Straingth and Wizdumb make up the double dose of dopeness group, Aint Afraid. These Detroit divas are the definition of multi-faceted. Singers, spoken word artists, actors, and activists are just some of their titles. Since the tender age of two, the Black, Muslim sisters have been using their voices to champion change. Ther mission: empower others to know that being afraid doesn’t mean you aren’t scared or that you don’t feel challenged, or unsure sometimes, but that you are always going to push yourself to try and overcome. They accomplish this on many fronts – music, fashion, activism, community work, and recently with their collaboration with Meta for the Metaverse Culture Series.
One goal of the Metaverse Culture Series is to connect the future with us — Us being Black folk and us being Black women. Because let’s keep it one hundred, culture does not move without Black women. It’s a proven fact. When we heard that Meta was creating the Metaverse Culture Series and tapping Aint Afraid, we just had to learn more. This year Meta launched the Metaverse Culture Series “with a primary goal of creating accessible entry points into the future of tech for historically excluded communities.” For Straingth and Wizdumb they were able to live their lives authentically and showcase how they show up by using Ray-Ban stories, the new collection of smart glasses realized in collaboration with Facebook. From showcasing their siblings to highlighting a day in the life of Black, Muslim women, the independent artists gave us a behind-the-scenes look into their lives in the most innovative way.
We had a chance to sit down with the duo to talk all things Metaverse Culture Series, personal style, being Black, Muslim women and so much more. Keep reading for the most beautiful, enthusiastic conversation you’ll experience today.
HelloBeautiful: First and foremost, where did the name Aint Afraid come from?
Wizdumb: It just describes us perfectly. We always talk about how all of our life we advocate for what we were and how we existed. We were more times than not like the odd ones out. We looked different. We practiced a different faith. We just had very different personalities. We were loud, we were passionate and at a very young age, we put our all into what we believed in, and because of how much we stood out, we had to advocate for how people tried to challenge how we showed up. We were never afraid to advocate on our behalf. And so when we thought about what we wanted people to know about us, before we even had to speak or tell our story, it was like, we know that we Aint Afraid and it’s all about our courage.
HelloBeautiful: Yes. I love it. I love it. Can you discuss your thoughts about being Black Muslim women and using your voices to shift culture and creativity in the future Metaverse?
Straingth: Being a black Muslim woman is just so empowering. A lot of people have their opinions about our identity and not bad opinions, but they feel like you guys must feel so targeted and challenged and those realities exist. But the power I feel in my identity is just so beautiful. And I’m so happy that we get to pioneer spaces or blaze trails with this identity that we’re representing and holding especially in the music industry. We’re holding space for a voice that isn’t necessarily prioritized exactly. It’s there but it’s not prioritized or amplified and I’m so happy that we get to do that. And in the Metaverse, I just feel like there’s gonna be so many more ways that we can continue to make space for our voices.
HelloBeautiful: That’s good. How was your experience capturing content in augmented reality using the Ray Ban story glasses? Cause we love Ray-Bans! And we want to know more about this new feature. Tell us more about that.
Wizdumb: It was bliss. It was new in a good way. It was actually fairly easily easy to understand for one. If you know how to work headphones, iPhone, a smartphone or a laptop, Ray-Bans is gonna be very easy for you. One thing that we kept discussing was how we never had to remove ourselves from the moment. As long as we had our glasses on, with the click of a button, we could record whatever we were doing. Alot of times it’s like, ‘Oh my God, this is great. Let me go grab my phone real quick and the tripod and let me put this light on!’ You don’t have to worry about those things with the Ray-Ban glasses. You can just have the moment intentionally,
Straingth: Like for example, when we were in the studio or we were in scene class or in meetings, it was easy to capture. Our audience wants to know what it’s like being independent artists. It was just really cool to have and record us in the studio because it’s a very hands-on experience being in the studio or doing all the work that we do.
HelloBeautiful: The word that popped into my head: it’s giving intention. That’s so good. How do you think Muslim users can explore new opportunities for expression and creativity in immersive technology?
Wizdumb: One thing I love to stress because we have been put in a position to stress in many kinds of spaces is that Muslims are really regular people. We wear head scarfs, we grow beards we wear poofies, we pray at the mass on Fridays, but we are regular people. With the Ray-Ban stories experience, we are able to show people firsthand, just how normal we are and what our interactions are like. The special thing about the Muslim community is our brotherly and sisterly love and our community love that we hold with one another. That is something that you really have to be in the community to understand. But one thing with the Ray-Ban stories, I was able to notice, especially with my brother, Ismail Sayeed. He was able to show up in those intimate moments, which is something that I was a bit scared to do only because I was never in that position to like walk up to somebody with a camera on. I just didn’t feel ready for that position but Ismail owned it and he really represented that so well. I was so happy to see that a part of this specific project. I feel like the stories will be able to show who we are, which is so important because people have this very big idea and oftentimes incorrect idea about what Muslims are. But then also we’re able to show the beauty of our community with the world. I wanna stress Muslims can just show regular things like just regular people things. I
Straingth: But as far as opportunity, I feel like it’ll be a great space for the Muslim community to find that they can add voice in all kinds of conversations. Alot of times, because we come from a background of community work and artistry, when we find ourselves in these spaces, we’re the only Muslims there. If they brought pizza, it’s like all pepperoni pizza and Muslims don’t eat pork. This is why it’s important to have those conversations around diversity and accessibility. When we talk about things that are affecting communities, for instance, if you’re having a city council meeting, we can be a part of the conversation too. We ARE a part of the conversation and I feel like Muslims just need to be exposed to and taught that you too can be a part of this conversation. It may feel like it’s not your conversation. It may feel like you’re far removed, but you’re not, you’re just as important and valued in this conversation. Make your space. I think the metaverse will show people that.
HelloBeautiful: Yes, absolutely. There was a video on Instagram, where you all said that you make sure your work fits into your spiritual focus. How have you managed to find that balance?
Straingth: You probably should have asked me this 10 years ago when I was a kid. Because growing up in this type of lifestyle, because Ramadan is not a mainstream practice, in our community or in America, as of right now, it’s always been that way. Even when we were kids in school, we’ve always had to work around this lifestyle to fit our spiritual focus inside of it. We learn to manage it by just being ain’t afraid to do so. People can tell you what they want you to do but as long as you know yourself and you prioritize what you value, you’re always gonna find time and space to be able to fit that in. And that goes beyond faith that goes with self-care, and mental health check-ins. As long as you are sure within yourself, you know yourself, and you’re comfortable with what you value, it’s very easy to make time for what you value.
Wizdumb: We would hope that it is easy. I think that what our plus is that we have a lot of agency over how we live our life being independent artists, business owners, and the eldest children in the house. Thank God we’re able to move a bit more freely now, especially because we are not subscribed to a traditional lifestyle where we work for somebody. Being able to control how my life is going allows me to prioritize what’s important.
HelloBeautiful: Speaking of what’s important, something that’s important to me is personal style. We love y’all’s personal style and we know there’s always a story behind it. So how did you come to define your personal style?
Straingth: We’ve always been funky!
Straingth: I don’t personally derive inspiration from Erykah Badu, but when you see her style it’s striking, it’s beautiful, it’s unique. I love it so much. And I feel like we’re the same way. We’re outside the box. We like to be different or just express ourselves. There are also two different sides to us: tomboy and just very girly. It’s so cool to be able to blend those together. What we find is we’re always representing with everything that we do. Alot of people have one way of thinking of what the Muslim woman looks like, you know?
Wizdumb: And we were everything. We’re everything. Every time I think of my personal style, I don’t know how to define it. We have such a diverse style. We know how to tap into many things. We are not scared to make fashion decisions, but it is not because we’re trying to be bold and not because we’re trying to stick out. It’s just because we think ‘Would it be cute if we did this?’ or ‘Here’s what I’m feeling today!’ It’s really all unique to ourselves. It’s because we want to do it. Not cause we’re trying to get people to look at us.
Straingth: That’s what Erykah Badu does, Tiara Whack, Teyana Taylor. They’re wearing what they want to wear and it’s just so beautiful.
HelloBeautiful: That’s so good. I wanna rewind because you said that there are kind of two parts to your personal style, so if you had to choose three words to describe your personal style, what would they be?
Straingth: The first word is undefined. Then, creative.
Wizdumb: And this is lame, but I’m gonna throw it up there: I’m gonna say colorful because I feel like we are colorful. There’s probably a better word.
Straingth: Vibrant. Creative. Undefined. Authentic.
HelloBeautiful: You talked about representation earlier. Growing up, who were some of the folks you looked up to as a form of representation?
Wizdumb: It’s really sad to say but we only found representation in our home or our community. It was nothing that was on TV. Nowadays you have advertisement of Muslim women on YouTube or a sister in a turban in the grocery store or a Muslim brother with his beard with his family. It is so beautiful that my little sister gets to live in that kind of world and see that representation.
Straingth: When you go to a store and you’re walking down the makeup aisle, you’ll see a woman wearing a hijab because we didn’t grow up with that.
Wizdumb: I’m just glad my little sister gets to experience that. But as far as Aint Afraid, no baby, we didn’t get that. This is why we’re paving the way and my little sister has us and other Muslim women and Muslim brothers and just Black women period. Women with strong personalities and a love of the arts out here, especially with the internet, are able to create their platforms and represent in a way that we did not.
HelloBeautiful: Along those same lines, why do you think it’s so important for y’all to take up space as Black, Muslim influencers?
Wizdumb: I am very vocal! You cannot shut me up. If you have something to say, this goes for anyone, say it. That’s why it’s important because our words matter. Whatever space you wanna create, whatever you wanna see, start it, create the conversation, reach out to the people, connect and network because we have so much power in this day and age to do that.
Straingth: There’s just so much space fulfill.
Wizdumb: The space is infinite.
Straingth: You can take up as much space as you want and it still wouldn’t be taking it from nobody else. Share your voice, share your experiences, and share your stories so that you can create change. There is no room too big for you to fill, you know what I’m saying? Why is it important? It’s important because we’re here.
HelloBeautiful: I mean, that was good. I thought I was at church for a second. Lastly, if you could give advice to yourselves ten years ago, what would that be?
Straingth: I would tell myself is, “The fire that you find in yourself don’t lose it and don’t let anyone tell you that being loud,having an opinion, being vocal, and being passionate is not womanly or feminine. If anything, it makes you all of who you are and it only adds to who you are.”
HelloBeautiful: I’m gonna fast forward and ask what do you wanna see for yourselves in 10 years in reality and the Metaverse?
Wizdumb: In reality, I would love to see the music still going.. That is something so honest to us. I would love to see us make Aint Afraid bigger than music. I would love to see Aint Afraid community work and have community-focused spaces and empowering initiatives under our name. In the Metaverse, I would love to hold a Kanye-like performance/listening party for an upcoming album. I would love to headline a virtual Coachella. I would love to do meet and greet with fans from all across the world, from the comfort of my living room. I would love for Aint Afraid to be the biggest face on the virtual New York Times.
HelloBeautiful: You’re manifesting, keep going!
Wizdumb: Yes! I’m gonna keep going! I would love to see an Aint Afraid clothing line or brand happen to give some style to the people.
Straingth: Bring me in the room for that conversation!
HelloBeautiful: You’re already in the room and it’s already happening. We are claiming it!
Stay tuned for what’s next for these superstars by following them on Instagram @Aint.Afraid and look out for their album “Heavy Guarded Heart” in June.
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