Why Malaysian singer Yuna refused to remove her hijab to sell music

The music industry has been using the “sex sells” tactic to promote women artists for decades. It seems as though the less a singer wears, the more albums many executives believe they can peddle. While every woman should have agency over her body and image, not everyone feels empowered enough to speak up for themselves. However, Yuna didn’t succumb to the pressure to fit into the stereotypical box of a successful artist, specifically when it comes to wearing her hijab.

As a Muslim girl in Malaysia, Yuna tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “faith is a huge part of her family and growing up.” But as a teen, she did experiment with her style and wore short skirts, tank tops, as well as pink and red hair.

It wasn’t until she took a trip to Cairo, Egypt and saw other young Muslim women embracing their religion through style that she realized she too could wear the hijab and still do the things she wanted to do.

When she first started dabbling in music, she was told in meetings to “take off your hijab and then you can sell music.” Her response: “I don’t think so because, like, I was doing fine before...”

Yuna explains, “There’s this part of the industry that’s like this and I have to keep staying true to myself.” And that attitude certainly paid off, as she went from uploading her music to Myspace to inking a record deal and literally crushing it on the Billboard Chart with her sultry R&B single “Crush” with Usher. She also became Pantene’s first hijab-wearing brand ambassador and teamed up with Malaysian shoe design company Christy Ng for a stylish collection of mules and saddle bags.

Though Yuna admits that when she first started performing onstage wearing her hijab, people were confused by her modest fashion. “It wasn’t like they hated it but they couldn’t understand what was going on, but now it’s amazing. Look how far we’ve come.”

Her advice to other Muslim women: “The world is going to try to change you, people are going to have things to say about you... There is no limit in how you can be the better version of yourself.”

Listen to Yuna’s new single “Blank Marquee” with G-Eazy.

Then watch our hijab-styling tutorial with Yuna and HuffPost reporter Rowaida Abdelaziz below.

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