To be sure, London is a melting pot of culture, style, and beauty. We just witnessed this in full force on the runways at Marques ‘ Almeida, Ashish, and J.W.Anderson, and we’ve been noting it as prominently on the Instagram feed of one of the city’s most stylish locals, Amaal Said. The 20-year-old Danish-Somali photographer and poet has quickly garnered a following through not only her striking selfies, but also in the illuminating portraits she makes of fellow Londoners—and, she notes, mostly women. Creating a powerful collision of tradition and modernity, Said regularly documents how young Muslim women in her city, and elsewhere, are extending the conversation about style and beauty. Here, she talks about her own aesthetic, why she sources all of her hijabs from her mother’s closet, what it means to put on a red lip, and why color is such a huge presence in her work.
Revising Ideas of Beauty and Style

I’m still teaching myself how to overcome restrictions and how to be as open as I want. There are, of course, things I knew I couldn’t do from a very early age, such as wearing tight clothes. I didn’t think I was allowed any sort of style when I was younger because of these restrictions, which I don’t believe anymore. I also thought I could control what men said or how they looked at me in the street with what I wore, which was a mistake. My idea of beauty has changed dramatically, and that’s because I’m forgiving myself and learning how to love myself better. I had to widen my understanding of beauty so that I could fit into it.
Taking Cues From Mom . . .
My top drawer is full of pictures of my mother. She doesn’t want me to share any of them, but her hair and her outfits are stunning. Once, she told me, a teacher sent her home because she looked too good and all the boys were staring. She laughs about it now. Her dresses were gorgeous, though, so I’m just trying to be as fly as her!
. . . And Stealing Her Scarves
Most of the scarves and head wraps I wear are from my mother’s closet. She gets really excited when she sees me in one of her scarves. I’ve worn the hijab since the age of 9. It’s all I’ve known, which isn’t to say it’s been an easy journey. There have been so many occasions when it’s been hard to keep it on. I wear it for religious purposes, so I noticed that it became harder to wear it when my faith was becoming weaker. I wear it because I want to please God. I didn’t ever think about “hijab fashion.” I love color and I also happen to wear the hijab. I’ve been obsessed with floral prints at the moment. It’s spring in my head.
Wrapping According to Mood
Wrapping my hijab is about both the mood I’m in and the look I’m going for. I always have some new obsession with a color. I’ll have a scarf in mind and then I do my makeup accordingly. It’s also about the fabric and what style I think will suit it. I wear my mother’s bigger scarves around my head and shoulders because that’s how Somali women usually wear them to weddings. It’s loose and they tend to have incredible detail. I didn’t realize I was putting so much thought into the selfie until recently. I describe it as a performance in my head. The head wrap and makeup come off after the selfie session is done.
And the Lipstick Is Dictated by the Hijab
I’m just trying to stay away from black hijabs at the moment. I’m studying and doing photography work, which means I’m always in a black skirt or dress, so it’s important for me to wear a hijab with some color. I’m such a fan of matching your lipstick to your hijab. It’s such a look.
Must-See Headpieces
I’m really trying to up my jewelry game. I love wearing headpieces! I feel so beautiful in them. There’s one that I wear in a couple pictures. It’s from a little store in Mombasa, Kenya. It’s the only thing I bought while on holiday. And I remember thinking about the self-portraits I had to take to document this incredible piece of jewelry I had found.
An Eye for Color
Color is a huge part of my photography. I’m still learning to be more comfortable wearing it myself, but I’m always engaged in some sort of connection with color in my surroundings or in noticing what people are wearing. I’m also attracted to light in the same way, especially when it’s flickering or coming through a slip in the curtain. I wanted to fall into the background a lot when I was growing up, so I didn’t really notice or rely on color and light the way I do now.
Putting Women of Color in the Frame
I’m most comfortable shooting women because I feel like I’m better able to connect. There’s also warmth. But I also mainly photograph women of color because I’m interested in how I can use the work I do to widen representation in any way that I can. Parks have always been my favorite place to shoot, but I’m challenging myself now. I choose a random place in London and we go for a walk, get a little lost and also a little closer. I fall in love with new photographs and photographers every day, but I keep going back to work by Graciela Iturbide, Carolina Sandretto, and Alex Webb. I’m also very influenced by film—lately I’ve been drawn to the cinematography of Bradford Young, especially in Mother of George.
YouTube Beauty Star
I was obsessed with makeup tutorials on YouTube. I remember testing out makeup on myself when I was about 13. There was a mixture of reasons, but I think the main one was that I felt like I could hide. I was suffering from a lot of self-doubt and anxiety at the time and the makeup made me feel beautiful and also more worthy. I liked the confidence it gave me. I’m having so much fun with blue eyeliner at the moment. It scares me a little, which is why I’m trying to get more comfortable. I’m very lazy with makeup, though. I’ve been meaning to teach myself how to contour and highlight. I carry a mixture of lipstick around. I joked once about not being able to leave the house without it! I don’t think it’s a joke anymore—I wear lipstick to the corner shop. My favorites at the moment are Limbo by ColourPop, Train Bleu by NARS, and Ruby Woo by MAC.
Challenging the Status Quo With a Red Lip
I’m constantly thinking about what is and isn’t “acceptable.” I remember an uncle telling me once that I couldn’t wear red lipstick because girls who were good didn’t do that. I knew I was getting better at managing my anxiety when I could step outside with red lipstick and not feel like I was being watched. I love that there are more open conversations about beauty and style. I’m interested in what we view as beautiful, who is included and left out, and how we choose to interpret and reinterpret it. I think those conversations are so necessary and more of them are needed.