By Bailey Cummings
Published November 5, 2019
Step one: Brainstorm video ideas.
Step two: Open up the camera app on your cell phone.
Step three: Find some decent lighting, hit record, and make your video.
Step four: Post to TikTok.
This is the workflow of TikTok star Zahra Hashimee, a junior studying computer science at UAlbany. With 1.5 million followers on the social media video app, Hashimee has become a popular figure not only on the platform from which she gained fame, but also on Twitter and Instagram.
“I kind of got lucky with the algorithm when one of my videos blew up,” she says. “Another one blew up and another and it kind of started snowballing. Now, it’s like a part-time job.”
With a demographic made up of mostly teenage girls, Hashimee’s content it relatable and lighthearted.
“A lot of my videos are just me talking and telling stories,” she says. “I talk a lot in person so it’s easy for me to just turn my camera on and talk.”
Teen girls aren’t the only ones who are fans of Hashimee, though.
FANS ON CAMPUS
“Sometimes, I’ll catch people staring at me on campus,” Hashimee says. “And I’m like, ‘Do I have something on my face? Have they seen my TikToks?’ It’s a big campus and I don’t know how many people actually recognize me.”
Fans often approach Hashimee as she leaves the library on campus.
“People come up to me and it’s always ridiculously flattering,” Hashimee says. “I think I get a little awkward when people do come up to me but I don’t mean to get awkward because I do appreciate it and think it’s super sweet.”
When it comes to TikTok fame and the impact it’s had on Hashimee, she says that it can often be distracting, especially as a college student.
“I’m majoring in computer science and I have a pretty heavy workload, and that’s the biggest drawback of this new thing that’s been happening in my life,” she says. “It’s distracting.”
While it may take up time she could be devoting to school, it has offered her great opportunities. Life as an “influencer” has given Hashimee chances she never dreamed of.
MONETIZING HER BRAND
“I did a thing with Ulta Beauty, Marc Jacobs reached out to me at one point, and I did a TikTok commercial kind of recently,” Hashimee says. “There’s pictures of my face in the subway system of New York City.”
Brand deals and content creation has allowed Hashimee to make money off of doing something she enjoys, without having to give up too much time.
“I know I said it’s distracting but, having TikTok as a side thing means I also don’t need a part time job on the weekends,” she says. “I get to spend more time with my family.”
While she could turn her video-making into a full time job, Hashimee is hesitant.
“I’m in talks with a manager right now and I’m sure that once I get a manager, I’m going to have more opportunities,” Hashimee says, “but I don’t think I want to make it a full time thing.”
As to why she’s hesitant:
“I feel like if I had to make a job out of it, it would take the fun out of it and start becoming a job,” she says. “I don’t want to spoil the thing I like to do in my free time by making it a thing that I have to do.”
From her beginning on TikTok to now, Hashimee has been inundated with support and positive messages from fans.
“TikTok definitely has helped boost my self-esteem and make me a more confident person,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful that I got started on the app. The people are very nice.”
HATERS GONNA HATE
But there are negative comments, too.
“It kind of goes the other way too because people are mean on the internet,” she says. “I get that if I’m posting stuff on the internet for people to see, I understand that I should expect hate. But it’s so hard to ignore it sometimes.”
While some people on the web may not be as supportive as others, Hashimee has her younger brother, Abbas, who’s always there for her.
“I think my maturity level has gone down a lot since I started making TikToks with my little brother,” she says with a laugh. “He films for me sometimes, he’s always giving me ideas, constructive criticism. He’s 14.”
ON BEING MUSLIM
Hashimee’s parents weren’t too keen on her growing fame on social media at first but have come to accept it and support it.
“My parents are immigrants. They moved here from Afghanistan hoping for a better life and more opportunity.”
And she is getting just that.
As a Muslim woman that wears hijab, Hashimee stands out from the crowd on TikTok and has reached a demographic on the app that not many others have.
“I wouldn’t call myself an influencer but I recognize that I have influence,” she says. “I recognize that there are lots of little girls, especially little Muslim girls, that look up to me as a female Muslim content creator.”
Hashimee has seen the influence she has materialize via social media.
“I tie a knot in my scarf sometimes and little girls have been tagging me in their TikToks where they’re tying knots in their scarf,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Are you doing that because of me?’ It’s weird that I have that influence.”
Hashimee has also been able to educate people on the Muslim faith through her videos on TikTok and Twitter.
“I make videos sometimes about my experiences with religion, specifically the way that I dress,” she says. “I cover myself, wear a headscarf – hijab – and a lot of people are ignorant as to why I do it and what I do it for. They have a lot of questions about it so sometimes, I’ll make jokes about it on TikTok.”
While Hashimee’s faith is a big part of her life, her hijab doesn’t define her.
“I don’t want people to look at me and think, ‘Oh, she’s successful despite wearing hijab,’” she says. “But I also don’t want people to look at me and think I’m successful because I wear hijab.”