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Interview: Kuwaiti Style Influencer Ascia AKF Weighs in on the Middle East Blogging Community

Ascia Al Faraj, more commonly known by her alias Ascia AKF, is a half-Kuwaiti, half-American style influencer who launched a blog in 2012 called The Hybrids with her husband. With over 1.5 million followers on Instagram, the turban wearing Ascia pioneered the personal style blog wave in the region and has since garnered a reputation of being one of the most influential fashion voices—and as we learn in this interview with Nouriah Al Shatti—one of the most open and honest as well. Here, Ascia gives a no-holds-barred commentary of her views on the regional blogging community and how it is quickly evolving—for better and for worse.

NOURIAH AL SHATTI: Tell us how you started blogging?

ASCIA AKF: I began blogging in 2012 while I was in my last semester of university. It was more of a social thing than a fashion venture. At the time, most profile pictures of women on Twitter and Instagram were of their eyes or lips. I remember that girls who blogged back then would crop their heads in pictures so that no one could recognize them. That didn’t sit well with me and that’s what pushed me to put myself out there. I was one of the first ones here to go public and show my face.

I have Areej Al Kharafi, the owner of Fortune Cookie boutique and Me Blogging to thank for taking my pictures and helping me kick off my blogging career. When I first started out, I collaborated on a Ramadan-themed collection with Areej to be launched at her boutique. After the launch, everybody knew about my blog. Within hours, I got around 12,000 followers. It was crazy to watch the numbers jump and it hasn’t slowed down since.

Today, do you see a difference in the blogging community from when you first started out?
The blogging community has changed a lot since I started. It has grown tremendously and I’m really happy that we have a whole bunch of bloggers. Sometimes, however, I still feel like there’s an ill representation of what our region is really like due to how things are portrayed on social media.

What has changed?
There’s no ethical standard to what people put online anymore. It’s not like I don’t get paid for what I do, but I’ve tried to cut down on the amount of product placements. I won’t promote something if it doesn’t work for me.

How do you think influencers should endorse products?
It’s so misleading when someone constantly says, “I’m so excited and obsessed with this product.” I’m so tired of hearing those words: “I’m obsessed.” You’re not obsessed with the product, you’re obsessed with how much you’re being paid. I would like to see that change and for bloggers to be more self-aware of what they’re promoting.

Which social media platforms work best for you?
I think Instagram is one of the strongest platforms for getting your voice across. It’s something that people can always refer back to easily.

These days a lot of influencers are using Snapchat to reach out to their followers; do you use it frequently?
I enjoy Snapchat but I think it’s only for certain personalities. I have a hard time talking to a screen for so long. It’s the same reason I can’t get on YouTube. I think I just have to get myself in that mindset.

Plus, when you’re covered, Snapchat can be difficult. I spend most of my time at home, where I don’t want to have something on my head. I want to be really comfortable. For me to make a Snapchat video, I would have to take an extra step and cover up. Maybe I’m just lazy.

A while back, you had an outburst on Snapchat; could you share with us what happened?
It’s just disturbing to me—and a bit of a scary trend—that we [the blogging community] are too afraid to show our followers how we look without makeup on or are too afraid to show people that we are not always dressed head-to-toe in designer clothes. It’s really a personal thing and I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings when I ranted about it. But I do think I hit a nerve.

What is it about this trend that really bothers you?
There are a lot of women on social media that have had plastic surgery, lip injections, and Botox done—and that’s fine if it works for you—but it’s not a pure representation anymore. It’s not how you were born—it’s how you want to look in your head. Just be honest about it and don’t try passing it off as natural. That’s what’s annoying.

Describe an honest blogging community that you would like to see more of.
I think that we need to go back to being as natural as we possibly can in our day-to-day lives. We are all guilty of putting forth stylized photos of ourselves dressed up with perfect lighting and angles that make us look thinner. That being said, we, as bloggers can use Snapchat as a tool to show girls how natural we can be in our everyday lives. I would love to see that. I remember putting up a photo without any makeup on and it received the most comments during my blogging career. In the caption, I wrote a whole rant about how I wanted to get lip fillers, but had to stop myself from getting them.

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