“Now that [people] are seeing on social media how us hijabis are doing our workouts and how we’re into fitness, it’s kind of changing their mindset,” says Saman Munir.
When Saman Munir left her job at an aerospace company after the birth of her first child, she had no idea she would eventually become a fitness influencer with over 150,000 followers on Instagram. Now a mother of three, Munir first entered the influencer space by way of hijab-styling videos and beauty tutorials, which she could easily create and share on YouTube while at home with her kids.
Her interest in beauty eventually gave way to a love for fitness. She began documenting her workouts online, garnering thousands of followers, and earned a certification in personal training before going on to become an ambassador for Under Armour in 2017. When the athletic apparel brand decided it was time to launch a sport hijab, they consulted Munir, along with other Muslim athletes.
Read on for our interview with Saman Munir about the design process, what it’s like as a hijabi woman in fitness, and why the sport hijab has been a game-changer for her.
What are some of the stereotypes about Muslim women, and specifically hijabi women, that you would like to challenge through your platform?
Most of the time people think that we’re oppressed, or that we’re not educated or we can’t do anything. A lot of people have that mentality. But that’s totally wrong; we have all the freedom. My hijab liberates me. And now that they’re seeing on social media how us hijabis are doing our workouts and how we’re into fitness, it’s kind of changing their mindset. Because there are a lot more hijabi professional athletes out there now, like Ibtihaj Muhammad from the United States and Zeina Nassar, a boxer from Germany.
How do you think your take on beauty and fitness differs from the other influencers out there?
I do everything modestly. I’m always dressed modestly, whereas other influencers are obviously not. And even they admit that the more skin they show the more likes they get and the more viewers they get. But I’m happy. I don’t have to show my skin to get more likes, I’m just showing my workouts.
What was the process like of working with Under Armour on their new sport hijab?
When I became an Under Armour ambassador I told them I’d rather be wearing top to bottom Under Armour than just from the neck down. So when they started working on the hijab, the design team consulted me on the features that I would like to see. They sent me the prototypes, which I tested out. The first one they sent me was a bit too short, and there was a white one that was a bit see-through. So we went back and forth until we landed on the perfect sport hijab.
Having a hijab specifically created for working out must be a game changer. How has it changed working out for you?
There’s a huge difference. I used to sweat a lot in my other hijab, and I used to get headaches because it was pulling my hair back. I also had to keep going to the washroom to fix my hijab because I was worried it would slip. But the Under Armour sport hijab is lightweight and breathable. When you’re wearing fabric around your whole head and you’re sweating, breathability is non-negotiable. It’s long enough to cover the front and the back, it wicks sweat and dries quickly, and the best part is there’s built-in headphone access. Plus I don’t have to worry that my hair is showing or that it’s going to slip. I know that it’s going to stay put, so I can focus on my workout and give it my hundred per cent.
What are some of the positive comments and feedback you get from young women that are inspired by you and your workout videos?
It’s not just women; I get a lot of comments from Muslim guys, and non-Muslims as well. When I started, my worry was that guys were going to be like ‘what is she doing’ but it’s nothing like that. They’re like ‘you’re empowering women, we love to see this and we want our sisters or our wives to be like that.’ It’s really motivating. It makes me happy that whatever I’m doing is inspiring other people. Also, I have hypothyroidism, and a lot of girls have the same situation. So when they see that I can still work out and be fit, they get inspired. My metabolism is pretty slow, and the side effects are that you feel tired and sleepy, you feel depressed, you gain weight. I’ve had it since the age of 16. In the beginning I thought there’s no way I can lose weight because I have this issue but once you take that block out of your mind and say ‘you got this,’ you can push through.