In our pursuit to highlight Muslim Girl’s most baddest baddies, we present to you our December Baddie, Leah V., who knocks us our with her straight to the point, raw, experiential writings. She talks about everything from positive body image, fashion, #MuslimBlackGirlMagic, divorce, mental health, and bikini waxing. Yes…Bikini waxing.
We hope you enjoy her interview.
Muslim Girl: When did you realize you had a voice?
Leah V.: I’ve been writing for so long, ever since I was like six years old. At that moment, when I picked up that dull pencil from the dollar store and wrote my first story, I had a voice. But I never knew it until many, many years later.
I understood that writers had voices, but I was never confident in my own voice to really write like I do now. I wrote in secret mostly, for class, and shared only a fraction of my work to readers. When I did share bits and pieces, I got good feedback. I had to enter my master’s program in my mid-20’s to really gain the confidence to break out of my shell. They made me repeat, “I am a writer. And I’m here for a reason.” This simple saying resonated with me. I was a writer, but never thought of myself as a writer. Writing, words are my voice. And not until the last few years, when I touched someone’s soul with my words half way across the globe, that I finally figured out I had a voice.
What are your goals and how to you plan on using your platform to accomplish those goals?
Detailed goals for my platforms change with the seasons. And then I get crazy because I feel like I’m floating around the universe with absolutely no direction. To combat the crazy, I return to my original goal. The crux of why I’m doing what it is that I do (for free). To inspire people.
Of course, I’m a fat, Black, Muslim girl who’s seen and been through the works; but if you, as a person, can understand hating yourself because your hair’s nappy, squeezing into pants that don’t fit, not having parents to depend on, going through mental illness, or being Muslim in America, then you, despite color or race, can feel me. So, that’s my goal. Reaching out to the misfits, the shorties, the people who never fit in to some cookie cutter mold. I want my readers, my supporters to really feel me — and start a conversation of change.
How did you start your social media “take over?” When did you realize you were on to something?
At first, I was like every other fashion blogger. Fake as fuck. You’d see Leah V. going to a fashion show. All smiley and shit. And not to say that I’m still not smiley and fashionable and human, but there is more to this world than only showing a one-dimensional being. I am complex. Just like everyone else. And after I got tired of being “that” blogger, I said that I’m going to show the real Leah V. and do it unapologetically. I wasn’t going to care what the fuck people had to say about it. Once, I started getting real. The responses I got gave me life, gave me purpose. Then it was only up from there.
You are really raw in your writing, talking about your life in ways that others would be afraid to self-disclose. What gives you the strength to open up the way you do?
A lot of people ask me this, which is funny because I really don’t disclose everything. I am a raw writer, but there are many, many things that are still yet to be uncovered, which is also why I am thinking about writing a memoir. The things that I do share usually have a lesson behind it. I don’t just put it out there.
After I got tired of being “that” blogger, I said that I’m going to show the real Leah V. and do it unapologetically.
I’m doing it because I want to help others and in turn, they end up helping me. Honestly, I get strength from the girls and women who inbox me or stop me on the street and say, “I’m going through that, too.”
You’ve self-published your first book, Impure. How long did it take you to write it?
Man, it took five months of non-stop writing to get the first draft and three and a half years to get it to where it is now. The project was like a roller coaster. It took as much life away from me as it gave back. I was a hardcore artist during that period. Lol.
Your book is sci-fi. There aren’t that many women who write in that genre. Was it hard for you? What led you in that direction?
Very hard. Sci-Fi and dystopia was a very White, male dominated genre. And in the last 20 years, it has been a very White, female and male dominated genre. To them, people of color won’t be in the future, but they are so wrong. I like to dive into territories where I’m not welcomed and pave a path. So, that’s what I’m trying to do now. People don’t really get it, but they will soon enough.
I kinda want to be the next Octavia Butler — mainstream and kick-ass.
I’ve always liked Sailor Moon and Batman and Power Rangers. I loved anything superhero or fantasy based. I started writing stories of teens with powers and just never stopped. I kinda want to be the next Octavia Butler — mainstream and kick-ass.
How has your background played a role in who you are as an artist?
So, I’m an African-American gal raised in Detroit to a poor single mother of seven kids. Father was in and out, mostly out. Very shady character. Family was never really there for me. I took solace in other people’s families and friends I made. I ended up going to college at the age of seventeen. There were some pretty bad struggles, but I managed to graduate with a middle-ish GPA.
I got married very young — then divorced. Worked odd end jobs. Figured out who I was and who I wasn’t. And got two masters in writing and publishing. All this to say, what I’ve learned from these tribulations is to be grateful. It might look bad, but it all happened for a reason. And, I believe I came out a stronger person on the other end. And these stories have made for colorful writing.
As Muslim Girl Baddie of the month, what advice do you have for girls out there that are struggling with the obstacles you’ve faced in life?
Thank ya. Thank ya! Honored. Fa realz.
The advice I’d give to the girls out there struggling is that it’s only up from here. Things do get better, no matter how it may look when we’re in it. And also to hold on to hope that blessings will come. They already come to us every day, in disguise, small and large. The thing is, do we take the time to notice them? I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the mud, just defeated, and someone is sent at the moment I truly need it. To deliver a message or remind me that there’s good things out there brewing and waiting to be discovered.
Check out Leah V.’s writing here!