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Dounia Dazed 100
Dounia wears clothes by Calvin Klein JeansPhotography Fumi Nagasaka, styling Elizabeth Fraser-Bell

Meet the alt-R&B livewire with more keys than DJ Khaled

LocationNew York, United States

Alt-R&B singer Dounia has punched a hole through Instagram as a poster girl for women of colour with big thighs and bigger opinions. She broadcasts snippets of melodic tracks and selfies to her 138k-strong following, effortlessly steering that ready-made fanbase towards her sensual jams. “I think it was three years ago I posted my first song,” she says in her creamy lilt, “and then when I garnered a following I was like, ‘OK, this is cool ’cos maybe people care about my music now. And then slowly I shifted my Instagram thottery into a music career.”

On the day of our Dazed shoot, Dounia (which means ‘world’ in “Arabic, Hindu, Turkish”) releases “Shyne”, her follow-up track to “East Coast Hiding”, and her phone is blowing up with compliments. She often receives messages from strangers, telling her that repping for POC and being her bubbly self has earned her more keys than DJ Khaled.

“Yesterday the weirdest thing happened to me,” says Dounia. “I was feeling anxious like I always do before releasing a new song – it’s like your baby. I got this huge essay from a girl who was talking about how much she loves my music, and how much it’s empowered her and helped her feel more validated without men. In the middle of it, she was like, ‘So if you’re feeling a type of way, just know that people support and love you.’ I was like, ‘Wow, how did you know?! It boggled my mind.”

Not only is Dounia using her platform to shout about her seriously infectious bops, she’s also speaking out on a myriad of issues. “I feel like I’m subconsciously portraying messages but it’s all very organic, you know? Everything is an extension of me; nothing is contrived. I never go out of my way to present an image; it’s kind of what people make out of it. Take it or leave it. It’s cool that people can pull out valuable advice or let me help them navigate the issues that they’re going through.”

Trey Taylor