Potentially one of my biggest achievements to date was this summer being recognised as part of a new generation of “globetrotting Arab women” in the July / August issue of Harpers Bazaar Arabia. I have strong ties with my Middle Eastern heritage, as well as with my London roots, and so it was such an honour to be included in the latest issue of the magazine…
The feature, by Alex Aubry, was inspired by the bi-cultural roots of the Chloe brand, as founder Gaby Aghion was born in Alexandria, Egypt, before moving to Paris to set up the now renowned fashion house. To celebrate Gaby Aghion’s legacy, Harpers Bazaar Arabia invited me, along with three other fabulous Middle Eastern women to represent a new generation who are “redefining the Chloé woman on their own terms.” Check out a behind the scenes video as well as interview with myself, below. I share something I’m suuuppperrr excited to be working on and that I haven’t really told anyone about yet in the interview, too!
Interview with me, Alya Mooro for Harpers Bazaar Arabia. By Alex Aubry:
London is such a multicultural city that you can get away with wearing anything here, which is great for people watching as well as getting inspired,” observes Alya Mooro, while seated at a table outside a cosy coffee shop not far from her flat. She’s nursing a large matcha latte in her hands to help her get over jetlag, having just flown back from Cairo the night before.
“I travel to Egypt three to four times a year, and during this last trip I worked with a team of Egyptian photographers modelling up-and-coming local designers against a gorgeous desert landscape,” says the journalist, adding that Egypt’s 2011 revolution and economic crisis have had an unexpectedly positive effect on its creative industries.
“I’ve always had a strong sense of identity as an Egyptian and I want to support the creative industries there any way I can,” says Alya, noting that as a writer, she also feels a responsibility to bring to the surface stories that highlight the role art, culture and design can play in humanising the other at a time when the world is witnessing a rise in isolationist rhetoric, radicalisation and Islamophobia.
“I choose to focus on mediums such as music and fashion, because they allow us to connect in ways that look beyond differences in skin colour, religion or nationality and instead focus on our commonalities,” she states, pointing out that the media still has a long way to go when it comes to portraying Arab and Muslim women in a more nuanced manner.
“What’s lacking is an acknowledgment that we represent a spectrum of diverse experiences that are neither completely conservative or liberal, but somewhere in the middle,” says Alya, noting the importance of providing alternative narratives about Arab women living within and outside the region, a perspective informed by her own multicultural upbringing.
Born in Egypt, Alya moved with her family to Geneva at the age of five, where she attended an international school. “During that time, we continued to visit Egypt on school holidays, so I never felt disconnected from my roots,” notes Alya, who was eight years old when her family moved to London for her father’s job. “When I was 13, we moved back to Egypt to be closer to my grandmother towards the end of her life… Looking back now I’m very grateful for that period in my life, because I built strong bonds in Cairo, friendships that continue today,” says Alya.
“I was a bit of a tomboy while growing up and preferred playing video games, and when it came to clothes it was all about comfort for me. I think my love of fashion was born during the time I spent with my paternal grandmother in Cairo, as she was one of the most immaculately dressed woman I’ve ever seen in my life,” remembers Alya, who inherited her grandmother’s wardrobe filled with vintage Saint Laurent and Chanel.
“She wore some amazing designers and she even made her own clothes when she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted. What I love most is reimagining her pieces in a way that she wouldn’t have necessarily worn them,” adds the journalist, who customised a camel jumpsuit from Chloé’s pre-fall collection with her grandmother’s corset belt and a pair of gold Balenciaga boots for Bazaar’s shoot.
Fluent in English, Arabic and French, Alya went on to attend London’s City University, graduating with a degree in Sociology and Psychology in 2010. “I didn’t fully realise it at the time, but I think my interest in understanding human behaviour eventually led me to a career in journalism. I particularly enjoy exploring how people’s interactions have changed in this age of social media,” notes Alya, who took a year off to teach English in Tanzania before returning to the UK to pursue an MA in journalism at Westminster University in 2011.
“As a writer, I hold a mirror up to myself and others, and having a psychology background allows me to dig a little deeper into the human condition,” she adds, noting that while at school she found opportunities to write professionally through social media. “It was very normal for me to be active on Twitter since I grew up with social media, and I was able to get my first jobs through it,” says Alya, now an established freelance journalist.
“I remember while studying journalism, I had one professor who was instrumental in making me understand how to get ahead in the profession. On the first day of class, he told us that if we didn’t have a blog then we might as well go home. He was making the point that if you really have a passion for writing, then you shouldn’t wait for others to give you a platform but to create your own,” recalls the journalist, who also took a proactive approach to landing a coveted internship at Grazia UK, after attending a talk given by the publication’s digital editor.
“I introduced myself to her after her talk, reached out to her again on Twitter and began my internship the following week. I think what impressed her was how I used social media to get what I want,” says Alya. Since then she has written for publications such as The Telegraph, The Washington Post, Refinery29 and i-D.
“Over time I realised the responsibility I have as a writer to give a voice to those we may not often hear about, whether it’s Muslims, feminists or women of colour. We also shouldn’t underestimate bloggers who are creating authentic and meaningful content that fills a void left by the mainstream media,” says Alya, who likes to blur the line between her role as a blogger and journalist.
“It’s a reflection of the world we live in today, where more people have hyphenated identities. It’s not unusual to encounter individuals with multiple skills or titles, who can’t easily be placed in a neat box,” adds the journalist, who today uses her site alyamooro.com to tackle issues impacting her peers.
“Young women still face pressure to conform and look a certain way, and I enjoy encouraging a healthy discussion around topics that aren’t often covered in the media, such as hair loss and plastic surgery amongst young women,” says Alya, who cites her love of reading as a critical part of her development as a writer.
“Travelling and living in different places also allows me to grow as a person and as a writer. I recently spent two months in LA which was an amazing experience because it was an opportunity for me to live outside of my comfort zone,” says Alya, who is currently writing a book about the nuances of being bicultural.
“There are so many different definitions of ‘other’ and millions of people who have lived in different countries or come from multiracial families, so the purpose of this book is to not simply talk about my experience as a British Arab, but to share a universal story that many can relate to,” says the Egyptian-born writer, recalling a moment during her flight back to London from LA: “I was reading Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton’s moving memoir, when I came across a passage that really resonated with me:
“We know what the world wants from us. We know we must decide whether to stay small, quiet and uncomplicated or allow ourselves to grow as big, loud and complex as we were made to be. Every girl must decide whether to be true to herself or true to the world.”
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