September’s – ‘The Power Issue’ – Download Now

If there’s a mantra that we should all live by it’s Amy Roko’s: “My life, my rules.”

Amy Roko isn’t here to be judged by anyone. Having garnered a huge social media following since first emerging on Instagram in 2015, the Saudi Arabian native has become a beacon for many women as she continues to break down stereotypes surrounding females from the GCC region and the niqab. What exactly inspired her to resist stereotypes put upon her for being a niqabi is ironically the exact reason she did it. “Society’s initial resistance towards me inspired that,” she tells Emirates Woman. “I couldn’t imagine that just being myself and who I am would garner pushback. I don’t like being dictated to. I really do what I want, so I started showing people how I live my life to the fullest and based on my rules.”

It’s safe to say Roko – who chooses to keep her identity secret using this pseudonym instead – is a force to be reckoned with, sharing her comedic sketches which challenge the status quo with her 1.4 million followers on Instagram. Five years into her social media career, Roko has worked on some huge campaigns with notable brands like Benefit Cosmetics, Destination KSA, Levi’s and more. It’s evident the only way is up for this social media sensation. EW recently caught up with the 28-year-old to discuss everything from her sudden social media growth, what misconceptions there are surrounding the niqab and the burqa and what 2020 has been like for her in lockdown. Roko also revealed what it’s like living, as she describes it as a “double life”, and what exactly power means to her.

On her social media growth… 

I gained a very loyal following the moment I joined Instagram. It was unusual to be a niqabi on social media when I first started. All I remember is I gained around 100,000 followers within the first two days and then every time I posted followers jumped around 10,000.

On female empowerment…

It means women having spaces, energy and resources to do what they want. Letting women do what they want. It means equality. It applies in many different contexts, but simply put, I define it as gender equality.

 

On feeling the pressure…

Every now and then [I feel the pressure]. Now it’s not as scary. When you have the right team and support system around you, you’re encouraged to embrace yourself.

On misconception…

There’s a huge misconception surrounding the niqab. This comes with two main stereotypes: firstly being deeply religious, and secondly being wildly silly (i.e. clownery). I just want to show you can still wear a niqab and be comedic, love fashion and sports if that floats your boat. Niqabis are regular people that just choose to dress differently.

On her hopes for change…

I would love to see continued efforts towards equality. There’s a lot of growth within the GCC towards this vision. More women in leading positions means a more thorough outcome for members of society. That’s what we’re working towards.

On 2020…

It’s been an okay year for me. I’m still creating and posting content, and I guess that’s the beauty of social media – my work happens, for the most part, on my phone. Personal life is good – I have a little bit more time to talk to the people I’m closest to now.

On advice for success…

“Do you know that gut feeling that you have, that tells you to do things and not to do things? Trust it. Also, don’t hesitate to post, you’re funny. At least you crack your family up, and hey that’s what matters!”

On overcoming hurdles…

Keeping my identity a secret. I basically live a double life (cue Hannah Montana theme song). Getting used to the negative comments in the beginning. You can be Nelson Mandela and they’ll still find reasons to hate on you. Getting over the fear of people recognizing me in public and approaching me initially. I love when they do now – they’re always respectful and really sweet!

On career milestones…

My YouTube channel. Proud to have gotten it off the ground and running! Rapping professionally. I couldn’t have imagined I’d ever take that step, but I did it with Benefit – the ‘Girl Gang’ music video is my absolute favourite collaboration so far! Acting – super excited about doing a lot more in the coming year.

On the future…

There will be more music. I’ll be heading to acting. Fire brand collaborations And finally launching my own online store – I’ve got that niqab hook up!

On power…

The freedom to live life according to the rules that you set for yourself – not society’s rules, not the culture and tradition’s rules, not people’s rules and definitely not men’s rules. My life, my rules.

September’s – ‘The Power Issue’ – Download Now

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Images: Photographer – Abdulaziz Salem