Style

My Beauty Uniform: Fatimah Asghar

My Beauty Uniform: Fatimah Asghar

Fatimah Asghar feels comfortable in her skin these days, but getting to this point has been a journey. “I have come into myself as I’ve gotten older,” she says. “I’ve realized I don’t have to look like someone else.” A Chicago-based poet, writer and performer, Fatimah wrote the loosely autobiographical web series Brown Girls, which just got picked up by HBO. Ahead, she talks about embracing thick eyebrows, the best purple lipstick and the runaway success of her show…

Fatimah Asghar Beauty Uniform

What are your thoughts on makeup?
I did a lot of theater growing up, and I’d wear stage makeup. But since I was a person of color, most people didn’t know how to do my makeup. When you’re young and getting advice from people who don’t look like you, it doesn’t really work. But a few years ago I told my cousin, who knows a ton about beauty stuff, that I was interested in makeup and she took me to Sephora. She showed me some basic application tips. It was fun, so I kept experimenting. I started following a bunch of beautiful women of color on Instagram whose makeup game was on point and looked into their techniques and the brands they used.

My Beauty Uniform: Fatimah Asghar

Do you wear makeup every day now?
I always wear eyeliner. I love the Anastasia Beverly Hills Crème Color pot in black. I apply it with an angled brush and will often do a cat eye.

How do you change things up for special occasions? 

If I’m performing, I’ll wear foundation and black mascara. When I’m going out and feeling dramatic, I will make things more colorful. The Huda Beauty Rose Gold eye palette is everything. I also use the Hi Wildflower’s purple lipstick and love NYX colored mascara — I have the blue and the purple, and I feel like a mermaid when I wear them.

How many piercings do you have?
I have my ears pierced, plus two nose rings and a septum piercing. I love my nose rings, and won’t ever take them out. They feel like me.

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

Tell us about your web series Brown Girls.
It’s about two best friends in Chicago — a South Asian Muslim career woman and a black musician — and how they rely on each other. It’s an intimate portrayal of their friendship within the artistic community of color. The show is loosely based on my friendship with my best friend, Jamila Woods. Another friend, Samantha Bailey (pictured) is the director. It was a total grassroots effort and we weren’t sure how people would react, but when we posted the trailer on Facebook it went pretty viral. It’s a relatable story, but it hasn’t really been done before, so people were excited. It was my first time working with film; I usually write poems.

What are your poems about?
The book I’m working on now is mainly about my family and how they emigrated from Kashmir and Pakistan to America. I was born in New York, but we moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, when I was five. The poems are about my childhood and learning what it meant to be American. I don’t know Pakistan intimately, only through family stories. But if you’re a person of color, people often ask you where you’re from.

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

How has this affected your sense of self and beauty?
Growing up, I had the feeling of being a perpetual foreigner. I have big eyes and a big nose, and those weren’t necessarily seen as beautiful. I’m also really hairy. I lived with my aunt when I was a teen. She was great, but she was very anti-makeup and didn’t want me to shave my legs, which didn’t help with my confidence. I remember this particular picture day in fifth grade — I wanted to shave my legs and get rid of my mustache and she said no. But I took my uncle’s razor and tried to shave my mustache and ended up cutting my face!

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

Did your aunt teach you any beauty rituals?
My aunt oils her hair. You soak it in almond oil in the morning, leave it in all day and sleep on it before you wash it out. It makes your hair super soft and strong. I did it growing up, but then I got self-conscious about walking around with oil in my hair. I see things like this happening with my younger cousin now. Her dad wants her to wear traditional South Asian clothing to her high school graduation, but she doesn’t want to. I didn’t appreciate how amazing South Asian traditions and clothing were until later in life. I love wearing them now for photo shoots and events, but I totally understand the feeling of being like, ‘Nobody I know is wearing them, so it’s not cool.’

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

How do you take care of your hair now?
I swear by DevaCurl no-poo and conditioner. My hair is short, so I never brush it; I just spray it with DevaCurl styling mist. I keep the travel size in my bag, so I can spritz it whenever it gets too frizzy.

You have such a cool haircut. Have you always worn it like that?
My hair used to be down to my mid-back, but I cut it off in college. My whole friend group was experimenting with beauty transformations. These powerful women of color at my school were cutting, dying and changing their hair, so it made me feel emboldened, but I was still super emotional about it. But short hair feels so much more like me. I’m a low-maintenance person, and now I can just get out of bed and go.

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

Do you have a signature scent?
I love Hi Wildflower Night Blossom so much. It reminds me of home. A lot of the women in my family smell like jasmine; it’s very prevalent in Kashmir and Pakistan. This is a light smoky jasmine scent with some amber, too. When I was smelled it, I was like, ‘Woah, this is so good.’

Do you have any beauty or style inspirations?
I love Rihanna. 
You put her in anything and she kills it. I die any time she releases a photoshoot. I love how she’s so unapologetic; she’s just so badass and fierce. If I got an email with a picture of what she was wearing every day in my inbox, I would feel very happy.

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

You have amazing eyebrows. How do you take care of them?
In high school, thin eyebrows were really in and I had these thick bushy eyebrows. I was always self-conscience and would obsessively pluck them, but they would never get any thinner. Then a few years ago, there was this cultural switch and all of a sudden everyone was like, ‘Oh. I love your eyebrows.’ I used to get them threaded, but now I just pluck them myself when I see a stray hair.

My Beauty Uniform: Fatimah Asghar

Do you have any non-beauty rituals that help you feel great? 

I try to stretch every morning; and I sit and clear my mind for about five minutes. I’ll think about what I want the focus of my day to be. I will hold a crystal in my hand and use it to help set my intention. My friend Jamila introduced me to crystals, and I’ve now collected a bunch from different shops that all have different purposes. If I’m writing, I’ll pick one that focuses on creativity; if I feel scattered, I’ll pick one that’ll ground me; if I have been miscommunicating, I’ll pick one for clarity.

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

You did a campaign on Instagram called Let Me Love Me. What was the idea behind it?
It was all about people’s journeys with their bodies and self-love. I would sit and talk with someone about his or her relationship with their body, how they take care of themselves, and what they’re insecure about or struggling with. We wrote the things down and burned them. Afterward, we did a nude photoshoot — or however nude they felt comfortable being. It was about a year ago, and a lot of stuff was going on in the world that felt like an attack on many different people. My friends and my community were protesting all the time. It was hard — people weren’t taking care of themselves and getting burnt out. The photos were a gift for people I loved during an intense period of turmoil; I wanted to create a project that gave the gift of time and reflection.

That’s amazing. How do you feel these days?
Overall, I feel really good about myself, my body and my beauty. I still struggle with things, but I have come into myself in a way that I couldn’t when I was younger. It was an intense journey from feeling really low about myself in high school to now, being 27, and feeling good. It’s so easy to nitpick yourself, but I’ve realized how dumb that is. Life is short; I don’t want to spend it battling myself. I have so many things to be proud of.

Fatimah Asghar's Beauty Uniform

Thank you so much, Fatimah!

P.S. More women share their beauty uniforms, including a neuroscientist and clothing designer.

(Photos courtesy of Fatimah Asghar. Interview by Megan Cahn.)

  1. Sara says...

    This was so incredibly inspiring for me. Growing up with mid-toned brown skin made playing with make up an incredible challenge. Finding foundation, or anyone who knew how to really teach me how to play with colors took many years. Fatimah spoke to many things I can relate to. It was lovely to see you all sharing and showcasing her beauty and style! Thank you so much for featuring another woman of color, and also someone who has skin in the mid-tonal range. I’m so grateful to see a greater range of beauty featured all over.

  2. Christine says...

    LOVE this!

  3. Lisa says...

    Great post! I wish my hair would curl naturally to do her haircut! What an intelligent, talented, beautiful woman.

  4. Laura C. says...

    What an awesome smile. Since I am going through a very depressing time, I just can’t help noticing other people’s smile. More than eyeliners, thick eyebrows, nose piercings, just people smiling.
    Fatimah you are so brave!

  5. You have a nice haircut, plus your skin looks amazing

  6. Catherine says...

    I loved everything about this beauty uniform! ❤️️

  7. JP says...

    “But if you’re a person of color, people often ask you where you’re from.”
    –YES! I’m half-Indian, born in the US (Washington DC no less!). My father’s family can be traced back to the Mayflower (my aunt’s a genealogist). Both my grandparent’s worked for the US government. My aunt was a civil rights and women’s movement activist leader.

    Yet, I still get asked at least once every single day – But where are you *from*?. It’s absolutely maddening.

  8. Denise says...

    One of my greatest beauty regrets is falling for that late 90s – early 2000s craze of thin eyebrows — tragically, they’ve never fully recovered. Fatimah’s are absolutely stunning! Also, so glad to hear a woman talking about body hair and what it’s like growing up hairier than all your friends. I had such a complex about it growing up, and so glad she just owns and and has stopped sweating the small stuff. <3

  9. I loved this, can’t wait to see her web series. She is beautiful inside and out and “real”. Someone like Fatimah is a great American role model for young girls.

  10. A says...

    This beauty uniform is AMAZING! Love, love, love her style and confidence. Wow!

  11. Thank you for sharing her! She inspires me to be more fierce too. I love hearing about how other women come into a greater sense of self. It’s such a beautiful thing for everyone.

  12. Amy says...

    Love! The first thing I said to myself when I saw Fatimah’s lead photo was, “look at her amazing eyes and nose and eyebrows!” It was so interesting to read later on that those were the very things she was self-conscious about growing up. If only we were better about appreciating what makes us unique and beautiful when we are younger. Fatimah, you are an inspiration!

    • jillygirl says...

      Yes! I actually thought it was a photo of an animated Disney character, she looks so perfect! wow.

  13. Lorna Diwa says...

    Fatimah is gorgeous! Can totally relate to the bushy eyebrows thing too. Thank you so much for this story!

  14. sarah d says...

    Fatimah has such an incredible depth of perspective….and she ONLY 27!!! I want to hang our with her even more. Thanks for sharing her story and her kickass style. Keep em’ coming!

  15. Jaimi B says...

    I am reading this post with my three-year-old son sitting in my lap. He just pointed to the second-to-last photo of Fatimah and said, “Oh, mama. Is she a beautiful princess?” Yes, sweet boy. She is.

    • OH I love that. I hope he keeps that wonder in the face of diversity his whole life.

  16. Katie says...

    As I scrolled down the homepage, I was immediately struck by how beautiful her eyes are! Her perfume sounds perfect – I’ve got to wait til they restock to try it out!

  17. Lindsey says...

    Thank you for this beauty uniform, I think this is my favorite one so far! So inspiring and I could relate to how big eyebrows are finally in! It’s so refreshing to be able to embrace your features.

  18. “‘Oh. I love your eyebrows.’ I used to get them threaded, but now I just pluck them myself when I see a stray hair.”

    So true! I like her a lot.

  19. Roo says...

    Wow, I love her look. Gorgeous!

  20. This is my favorite series. Fatimah is stunning! Lovely interview. :)

  21. This is my favorite series. Fatimah is stunning! Lovely interview. :)

  22. Oh, I love this series. Its is about beauty, sort of, but really it’s is about a peek into extraordinary, everyday women’s lives. ANd that is just fascinating and also very generous of the women to share.

    Also, both Fatimah and her friends are all so gorgeous!

  23. Loved this beauty uniform! Fatimah seems so genuine and cool. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Marion says...

    She is stunning !! Love loved loved this!!

  25. Ahhh I was so happy to see this: one of my favorite young poets! I used to think I looked like a witch with my thick eyebrows and hooked-ass nose. NOW I think I look great. Thanks for sharing stories that resonate, Jo & team!

  26. Lo says...

    If I ever manage to pull off my nose ring the way she does I will be a happy woman. She’s so badass!

    Lo
    http://www.themixtures.com

  27. She’s so beautiful. Lover her!

  28. Anna says...

    She is absolutely stunning… wow… thank you for sharing.

  29. PB says...

    Thank you from another big eyed and big nosed eyeliner addicted brown girl from the Chicago area! Can’t wait to see your show. MAC pro fluidline gel eyeliner is my new standard, and I never got into skin makeup since I am always disappointed in what stores recommended. It’s jarring that even here some call her not ‘traditionally beautiful’ when she looks gorgeous for any culture (hello big eyes and good skin). Brings me back to high school when a good friend told me thin lips were considered a sign of beauty (and I weirdly attempted to purse my full lips for all of a week). Ugh I get the ‘but where are you REALLY from?’ all the time. Sometimes I am reasonable and say my parents are from India if they want to know my ethnicity, or just stop and say I’m American and quite midwestern and let them feel awkward. Bravo to CoJ for continuing to celebrate beauty in its many forms! I somehow learn something from most every beauty uniform, despite the fact most makeup talk makes me cringe.

  30. MG says...

    This was such a treat.

    Also, Jamila Woods is everything! That’s so cool that they’re best friends. She sings on a bunch of Chance the Rapper songs and if you haven’t listened to “Sunday Candy,” you MUST asap.

  31. Becky rainer says...

    You are beautiful, ❤

  32. Absolutely stunning! I love her style and kudos to representing a diverse mix of beauties <3

  33. Erin says...

    Wow, I am so inspired by her outlook on self-love and self care! “Life is short; I don’t want to spend it battling myself. I have so many things to be proud of.” Ugh, YES! I want to send this to all of my friends to remind them of this, too.

  34. Paige says...

    this is consistently one of my favorite series on the blog- so inspiring to see so many different interesting, beautiful, and talented women!

  35. Hellen Sutley says...

    Gosh! What an interesting, talented and beautiful woman. Thanks for sharing!

  36. Jennifer says...

    Loved this! Beautiful!

  37. B says...

    She’s stunning!! Do you know where that floral dress is from (second last pic)?? Gahhhh I LOVE it ??

  38. MK says...

    I adore this, especially as a South Asian woman! She’s fierce and is inspiring me to be bolder, but is so relatable as well. You’ve been killing it with the beauty uniforms lately! I love love love that you strive for variety in look, body type, and career. Such a refreshing change from the off-the-shoulder tops and marble flat-lays filling my Instagram ;) Keep it up!!

  39. JSH says...

    She’s gorgeous! I also enjoy reading about others’ paths to self acceptance.

  40. Annie says...

    Lately I am so much more drawn to interesting than beautiful. What is beautiful? And why does everyone HAVE to be beautiful? Beauty is fickle and fleeting and eventually everyone will be old and saggy and wrinkly. But INTERESTING will never fade. Fatimah is not traditionally beautiful, but seriously, who cares?? Her look is interesting and her soul is lovely and that’s far better than outward standard beauty any day in my book.
    This “beauty” uniform is by far my favorite so far.

    • Blandine says...

      What do you mean by “traditionally beautiful”?

    • Annie says...

      what 90% of A list actresses look like. Thin, white, smooth straight hair, small even features.

    • emma says...

      Dear Annie, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She may not be traditionally beautiful to you but she is traditionally beautiful to me.

  41. Amy H says...

    Such a great inspiration! Love your outlook on beauty and life, Fatimah, thanks for sharing!

  42. I really enjoyed reading this interview. She is such a beautiful woman inside and out. Thanks for sharing it!

  43. Kirsten says...

    I just checked out her show because of this and it is amazing!

    Great feature :)

  44. JuniperGreen says...

    Ah – gorgeous inside and out!!!

  45. Tari says...

    I love this whole series and this is one of my favorites! She’s a beautiful badass!

  46. Lizzie says...

    Loved this beauty uniform and learning more about Fatimah! Excited to check out her show. Now, I know what I’ll be watching tonight… : )

  47. Kellie says...

    Fatimah is utterly gorgeous.

  48. Meredith Bone says...

    Thank you, Fatimah! You are beautiful ?.

  49. jehanara says...

    As a fellow American Pakistani British Muslim, it feels wonderful to see features focusing on “non traditional” beauty so to speak. We all need to come into our ourselves and see the beauty in our differences. Fatimah, keep doing the great work and know that many “Brown Girls” see you and feel happy and proud to be brown with thick eye brows and might even wear South Asian clothes everywhere.just becuase. Our differences do not need to divide us. Herd mentality never made any nation great. Keep up with the diversity, Joanna. THAN YOU.

  50. SW says...

    “I don’t know Pakistan intimately, only through family stories. But if you’re a person of color, people often ask you where you’re from.”

    THIS resonated with me so much. My family is from India, but I was born and raised in the US and I have spent so much time answering the “where are you from?” question. Feeling like a perpetual foreigner, because of being asked this question, because I look different. I would love to know how Fatimah answers the question!

    • AB says...

      I second that! I’ve tried answering with “California” or “my mom” and while it gets a laugh, people are persistent with their questioning. I know most people mean well, but it’s always a constant reminder that I’m different and foreign. When I visited India, I received questions because I obviously didn’t grow up there.

  51. Amy says...

    Love this beauty uniforms! Fatimah is so gorgeous and her make up is ON POINT.

    I also thought this quote was interesting, “But if you’re a person of color, people often ask you where you’re from”. My cousins are POC (they are half white from my uncle), and I’ve heard them say this before so it stood out to me. It surprised me because I ask basically everyone I meet where they are from, and people ask me the same. So few people in the US live in their hometowns, so I think of it as just a standard conversation starter. Same goes with family ethnicity, I could tell you the ethnic backgrounds of most of my white friends (German, Danish, Norwegian, etc). Just one of those things that I didn’t think twice about because I’m privileged to come from a Northern European ancestry and never considered that non-white people might see those questions as “other”-ing (or even threatening).

    • SW says...

      The challenge (at least for me) is that when I respond “X city, in US State,” I get a follow up question of “No, where are you reaaaallly from? Like *ethnically*?” And then I have to explain that I really am from the city in the US state (I was born there, I grew up there, it’s the place that I still consider home), although my family emigrated from another country over 30 years ago. It’s frustrating because it feels like my first answer is not the answer that the question-asker wants to hear.

    • NSU says...

      I live in NYC where most people are transplants, and that’s what “where are you from” refers to. However, when I grew up in Ohio, as one of the few brown people, when people asked “where are you from” and I said “Nashville, TN” (where I was born) and they responded “but where are you FROM”, it was other-ing.

  52. Diya Days says...

    Thank you so much for this post, and this series. I admire, respect, and applaud the evolution of this series — beauty uniform started off with a narrow lens of products for great skin/hair/make-up application to this particular post of beauty uniform being about how to embrace the beauty of your skin, your body, your mind as a path towards a fulfilling life.

    More power and success to team CoJ!

    • jenn says...

      Yes! Totally agree with this comment! Love how CoJ celebrates beauty in a multitude of forms! The featured women are so different, but all so strong and inspirational instead of just aspirational.

  53. Emma says...

    I LOVE this! Now please feature a women who spends tons of money at the dermatologist and has a few nips and tucks to keep things frozen in time! I am dying to know about those women too! :)

  54. Kate says...

    So, I’ve totally been wanting some nude pictures taken of me. Just for me, my husband can have them if he wants, but I just want to document my body because I love it and want to remember all of its stages in years to come! Let Me Love Me is inspiring me to move forward with this!

  55. jaclyn says...

    FATIMAH! Your style is amazing! I really, really appreciate that you incorporate traditional elements into your wardrobe. I love seeing people that don’t look like anyone else. And yes, Rihanna is an angel. WE FOUND LOVE is one of my favorite videos of all time bc of her wardrobe. Good luck with the show!

  56. Lauren E. says...

    LOVE! One of my favorites by far.

  57. Colleen says...

    Great post. This series is one of my favorite things about CoJ. I’m excited whenever I see a new one. Thanks for the celebration of a wide variety of beauties!

  58. Lovely style, Rihanna is one of my favorites, too!

    xx, Miss Harwell

  59. Kelsi says...

    Just stunning. My favorite Beauty Uniform thus far!

  60. Thank you for featuring women of color. I especially enjoyed this one and Fatimah’s spunky style.

  61. Elena says...

    Yay for a hometown hero! We are so proud of Brown Girls and all of the beautiful, tough + tender work coming out of this city right now. Thank you Jo, xo from Chicago!

  62. Lane says...

    Fantastic post. Love all the different women who do these. Thanks Cup of Jo team!

  63. So cool! I love these series.

    Kendall

  64. julia says...

    my favorite beauty uniform thus far as well. her beauty shines from inside out.

  65. Laura says...

    a Muslim woman AND she loves lipstick? Best beauty uniform ever!

  66. Lily says...

    This is my favorite beautiy uniform so far. Fatimah, you are an inspiration! Also here is a confession: i still shave my mustache with a tiny razor and it works! ;-)

  67. Her eyes are so beautiful!! I didn’t know about the Let Me Love Me campaign, but wow, so powerful. <3

  68. Love the confidence she radiates in these photos! Definitely a beauty badass. Super into these beauty uniforms/week of outfits COJ has been doing lately!

  69. Marni says...

    What a beautiful woman! I’m looking forward to watching Brown Girls. Thank you, Fatimah!

  70. jeannie says...

    This was so inspiring! So many of us struggle with body issues and being self-conscious – especially growing up. I love how she took steps to deal with that. And I love Fatimah’s hair cut. She looks amazing.

  71. Denise says...

    This was an especially good one. Now can we please have a Beauty Uniform of her bestie too? How fun would it be to have a best friends beauty uniform episode?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a great idea!

    • Christie says...

      i love this idea!!

    • Sarah says...

      Ooo fun, I love this idea!

  72. Carrie says...

    i love this series so much. thank you for sharing these beautiful women.

  73. Maelle says...

    Fatimah is gorgeous !! i love her haircut too, it looks so pretty on her; maybe i’ll try it, i have big eyes and a big nose too and always used my hair to ‘hide’ my face, which i now come to realize is completely stupid! also love what she says about feeling comfortable in her own body and feeling beautiful. Because of my features (as mentionned, big eyes/big nose), i’ve grown up feeling like i was ugly and it took me a long time to realise that my face was beautiful too, perhaps in a less standardized/normalized way (does that make sense..?). I’m 26 and can really relate to this feeling of finally getting to feel comfortable in my own skin – most of the time; but i guess it’s a journey!

  74. Mariana says...

    Love this! She’s gorgeous and looks so cool :)

  75. “It’s so easy to nitpick yourself, but I’ve realized how dumb that is. Life is short; I don’t want to spend it battling myself. I have so many things to be proud of.”

    Must get this tattooed on myself. Thank you, Fatimah!

    • Anya Oberdorf says...

      yes, this is so perfect!

  76. I think I’m going to print and frame this: “Life is short; I don’t want to spend it battling myself. I have so many things to be proud of.” This is exactly what I needed to hear today and every day. Thank you for sharing!

  77. Trisha says...

    Whoa. This woman is stunning. Like breathtaking.
    Love the haircut, eyebrows, body positivity, the whole thing!

  78. elizabeth r says...

    Wow, she is one of the more beautiful woman I have ever seen. She also seems to have a beautiful spirit and soul and mind. Her eyes really draw me. Thanks for sharing your story, Fatimah.

  79. Celeste says...

    She is gorgeous and holy cow, #eyebrowgoals. Also, that picture in the tub is stunning. Thank you for sharing your perspective on beauty, Fatimah!

  80. Nayla says...

    Definitely one of my favorite beauty uniforms ever. Fatimah is just stunning and such a beautiful person. I love her hair, makeup, nose piercings, and bold attitude. As a girl with a bumpy, pointy nose, it’s so refreshing to see someone who doesn’t have the cute little button nose that’s basically everywhere. We don’t have to look the same to be beautiful! And that last part is so true; at the end of the day, life shouldn’t be spent at war with ourselves. Thanks for this reminder, Fatimah.

  81. Ansley Clark says...

    As a poet, I’m a longtime fan of Fatimah’s! Thank you so much for featuring her! Love this piece.

  82. Em says...

    Woah. Her haircut is the exact pixie cut of my dreams. Sigh… Time to start contemplating the pros and cons of short hair once again :P

  83. Mea says...

    She is so stunning and strong! Love it!

  84. Damn she’s cool!

  85. Savannah says...

    Oh my god, I think I want her haircut.

  86. I can relate to so much of this – bushy eyebrows, brown skin, big nose. I’m happy to see that our beauty standard is more diverse now than it has ever been. I hope to see this trend continue, not just in beauty but in everything. We have a lot to gain by embracing our differences.