We are pleased to announce Hakeemah Cummings as our Thirteenth Muslim Woman of the Month!
If there is one woman I wish my younger self had to look up to, it would be Hakeemah Cummings. From her unapologetic, grounded, and empowered sense of self to the graceful and confident manner in which she embraces, embodies, and represents her faith, (all while still looking fabulous!), Hakeemah is truly an amazing role model for Muslim girls and women everywhere.
A powerful story of hers that speaks to her strong-willed character is about an experience she had at D.C. Fashion Week. At the time she was seven months pregnant, and drove an hour all the way to the show, only to leave right before it started because the opening was a preview of a male underwear designer collection.
She describes in her Instagram post, “To be someone who represented modest apparel at DCFW for many years, and to sit at a runway where near-nudity was being paraded was contradictory to me. My work that night had to be sidelined for the sake of my faith…The take home message is that hijab is more than just a cloth on your head, it is a reminder that faith is not only in the heart, but also in action. I’m grateful for that.”
Hakeemah is furthering this message through her personal brand, CMB Styling, which is a unique modest fashion styling service, and the only one of its kind in the United States. Whether she is sharing fashion tips on her blog and Instagram page, styling models for fashion shows, or she is helping women find Muslim-friendly pieces to add to their wardrobes, Hakeemah is showing Muslim women everywhere that it is possible to embrace modesty while staying stylish at the same time.
As passionate, talented, and successful as she is in her career as a stylist, which she has been involved in for the past eight years, this path wasn’t what Hakeemah originally had planned for herself. In 2012, she was accepted into medical school, but due to her inability to find financial resources that would support her pursuit for higher education without having to use interest-bearing loans, she decided to give up her seat.
However, it is evident from Hakeemah’s current roles as entrepreneur, stylist, teacher, wife, mother, that she is where she is meant to be, and is still positively impacting and serving the lives of others, but in a different way.
In addition to her role as a stylist, Hakeemah uses her platform and her voice to engage in important conversations like racism, educational equality, domestic violence, and more. She also has been actively involved in empowering initiatives led by A Continuous Charity like their Educational Justice Program, which provides interest-free loans to Black Americans pursuing a college education, as well as their #FundHerFuture program that is currently offering interest-free student loans for widows and divorced women, some of whom may also be domestic violence survivors, to name just a few.
As a Belizean, Muslim American from Chicago, one of 10 children, and a mother of two, Hakeemah’s culture and life experiences have shaped her into the empowered, bold, and inspiring women she is today, who is not only instilling the values of our faith in her own daughters, but in women and their daughters around the world.
Read on to learn more about Hakeemah’s story, CMB Styling, and her work as a veiled Black Muslim stylist in the modest fashion industry!
What is CMB Styling and why did you start it? What is its purpose/message?
CMB Styling is the only full-service styling business of its type in America. From runway styling and presentation, personal styling, and hijab styling to influencer marketing and photoshoot creative direction, CMB Styling does it all. And it’s all run by one woman – me! It’s a lot for me to do, but I love every moment of it. Whether I’m working on a lifestyle post for Instagram, booking models for a studio shoot, or fundraising for a good cause, I see my business as a way of creating community centered around the fact that faith and fashion are not mutually exclusive. We can embrace our Muslim identity in every way, while also doing the things we enjoy, such as fashion and style.
How does the process work for designers, brands, and individual clients?
It all starts with a message! There are lots of ways that I can help brands and individual clients, so send a DM or an email. Collaborations look different for each brand, and if it’s within my scope, I’m happy to see how we can achieve a goal together.
What does modesty and the hijab mean to you?
For me, it is rooted in my faith as a Muslim. Just as with any other act of worship, the sincerity of my modesty and hijab is between me and Allah, and there are plenty of ways that modesty can manifest besides our clothing. Hijab is more than covering your hair; it is a full experience of setting boundaries and being conscious of who we are here to please ultimately.
“prioritize your modesty over any trend”
What are some of your styling tips for girls who are aspiring to be modest yet fashionable, especially in the upcoming spring & summer seasons with all of the crop tops, sheer fabrics, and slit skirts/dresses?
I would say to definitely prioritize your modesty over any trend, but know that there are so many ways that these types of items can be styled modestly. Taking a long-sleeved crop top and layering it with a shirt extender is a modest take on the trend, or styling it with a maxi skirt positioned a bit higher on the waist. Organza is airy for spring/summer, and it’s trendy, but it is a naturally more sheer fabric. So, layering an organza top over a cotton long sleeve tee is a simple way to stay on trend and stay covered too.
What has your experience been like working in the modest fashion industry as a veiled, Black Muslim woman?
As Black people, our reality is that there will be people out there who will pay us less while expecting more, favor other skin tones over ours, etc. While that is an undeniable reality, I simply can’t care about that because I love myself way too much for another’s flawed opinion to make a difference to my self-confidence and ambition. I have addressed racism on my page before, and the discussion is ongoing. It is hurtful and voices need to be raised against it. I am happy to be that voice when I have the capacity. But I am so filled with joy. I am so filled with purpose. I continue my work for the pleasure of Allah and not of the people.
“It’s funny, plus-sized women form the majority of the women in America, and yet, they are the least catered to and represented in our media.”
You launched a #CurvyConfidentCovered Campaign in February of 2019 to raise awareness on the lack of representation and inclusivity in the modest fashion world. Can you talk about this issue more? What effects did that campaign have and what changes do you feel still need to be made?
Simply put, the plus-sized, full-figured, curvy women in modest fashion, or hijab fashion, have been very much excluded. We don’t see these women in the campaign ads. We don’t see them speaking at events. We don’t see them celebrated. So, I wanted to shine a light on the brands that do speak to and service these women. It’s funny, plus-sized women form the majority of the women in America, and yet, they are the least catered to and represented in our media. There have been some changes here and there, but have they sustained? Is for inclusivity clout, or are we really changing for the better? Not nearly as much has been done as needs to be done. The work continues.
As the only full-service modest fashion styling business in the U.S., what impact are you having or hoping to have not only on the modest fashion industry but on the fashion industry in general?
I am really anti-conformity. I think that we should be exactly who we are as Muslims without changing anything we don’t want to change to become acceptable. I think that we should be who we are and stay unapologetic. That takes strength and tenacity from both women and men. The modest fashion industry can benefit from this, and so can the general fashion industry. I want my children growing up proud to be Black, Muslim, female, and whatever else they are and are not. I hope to exude that unapologetic voice through my work.
“I want things to be different for the next generation, and it’s through supporting this now that we can have a halal path toward financial freedom for our children.”
Can you talk more about the Muslim Aid x A Continuous Charity’s LaunchGood initiative that’s raising funds to provide interest-free loans to Black American communities, and why this campaign specifically is so important to you?
Eight years ago, I gave up my seat in medical school because I could not afford it without the use of interest-bearing loans. I tried my best to find resources back then, and when I experienced a racist incident, that made me realize that my path towards advocating for a solution to interest-bearing loans in the Muslim community may be harder than others. This cause speaks to me on a very personal and emotional level because it’s the kind of program that I needed years ago, and it wasn’t available. I want things to be different for the next generation, and it’s through supporting this now that we can have a halal path toward financial freedom for our children.
“But oftentimes when we open our social media, all we see is a fake semblance of perfection, and some of the modest influential figures completely ignoring the world’s struggles, or addressing it in very unmeaningful, non-transformative ways that actually add insult to injury.”
You consistently use your platform to support and raise awareness about a variety of important initiatives and topics, how can others, especially leaders, people of authority, or those with a large following do the same?
Just do it. Show that you care. Use your platform to raise awareness and do good work. We are all sharing this world and have our own stories of struggle and adversity, triumph, and celebration. But oftentimes when we open our social media, all we see is a fake semblance of perfection, and some of the modest influential figures completely ignoring the world’s struggles, or addressing it in very unmeaningful, non-transformative ways that actually add insult to injury. We need to demand more out of our leadership and place our support in people, brands, and platforms that matter.
“Dark skin is demeaned, and lighter skin is celebrated…It’s heartbreaking, divisive and breeds self-hate and arrogance.”
Can you shed light on the issue of colorism in our community specifically, and how that has impacted you?
Colorism is rooted in white supremacy, which is a major root of all the evil the world has ever faced in all of history. Dark skin is demeaned, and lighter skin is celebrated. I have never had anyone tell me that my complexion as a lighter/medium shade Black woman is any better than a darker-skinned person, but the sentiment is so entrenched in society that I don’t have to have any overt incident occur for me to know that it is true. I myself was never even aware of the issue of colorism until I watched a documentary about it years ago, and heard people of various skin shades speak about their life experiences. It’s heartbreaking, divisive and breeds self-hate and arrogance.
What advice do you have to encourage women to dress modestly and embrace hijab?
The most powerful reminder we need is that death is imminent and life is short. Either we spend our time in obedience of Allah or we spend it in disobedience. Hijab has always been easy for me to wear, having never struggled with the thought of removing it, but I struggle with other sins daily. Don’t we all? That’s the nature of a human being. We are all impatient, defiant and ungrateful to some level, whether that is about hijab, or about anything else, and that’s what leads us to disobey Allah. So, my best advice or encouragement is the reminder that our lives will end, and we were only here in this world to worship Allah. We will face either punishment, reward, or forgiveness for each of our actions, which is why we should steer back to the right path when we are going astray. And Allah loves those that return back to Him.