunities. Also, you barely find black Muslim hijabi’s in local modeling agencies.

Elaine | Have you modeled only in Minneapolis, or other cities as well? If so where and what was the experience like for you? Would you model again in that city, if so why?

Zahra | No so far I have only modeled in the Twin Cities.

Elaine | Finally, what piece of advice would you give to an aspiring fashion model?

Zahar | You will hear a lot of rejection than acceptance, which is okay. Don’t discourage yourself. Don’t change who you are to fit in, trust me individuality matters in this industry. Don’t lose hope if you are passionate about modeling you you will get there. Z | Moosa

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