Amira Daughterty, a 23-year-old singer from Georgia was the first Muslim hijabi contestant on American idol to get a golden ticket, moving her forward in the singing competition. The singer shared her experience on a viral TikTok explaining that she received three “yeses” from Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, but the production team decided that her audition will not air.
The singer expressed her gratefulness, but also her regrets on the TikTok video. “When I found out my footage wasn’t being aired, I was crushed,” she said.
Representation matters. There are many studies that show that young generations gain confidence by seeing individuals that look like them represented in the media. Amira explains, “I was honestly scared, but I was excited to uplift even one person from a marginalized background.” She also said that she received messages from young Muslims and people from marginalized groups who were excited to see her on-screen. Having people that have been historically marginalized on screen is essential to systemic change.
A similar incident happened in France. Mennel Ibtissem is a French-Syrian singer who was a 2018 contestant on The Voice France, she performed Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah with her hijab on. The singer had to leave the show after a couple of controversial tweets resurfaced. The discussion is not really about her tweets but the fact that she was a target of cancel culture and clearly that having a singer hijabi in France did not fulfill the typical narrative of the oppressed Muslim woman that France loves so much.
Muslim women are, in general, perceived as objects of oppression and inarticulate. In particular, those who choose to wear the hijab in public spaces, but more than ever Muslim women have used this hyper-visibility to their advantage. The use of politics of visibility is a way for marginalized communities to have their voices heard. These incidents are really symbolic because they figuratively and literally mute Muslim women. Muslim women are having other people’s narratives projected onto their narratives. Owning back visuality is seizing control over-representation.
Finally, since we will not be able to enjoy Amira’s beautiful voice and audition, here is a glimpse of the unaired audition:
Raise your voices! Always speak your truth! Keep it up queens, we see and hear you!