In a time of no makeup-makeup, where clean and glowing skin is very much in, the art of color can sometimes pale in comparison. Not that there’s anything wrong with being subdued, but it’s July for crying out loud. And there’s no better time to show off the brightest summer makeup trends than now. Color — whether it’s a splash of lipstick or a little bit of neon mascara — doesn’t have to be reserved for the beach or even the garden of your favorite neighborhood bar. It’s meant to be worn everywhere — and as beauty influencer Maria Alia will show you, it's high time to save the neutrals for another day.
Alia, who’s half-Palestinian and half-Puerto Rican, knows what it’s like to be stuck in a comfort zone — even though hers is a pretty plush one. (She frequently works with brands like Giorgio Armani Beauty, L’Oreal Paris, and By Kilian.) “When I moved from Alabama to New York, I just started having a different perspective on beauty; I wanted to be comfortable in not wearing makeup at all,” says Alia, who considers beauty just as personal as style. “In New York, there are so many days where you just can’t be bothered sometimes. It’s so busy.” Alia’s aesthetic, as displayed on her Instagram is certainly that of a city girl’s easy glamour: glossy lips, dewy highlighter, mile-high lashes galore. It’s probably why she was so game to let Stoj, an editorial makeup artist, use her face as a canvas. “When I want to play around and do something fun, it’s even more exciting since I spend most of my days in a natural look.”
Fendi Top, Scarf, and Bag; Celine Sunglasses.
Alia says that Alabama, a notoriously conservative state, wasn’t necessarily the biggest source of creative inspiration, or a place where she could connect with other Muslim girls who had similar interests in style and beauty. So Instagram became her window into a world where she still didn’t have much of a place at the time — and in return, followers started peering back. “They would ask, ‘Where did you get this?’ or, ‘How did you do your makeup like that?’” she tells me. “I never thought that somebody would be interested in my own style, just because I was a Hijabi.”
Carolina Herrera Blouse, Claudia Li Top, Ratio et Motus Bag, Emilio Pucci Scarf, and Jennifer Fisher Earrings.
Her hijab was always an accessory that was a non-negotiable for any look. In fact, it was her own decision to wear it in high school. “Traditionally, you start wearing the headscarf when you become a woman,” she says. “I wore it on my first day of high school. To be fully honest, I don't know if I, at the time, understood the reasons behind it. I just kind of was like, ‘Yeah, this is what you do, and this is what my mom, my older sister, and my cousin wears.’ Two or three years after is when my dad actually told me and my sisters, ‘I don't want you guys to ever feel like you have to wear the hijab. If you don't want to wear it, you don't have to wear it.’ It was never forced upon us, and he wouldn’t have been disappointed. I did think about taking it off, but at that point, I enjoyed it. It was nice to be able to be identified and visible, because I’m very white-passing. Without it, nobody would even know that I was anything other than just your average white American girl. I liked that it kind of tells my story without me even speaking.” It’s also become an extension of the outfits that her followers love so much. Half the time, she says, she typically opts for neutral colors. But she’s been playing around with brighter palettes and prints, like the stunning Emilio Pucci and Fendi looks she wears in this shoot.
Derek Lam 10 Crosby Shirt, Diane von Furstenberg Dress, and Zina de Plagny Scarf.
Aside from her style, Alia’s sense of pride is what keeps that engagement up: She has more than 411,000 devoted followers at the moment. But with love comes the occasional hateful comments, including those of fellow Muslims who deem her style immodest.
“When it does happen, it’s a little bit entertaining,” she laughs. “So for the most part, I don't delete comments anymore, unless it's something extremely offensive.” However, there are times when the bias and ignorance is tangible, especially in this political climate and the unfortunate Islamophobia that comes with it. “I think there are so many negative misconceptions and stereotypes [about Muslims] that you see in the media. And for people who don't know any Muslims in real life, those stereotypes have a big influence on them,” she says. “I feel like being visibly Muslim is a responsibility. And I like that. I like giving people kind of a different perspective on what a modern Muslim woman is.”
Emilio Pucci Dress and Scarf, Mark Cross Bag, Louise Olsen Earrings, and Jennifer Fisher Earrings.
Her sense of responsibility — and the respect that comes with it — is what overrules the hate. “I get so many messages and comments from girls who say that my looks give them confidence in the way that they dress, or that they inspire them to wear the hijab. They wanted to do it, but they were unsure.” Those comments remind Alia of her own childhood, and how those positive reinforcements would have inspired her as well. “It makes it all worth it."
Diane von Furstenberg Dress, Karen Walker Shirt, Mark Cross Bag, and Cult Gaia Earrings.
Photographer: Joshua Pestka | Model: Maria Alia | Contributing Senior Style Editor: Mecca James-Williams | Fashion Market Assistant: Ryan Gale | Hair: Kenta Koda using Bumble & Bumble at THE INDUSTRY MGMT | Makeup: Stoj using MAC Cosmetics | Manicurist: Miss Pop using Zoya Nail Polish | Creative Director: Becky Brown | Junior Art Director: Shanelle Infante | Bookings Manager: Anna Zagzag | Photo Editor: Clare Thigpen