- Rahan Alemi is a 19-year-old creator, model, and student living in California.
- She started wearing a hijab in 2021 and made five figures through social media this year.
- This is Rahan’s story, as told reporter Shriya Bhattacharya.
This candid article is based on a conversation with Rahan Alemi, a 19-year-old content creator with 200,000 Instagram followers and 385,000 TikTok followers. It has been edited for length and clarity. Insider verified Alemi’s income with the documents she provided.
I started modeling when I was about 16 in Orange County, California. I saw my sister model when she was in high school and I wanted to be like her. She was my inspiration for entering the fashion world.
I started taking pictures with her, and I started doing fashion shows. My family is Muslim so I really enjoy doing anything with a South Asian or Middle Eastern vibe.
I started getting a lot of attention from my models, so that’s when I started posting a lot on social media.
I’ve had Instagram since middle school and I love fashion so I just style myself and take pictures. I also posted photos of my fashion show and photos of Revolve and Lulu’s.
My first TikTok only came out in 2019. It started out as fun, like a kind of private story time, where I would do live interviews on Rodeo Drive, and I would randomly ask people questions like “curly or straight?” The videos would explode — some of them had 500 million views. Then, when I found out that this was the type of content my followers really wanted, it turned to fad.
Everything changed when I put on the hijab. My content is more about understated fashion, my audience is more diverse, and my collaborations are about designing clothes with hijabs.
Since starting 2022, I’ve made about $15,300 and have 385,000 followers on TikTok and 200,000 on Instagram. I’m still modeling and doing my bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley. Since I became a hijab, I feel more at peace with myself and what I create online.
I started wearing a hijab because of TikTok, and now it makes me money.
I never thought about wearing a hijab until I was in high school. Although my family is Muslim, no one in my immediate family wears it.
TikTok helped me make this decision. I see a lot of other Muslim women on social media talking about their journeys, and I get a lot of support from the online community I’ve built. I decided on August 13, 2021, when I was 18, and it’s been a year since I started wearing it.
At first, I was worried about how it would affect my social media career, especially since I had to archive all my Instagram posts and videos on TikTok before I started wearing a hijab. I have about 400 posts on Instagram without a hijab, so none of these are visible. I had to switch all my videos on TikTok to private.
The beauty of being a hijab and posting is that many of my followers feel seen. My following has really increased since last year, more and more muslims are starting to follow me. I also started making money through the TikTok creator fund.
Since January, I’ve made $693 through the TikTok Creator Fund and $507 through Instagram’s affiliate program. Most of my income this year came from paid partnerships, and fashion brands, restaurants, and even Muslim dating apps like Salams paid me to publish content.
Brands primarily contact me because they want representation.
After I put on the hijab and started posting content, a lot of brands reached out to me and shared that they wanted to be a part of my journey and work together. People like Truly Beauty and SexiMi Tea really wanted hijabi representation, and Muslim-oriented brands like Veiled Collection and Nominal wanted to add me to their list. Some of the companies I worked with before I wore the hijab also wanted to continue their partnership.
As far as I know, not many headscarves focus on fashion when creating content. People love to see me wearing a hijab to match, so it’s safe to say that making this decision opened up more opportunities for me.
I get a lot of hate online, but this helps my content do better
Once I switched to hijab-oriented content, I did get a lot of hate online. Most of my followers don’t know I’m Muslim until August 2021 because I don’t talk about it and my photos and videos are focused on fashion. Now, it’s clear what my beliefs are and how I use it to shape my appearance.
It took me a while to realize that there will always be people who disapprove of what you do. My thinking right now is this: if you don’t have haters, you’re not doing it right. They’re actually my biggest fans because they watch everything and comment, so that helps with engagement. It’s all part of the TikTok creator fund, and there are some followers who come to my defense, so the comments section is always interesting.
Criticism helps me. It also allows me to see specific parts of my content that might be better, and improve them. I stay positive and let hate be the motivation to do better and prove them wrong.