Maria Alia Al-Sadek arrived in New York City from Mobile, Alabama in 2016 with a cliché mantra in mind: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Her life in the south – surrounded by her Puerto Rican-Palestinian family – didn’t fit her ambitions anymore. So she packed her bags, wishing she’d done it before.
“In the Muslim culture, you don’t really move out until you are married,” she says. “I just never thought I could just go.”
Today, Alia Al-Sadek is a fashion and digital consultant and a bonafide influencer with more than 400,000 followers on Instagram, where she showcases her style, one that’s heavily influenced by her Muslim faith.
“The way that I style things and the way that I even went shopping and looked at pieces is very influenced by my modesty and my choice to wear the hijab,” she says. “Just the way religion has an influence in fashion is really cool.”
Modest fashion is one of the most revolutionary movements inside the industry, one that’s powered by influencers like Alia Al-Sadek, who just became part of Nike’s campaign for its modest swimsuit Victory collection. The movement is more than just a trend. It’s a real call for inclusion and acceptance that religion and fashion can coexist.
Alia Al-Sadek grew up in an interfaith family. Her Puerto Rican mother met her Lebanon-born Palestinian father in Alabama, when they ended up living in the same apartment complex. Her father – born in a refugee camp in Lebanon – had come to the United States for college and was staying with his sister, who had befriended a Detroit-born Puerto Rican girl. They fell in love “at first sight,” says Alia Al-Sadek. Eventually, her mother, who comes from what Alia Al-Sadek describes as a “secular Christian” family, converted to the Muslim faith.
“I always grew up with a better understanding of the world because of the interfaith family I was born into,” says Alia Al-Sadek.
We met her on a cold January morning at her Brooklyn apartment. Her apartment is strategically decorated to showcase her style, like a museum of Nanushka and Loewe pieces, which she says are some of her favorites at the moment. There is a large window that lets in an opaque winter light, while she finishes her makeup in a large vanity in the living room. Later, when she reminisces about her Puerto Ricand grandmother during our interview, I can see where she gets it from.
“My first memory of beauty is from my Puerto Rican grandmother,” she says. “She had the most beautiful vanity full of Clinique lipstick, the green lipstick from back in the day.”
Alia Al-Sadek says her grandmother, who passed away when she was 9, is her main inspiration when it comes to beauty. It’s clear by the way she applies her lipstick in the vintage-style vanity that she’s used to taking her time to create her no makeup look. She’s a fan of Glossier’s Skin Tint to perfect her skin in the mornings and does a cat-eye whenever she’s “trying to look pretty.” But her real focus is skincare. This is when the name-dropping gets real.
Some of her favorite brands right now include Sunday Riley, Drunk Elephant, and True Botanicals. Three days a week she does an AHA or BHA treatment, like Sunday Riley’s A+ Retinoid Cream or Oskia’s Retinoid Sleep Serum. To moisturize, she uses Drunk Elephant’s Protini™ Polypeptide Cream and the True Botanicals Pure Radiance Oil. “My skin is on the drier side,” she says. “So I moisturize heavily, especially at night.”
It’s been almost two years since Alia Al-Sadek quit the PR agency she worked for to become a freelancer. She says that, even though at first she had to convince her father of how legitimate her career was, the family is “super supportive.” Now, she’s working with brands like Chanel Beauté, Luisa Via Roma, Tiffany & Co., and Prada, and will soon launch her own creative agency. “I’ve been able to focus on the things that I really love and create better work,” she says. “It’s been really good.”
Photographed by Maridelis Morales Rosado.