On the phone with Nabela Noor a couple weeks ago, I asked her to cast her dream beauty campaign. She listed off almost a dozen names of models, singers, beauty influencers, makeup artists, and actresses. “It will be a party,” she tells me. “I can keep going, but what I really wanted to do was have everyone feeling like they were represented through this campaign and through what I do.”
Ashley Graham and makeup artist Alannized made Noor’s list. Days later, Revlon named the model one of their new brand ambassadors, and Alannized recently launched a collab with Laura Geller. I’m convinced Noor spoke these into existence à la The Secret. If I’m right, actresses Danielle Brooks and Chrissy Metz, as well as YouTube star Andrea Brooks, will be the next ones announced as the faces of beauty campaigns.
In 2013, Noor started her now-popular YouTube channel after not seeing people like the ones she named on TV. “I didn’t see on Disney Channel a girl like me,” she says. “On ABC Family, or whatever the case may be, I didn’t see me represented. I created that channel because I wanted someone else that didn’t see themselves to see themselves in me, hopefully — or at least see themselves somewhat represented through my work.” Noor knew at the time that if she didn’t see the representation she was hoping for, she had to make it happen herself.
Almost five years later, Noor has almost half a million subscribers. Her YouTube channel covers both lifestyle and beauty with videos of herself reviewing beauty products, talking about her life as a plus-sized Muslim-American woman, and creating makeup tutorials. When Noor first started doing the latter, foundation shade ranges were nowhere near today’s Fenty Beauty-levels. Finding the perfect shade for her skin tone was much more of a struggle. “I thought, ‘How cool would it be if other girls had a reference for makeup for our complexion,” Noor says. “Maybe someone would see my makeup videos and be like, ‘Wow, that shade looks good on her, so now I know I can go get it.'”
I think it’s important for plus-sized women to be represented fairly and as beautiful and as not the butt of the joke and not to be considered bad or ugly, but to be celebrated.
With wider foundation ranges dropping every month, Noor hopes we see more representation for plus-sized women in the beauty industry, too. “It’s not only diversity in shades that is so important,” she says. “We need to continue that conversation and also include diversity in shape — the average American women is about a size 14 or 16.” And she’s right. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the measured average waist circumference in inches for adult women aged 20 and over is 38.1. Depending on the brand, that’s either a size 14 or 16. But you rarely see women who wear these sizes in ads or on television, which is why actresses like Chrissy Metz get Noor excited. “Oh my gosh, I love her,” Noor says. “She’s an example of someone who is pioneering a new standard, and I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it.” The This Is Us star stands for what Noor hopes to see more of in the coming year. “I think it’s important for plus-sized women to be represented fairly and as beautiful and as not the butt of the joke and not to be considered bad or ugly, but to be celebrated,” she explains. “When we don’t see ourselves in those advertisements, how do we also then think that we are beautiful, too?”
Noor’s Instagram is an extension of her push for representation. Over the past couple years, she’s racked up about 657,000 Instagram followers. That number recently grew after one of her posts went viral. On December 31, 2017, she shared a video she made of herself writing the words “pig,” “ugly,” and “fat” on her cheeks and forehead with a contouring cream. She goes on to cross out each word with concealer and buff the words away. Then, she writes “I love me” on her face with concealer.
In the caption, Noor explained that people have called her those awful words, and at times, they’ve gotten to her. In August 2017, she created a video called “YES I’M FAT” to combat the hate she’d been getting regarding her weight with positivity and love. “But as my confidence strengthened, I became a fortress of self-love that could not be broken by the words of unhappy people,” she wrote. “I learned quickly that happy people don’t say hurtful things. And that happiness begins with self-love.” With the start of 2018, she made a declaration to leave all those words that hurt her behind.
The powerful video was later reposted by numerous accounts including Huda Kattan and Too Faced. On her account alone, the powerful message of self-love has been viewed almost 1.2 million times. You can watch it below.
View on Instagram
Even though the video is about a minute long, Noor says it took a whole day to make. She had to turn off the camera at one point to regroup. “It took a lot out of me. At one point, I started to cry,” she says. “I immediately turned the camera off, and I sobbed for 20 minutes and then continued. It was a lot to sit there and write those words on my face, and it kind of brought them to life. It was an emotional experience.” Add in editing time, and you have a full day.
With millions of people watching, negative, insensitive, and sometimes tactless comments are inevitable. I couldn’t help but notice dozens of people commenting with something along the lines of “You don’t need makeup. You’re beautiful without it.” Although they mean well, they are completely missing the point of the video. In response, Noor says makeup isn’t a necessity. And let’s not assume she, or anyone who wears makeup, puts it on because she feels like she needs it or she doesn’t love herself. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Just like if you get highlights, that doesn’t mean you hate your hair, or if you get a tan, that doesn’t mean you hate the color of your skin, or if you shave your face or grow out a beard, none of those things mean that you hate the opposite,” Noor says. “I don’t know why there’s this obsession with making it seem like self-love and makeup are mutually exclusive when they’re not. More often than not, when we tend to something and we take care of something, it’s because we love it.” Preach.
Encouraging other people to be enough for themselves is really a blessing.
Negativity aside, Noor received plenty of positive feedback from that video. “I’ve received so many messages from people saying the video helped them let go of everything that was holding them back and all the words that people called them and what they called themselves and they were finally learning to love themselves through this video,” Noor says. She realized that making the video was not only liberating for her but also for the people watching it. Together with her viewers, she said she’s helping kickstart a self-love journey.
For Noor, this self-love journey is bringing her YouTube experience full circle. “Before I started my channel, I just wanted to be accepted. I wanted everyone to accept me,” she says. “Through being on YouTube, growing and learning more about myself and what true inner freedom is I learned that self-love is freedom. Self-love is more important than others accepting you.” These days, she says she doesn’t feel the need to be accepted anymore because she accepts herself. “That’s been a shift for me because before it was like I want people to accept me as I am, but I realized quickly that I didn’t accept myself,” she adds. “Once I did, I didn’t need other people to accept me. I was enough for myself. Encouraging other people to be enough for themselves is really a blessing.”
More on self-love and :
- Nabela Noor Just Clapped Back at Every Commenter Who Fat-Shamed Her
- Why This Beauty Vlogger Wrote the Word “Pig” on Her Face for a Makeup Tutorial
- Read Chrissy Metz’s Powerful Message to Her Teenage Self
Now, watch our March cover star take a beauty Rorschach test:
Follow Devon Abelman on Twitter and Instagram.