Ami Schaheera is a fashion blogger who successfully bridges the gap between conservative styles and modern trendy sensibilities. As you’ll learn from reading here, Ami is also a true fighter who personifies our Go Forth spirit.
Tell us a little bit about where you come from.
I'm born and raised in Perak, but have been living in the Bangi and Kajang area for the past 10 years since I entered university. I’m the fifth child out of six, and I’ve been married since 2010. A month after tying the knot, I received the greatest shock of my life when I found out that I have leukemia.
What do you usually dress up for?
Honestly, when I was a kid, I was neither fashionable, nor was I in any way the most confident child. I suppose that I was a timid girl, and stayed in my own corner most of the time. I did learn about fashion from magazines, but it was clearly not enough.
When I started an online business with my friends as a part-time thing, I started
coming out from my nutshell. I blogged about my daily outfits, and little by little, my audience grew. That built up my confidence level! I used to dress up as a form of marketing – nowadays, I dress up for myself. Dressing up makes me feel good!
How does dressing up play a part in what you do?
I blog about fashion, mostly on the topics of style and the inspirations that I love. Through my blog, I feel that I'm able to reach out to readers and spread knowledge on things that they may not encounter everyday.
Not everyone gets to go to a fashion show or to a fashion event, but they can experience what I see and feel from the blog. And from my background as a cancer survivor, I also want to invigorate the spirits for my fellow cancer fighters. Cancer is not the end of the world, so don't stop living. In other words, through dressing up, I also motivate people or young readers to get out there and do what they love. You only live once!
What did you originally envision yourself to be doing before this?
I definitely would never have envisioned myself giving motivational talks, or sharing styling tips in front of a large audience. I was previously an engineer at a renowned Japanese company. When I found out I had cancer, I’d just been promoted to a Senior Engineer. So I guess if I didn’t get cancer, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to quit my job and pursue my passion in fashion by being a full-time fashion blogger.
Can you tell us more about that one moment in time that inspired you to pursue your passion?
I woke up one day in the hospital while I was doing my chemo, just thinking about how short life is, and I hadn't really lived it. I hadn't really given to the world my contribution, or paid my dues as a human being. I knew I had to do something, and I realised that the thing that was closest to my heart was not doing engineering my whole life. I wanted to travel, meet people and be recognised as someone. Pursuing fashion through blogging, as well as styling, was one way of doing it.
What were the difficulties that you faced when you first started out?
When I first started out after my cancer, I just started wearing hijabs. One of the most difficult things to do was to find out ways on how to still be stylish, even if you were wearing one. It was like starting from scratch again.
Luckily for me, I had a circle of friends who supported me throughout the way,
and I did gain a lot of viewership from my own customers and random people ever since I started tweeting and blogging from the hospital.
Finding your own style personality without compromising on your faith is not easy, but I received a lot of tips and tutorials from strangers who read my blog, and from my own research as well. It was hard at first, and I have made a lot of fashion faux pas myself, but, hey, you can’t know how you good you are untll you've made a few wrongs!
What do you feel sets you apart from everyone else?
There are a lot of bloggers, a lot of fashion bloggers and hijab fashion bloggers, but there are very few that merge current and hijab fashions together. Even before I started wearing a hijab, I loved fashion, and I loved playing dress-up. It used to be mini skirts, t-shirts and skinny jeans for me back then, but with the hijab, there's more than just that.
I have to learn to know my boundaries, and how to still be covered up but looking very much current and stylish. I don't limit my blogging to just covering muslimah fashion, because in reality, we live in a multiracial and cultured country. In reality, we are friends with non-Muslims as well. So why do I feel the need to limit my readers? I am open to all fashions, as long as I know I can work it into my style and it's still acceptable. I keep an open mind, but I’ll still keep my faith as my first priority.
What's your proudest moment thus far?
I was recently invited to a hijab fashion convention in Jakarta in June 2012, conducted by a renowned Indonesian fashion designer named Dian Pelangi – with all expenses paid for! It’s something that I would never ever had imagined to happen to me - being flown out of the country to talk about fashion to my international blog readers!
Apart from that, getting recognition by local and international media is also one of my proudest moments, no doubt, including being chosen as a Levi's® Go Forth pioneer!
What are your upcoming projects for the future?
I'm thinking of opening up my store soon, but all it’s still being planned, so I can't reveal much right now. A lot of effort has to be put in that, and I'm pretty sure I have to sacrifice my role as a fashion blogger if I’m to pursue opening up
a physical store. I’ve designed a few items: simple modest clothes for everyday wear through my shop, and I'm planning to design more in the future, insyaAllah!
What do you want the world to remember you for?
An inspiration. A fighter. As someone who had her life halted by cancer but fought to get it back, no matter what. I demanded not to lose myself when it all happened, and in fact, I took control of my life and turned it around.
Don't ever give up, and pursue your dreams - slowly or quickly, it doesn't even matter! But ensure that you work for it - set a goal and make it happen! Don't be afraid to accept challenges and dream a little bigger, every single day. I'm not there yet, but one day when I am, I'll let you know!