Pin It
Dounia and Mina
Courtesy of Dounia and Mina

The dreamy twosome tackling body shaming and inequality

Part of a new wave of socially conscious babes taking the internet, see how Dounia and Mina are calling for self-love and the dismantlement of white supremacy

In a sea of carefully curated Instagrams, detox tea promos, and mundane food pics, teens Dounia and Mina are a welcome respite from the usual gamut. Hailing from NYC, they're among the new wave of socially conscious babes taking the internet by storm. Far from teenage tropes of raging self-involvement and crippling self-doubt (you know those insufferable teens we're all familiar with, because – okay, we were those insufferable teens); however, the pair emanate an understanding and cognisance well beyond their years. At just 18 and 19, they've endeared thousands of online followers with their vivacious calls for self-love and the dismantlement of white supremacy. "I wanted a space for PoC to escape and not feel alone about the things they've dealt with," says Mina of her web presence. Weary of seeing marginalised groups relegated to the shadows, the two took to social media bemoaning damaging beauty standards and society's general exclusion of anyone deemed an "other".

From fat shaming to systematic oppression to Islamophobia, the duo have no qualms denouncing intolerance – and if you haven't yet perused their virtual wonderland of empowering posts and luscious matte-lipped selfies, well, you're missing out. Dounia provides an ethereal mix of Moroccan feels, pastel dyes, beguiling city backdrops, and crop top galore. Mina's feed, self-described as a haven for people of colour, vibrates of lush pink tones, candour reminiscent of a 90s Lil' Kim, and unabashed belly pics in celebration of her curves – with a splash of influences from Pakistan to Jamaica, Queens. Spend some time with the wondrous pair – who are also students, contour gurus, and ultimate cat moms – and it quickly becomes apparent their quest for girl power/equality for all has only just begun. 

How did social media and the resurgence of feminism come together for you?

Mina: When I first started noticing feminism sweeping social media, I was so happy all of my feelings and beliefs finally had a name. It helped me learn so much, and when it all started happening so fast, I knew it was a sign that I had to teach other people as well. Where else in the world would trending topics such as #MyCultureIsNotCouture pop off? Social media is a beautiful place for feminism. 

Dounia: Yeah, definitely! I started seeing a lot of vocal, carefree women online voicing their concerns about general inequality. They would post pictures with body hair, normalising it, speak on slut shaming, etc. Now intersectional feminism is becoming prominent all throughout social media. (We're) evolving into extremely educated and socially conscious people who claim the title "feminist."

Agreed! There's this incredibly special wave of visibility happening. Mina, not too long ago, you posted on Instagram encouraging people to love their darker elbows, thighs, knees, armpits, breasts, and vaginas. And I was just like fucking yes! That was so real and is such a common insecurity among darker-complexioned women of colour, though very seldom, if ever, discussed openly.  

Mina: Yes! I feel like that post was needed! I didn't realise how many other women dealt with this insecurity until I posted about it. It scared me that that's how much we keep it under wraps. It's so hurtful to see those standards because it affects how we dress to how we view sex. Imagine not finding your own private parts sexy just because of darker colouring. So many of us have to deal with that and it's sad. We need to realise porn isn't the standard. Our darker body parts need to be worshipped. 

“We need to realise porn isn't the standard. Our darker body parts need to be worshipped” – Mina

Dounia: I loved that post as well! I've always been insecure about my darker parts being a woman of colour, because we're so used to seeing white underarms and perfect pink vaginas. It's such a toxic set of standards. 

What would you say to those struggling to reject narrow beauty standards and outdated notions of "normal?"

Dounia: I would say it's a work in progress to unlearn everything society programmed you to believe. It takes literal effort to be like, "Ok, I don't fit into European beauty standards. They were created to make me feel less than. I am still beautiful even though my features are unconventional. They are what make me great." 

Mina: Internalised ideas take so long to get rid of, please don't be too hard on yourself. I'm still unlearning and learning new things every day. Just try not to hurt people. And when you do, just make sure you apologise and really mean it. It goes such a long way and will help you find so much inner peace, as well as the people you may have hurt. It makes the learning process much better on both ends.

Body positivity has been extremely prevalent online – and you've both been very outspoken. How did you get started in the movement and what does being body positive mean to you?

Dounia: To be completely honest, I never intended to be a part of it. Quite frankly, I didn't know what it was. I wish body positivity was (there) when I was growing up so I didn't have to suffer through an eating disorder. After recovering from my eating disorder, I gained a massive amount of weight. I was completely down about it but I decided to make the best of it. I bought cute clothes and took loads of pictures and posted them. Something about the shameless nature of it all inspired others and I'm so beyond thankful for it. The response I've received regarding body posi makes me more confident. It makes me so happy seeing I can positively influence someone. I would never want someone to face the terrible image I had of myself and I'm glad I'm helping prevent it. Body positivity, to me, means accepting yourself. It means defying all societal standards and being comfortable with yourself – whether it be about your anatomy as a trans person, or being a lot bigger than what you see being glorified.

Mina: I was deemed "body positive" before I even knew what it meant. (Laughs) Being a fat girl on the internet, people just assume you're overly confident and are always like, "OMG U POSTED A PIC?? SO BODY POSI," which is funny because that's how it started. I'm glad it happened because it finally gave my pictures meaning. They're not just silly selfies anymore, they mean so much to me after seeing how much they can affect other people. The other day, a girl sent me her first picture ever wearing a crop top. That brought tears to my eyes. I felt so blessed seeing the first glimpse into this person's self-love and acceptance. Being body positive means loving people who are smaller than me and bigger than me, and still being content with myself. It's hoping I always have inner peace and hoping everyone does, too.

You both tackle social justice issues regularly. Tell me about supporting #BlackLivesMatter and why you've been so vocal of the adversity faced by black people.

Dounia: We're both super passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement because it's so necessary. It is impossible to ignore all the injustices against Black lives, the acts of police brutality, racial profiling, etc. The whole world has been anti-black at one point. It's not only an inherent racism, but a systematic one, that literally affects black people's opportunities and way of life. In order to unlearn this, Black Lives Matter needs all the advocates it can have. We try to always uplift black voices and give them a platform, while steering away from speaking over them.

Mina: No matter where you go around the globe, black lives suffer most. You have to be living under a rock at this point not to realise how much black lives need support. I feel like if I'm oppressed, imagine how hurt a black woman must be. It kills me to think about it. No matter what community you look at (trans, gay, etc), black lives are the ones being taken rampantly. We try to use our privilege and platform to build a safe haven for black people.

What are your thoughts on white feminism?

Dounia: (Laughs) People often misconstrue the definition of white feminism. "White feminist" does not mean a literal white feminist, it means someone who ignores the battles of women and men of colour, and instead focuses on trivial issues. At this point, it's exhausting dealing with (them) because, it's like, ‘you're using this amazing movement just to justify your actions, without regard for people of colour, who have it so much worse and should be advocated for’. 

Mina: White feminism is just another outlet of white supremacy. You don't have to be white to partake in it. (It's) only caring about #FreeTheNipple but ignoring trans issues. (It's) only caring about yourself and your issues and no one else's. White feminists don't realise that they are still privileged. White feminism needs to be destroyed. It hurts people more than it helps.

What kind of depictions of women and people of colour would you like to see in mainstream media?

Dounia: First of all, we need to see more people of colour in mainstream media. Having white cis leading actors for every teenage chick flick, and movie in general, is so exhausting and lacks the representation we desperately need. Guess what? Girls of colour can be that mysterious and quirky character that the handsome lead falls in love with. Fat girls can be cool and fashionable. We need more people of colour as leading roles, more trans people in mainstream media, etc. 

Mina: I want to see more "unconventional" beauty. I want to see things that make people uncomfortable. More coverage on black lives and trans lives of colour being taken. More women who have facial hair. Periods being talked about and just health in general. Men wearing dresses and make-up openly – and not just when it's a skit to mock women. I want to see bigger women and plus-size women, but not just ones with hourglass shapes. Let's really shake up everyone's views of what they thought was normal.

“It takes literal effort to be like, "Ok, I don't fit into European beauty standards. They were created to make me feel less than. I am still beautiful even though my features are unconventional” – Dounia

All in all, would you say you're regular teens? What do you do for fun? 

Dounia: Of course! I'm working on an EP right now since song writing is such an outlet for me. We sleepover literally 100 times a week. We love to explore the cultured areas of NYC before gentrification takes over. We thrift all the time; we love to work on projects and collaborate on ideas together.

Mina: If you follow me, you know I'm obsessed with my new baby kitten. I spend my time either with my cat, my boyfriend, or Dounia. We have so much fun together, all we do is sleepover and eat. We love taking pictures together and discussing new ideas. We can be ourselves with each other and I love that everyone in my life sees past the internet facade of "angry brown girl," and knows how happy I am with life, and how much I love to laugh and explore the world.

What other message do you want to reach people?

Mina: I want people to know that anything is possible through the power of social media. Never let anyone belittle what you do over the internet. Keep fighting for everything you believe in, your impact inspires us both.

Dounia: Yes, definitely!