We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarrahh Alkutb and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarrahh, looking back, what do you think was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?
So many beautiful transformations and shifts surfaced in these past few years. We saw in 2020, how nothing can really be guaranteed, and we should look for joy wherever we can. I never realized just how many unique identities I hold and the importance of what that means to others that look like me. As I begin to write this beautiful share, I hope others resonate with my story as a first generation Lebanese-Syrian American hijabi wearing Muslim woman.
These past few weeks, I have been reflecting on the many different moments that brought me to this very moment –to this very chair. The most difficult decision I ever had to make was leaving my personal business I developed from the ground up for ten years as a makeup artist to pursue what my soul was yearning for me to step into. My mind turns to the summer of 2017, when I had the honor of performing the Islamic religious pilgrimage called Hajj.
During that moment, tears fell down my face in a way that flooded so softly. I slowly walked back to the hotel room in silence reflecting on the light I felt, the lightness perhaps that now entered me. I realized something significant had shifted, but was unsure what it was. I kept trying to find the words for what this shift meant. As I sat in my hotel room, I eagerly grabbed my phone and tried to distract myself, finding some sense of privileged normalcy seeing images and feeds from the other side of the world.
I felt so raw and exposed and it felt uncomfortable yet freeing. I took a deep breath and turned back to my page seeing my staged makeup photos and I felt like a huge weight re-entered my body and the tears flooded back over me so quickly. I knew, it was over. I knew I had to step away from this identity. I had an instant reaction that this felt like it needed to also be lightened off my energy. I have invested all I did, but knew it was over. My mom came over to me confused where the tears were coming from. I told her “Mom, I love makeup artistry, but I know I am meant to do something else in my lifetime…I know I am meant to help others, fight for others who are unable to fight for themselves, I have a voice and a story that needs to be shared.” It’s taken a lot of self discovery and time for me to have arrived at that very pivotal moment in my life.
It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make. My journey to makeup artistry had many different twists and turns. In 2014, I originally got my degree in Consumer Psychology from Whittier College, but overall had been pursuing makeup artistry since I was 18. And there I was, ten years later, it all came crashing down on me. Everything that I had thought I wanted or dreamed of, I no longer wanted.
As three years have passed since that transformative moment, just today, I reflected back on a video I posted right after I returned. Looking back, it felt like such a different person, I was so raw. In this 2017 video, I announced I’d be leaving the world of makeup artistry in pursuit of wanting to make the world a better place. I didn’t know if that route was social work, life coaching, or something else the universe wanted for me to step into. The pathway is still muddy but the goal is clear, I am meant to shatter the glass ceilings in some way, shape or form. I want to be a changemaker. This pushed me into community organizing for the Nation’s largest Muslim Civil Rights Organization leading conversations and connecting with people of all walks of life in the most beautiful transformative ways. As of right now, I am a Community Organizer. I fight and organize for people seeing all the many different privileges and identities I hold. I am an activist. I am a poet. I am a storyteller. I am embarking upon my own personal healing journey and hope to be a vessel to help others heal.
As I continue this beautiful reflection I sit here and take a moment to exhale. I am truly grateful for the decisions and stepping stones that brought me to this very moment. It was scary, and it is still scary to truly stand in your light. I have learned so much about my true authentic self and what it looks like to be courageous. I never thought I would ever have the courage to walk away completely from something that I spent ten years nurturing and building. When I was first a makeup artist, I created my business out of thin air, bought some things I could afford during the time, and started learning, growing, networking, anything and everything. It took years to build my brand – working with Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, Fall Out Boy, LA Fashion week inspired me to keep going year after year.
In full reflection, I am humbled to share that I have worked with organizations and groups such as CAIR, Census Bureau, Black Lives Matter, MuslimARC, ICNA, community leaders, and congressional teams. I am not only making a difference in the Muslim community, but for other girls that look like me. I hope to give them permission to also stand in their light, no matter when, no matter how…but to choose themselves.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Grappling with layers of ancestral trauma, my journey has truly been a deep spiritual one. One of the scariest things I ever had to do was stepping into the power of discovering that my voice needed to vibrate to others. I hope to continue to share all of my different moments and experiences with those around me. I also hope to empower others to stand in their truths as experts of their own experiences. Whatever your goals, aspirations, purpose is in this world — you have the keys to the answer. In my culture, I grew up conditioned that I was unable to become successful in anything other than devoting myself to get a conventional 9-5 job. That was just how it was. I saw it with folks around me – doctors, lawyers, engineers – all a very typical path. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that route, but for my dreamers, my goal seekers, my believers — I encourage you to keep on pushing.
I can only pray that my story illustrates how one moment can truly transform oneself in such a miraculous way. From grappling with severe Trauma, PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, and the many layers within each of those, I have come out the other side recognizing my story isn’t just about me — it’s about everybody else. We all have a divine purpose to contribute our gifts to the world. You get to choose which path you want to step into and also give yourself permission to step into another direction or look at the path with a different angle. It doesn’t have to be grand, or recognized by the entire world but recognized by you. I am truly proud of myself for stepping into my light and allowing myself to discover who I am at my core. I am proud of myself. Hearing these words play in my head still sit with me with such delicate love.
I have found my voice, not just in my personal healing journey, but the loud voice that I hope to articulate the gems from my journey to inspire others. I am excited to see what the future holds for me. The reason that I am at this current point in my life is through working smarter and not harder – learning how to delegate, learning what to prioritize and ensuring I fed my soul. I went back to the basics, what made me happy — I would nourish my soul and the rest followed. The world wants us to think that if we work harder, we will reach a capitalist sense of stability and therefore receive full happiness. Something that I have been humbled to discover, is that joy is bigger than the capitalist recipe. Creating your own recipe, doing what you love, whether you are being paid for it or if you do it as a hobby can feed your soul. A wise friend once shared that the most important thing is “mind over matter and soul over mind.” It’s that simple, yet society makes us complicate it all.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Let’s pretend this is pre-covid era! If this were pre-covid era I would take my best friend to all of my favorite places throughout Los Angeles County. There is so much to discover in Los Angeles, that I am always excited to explore more recommendations. The best adventures consist of discovering new things, making new friends, and listening to beautiful new music. In this scenario, I know that my best friend and I would stumble upon some amazing hidden gems. We would definitely find ourselves in tears laughing at all the wonderful travels we embark upon. Any moment with a kind and uplifting soul is always sure to recharge, nourish, and energize my heart and soul!
Places to eat:
- Bossa Nova, Santa Monica.
- Hayat’s Kitchen, North Hollywood.
- Octopus, Burbank.
- Beeps, Simi Valley.
- Urth Caffe, Beverly Hills.
- El Tejano, North Hollywood.
- El Floridita Restaurant, Hollywood (Stay later for some salsa dancing)!
Places to visit:
- Griffith Park
- Hollywood & Highland
- Santa Monica
- Orange County (Of course, Disneyland!)
- Universal Studios.
For some healing LA experiences I would ensure I would also take her to the Silent Wave Disco hosted in Venice beach, Unplug Meditation in Santa Monica, and The DEN Meditation. Some cafes/lounges that are my favorite to chill at are Hidden Cafe in Anaheim Hills, Centerpiece in Westwood, and Mini Garden Café & Restaurant in Tujunga.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I truly believe God fills your life with people that are meant to be there for a reason, season, or a lifetime. Every single person I have encountered in my lifetime, whether they have hurt me or loved me created a pivotal moment of lessons, healing, and growth. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the unconditional outpouring of love from my dear mother, father, and friends. My mother, especially, has been there since the first batted breaths of my first step when the transformation for me began in 2017. My mother has unconditionally supported and stood by me through some hard transformations and never stopped as I explored educational and career choices that were outside of the typical role for someone in my family. She is my biggest cheerleader. I am in awe and humbled by the changemakers and the shakers I call my friends.
Words can’t describe who my people are; so I will say it in a poem.
“Forgive me please.
I simply don’t understand what you mean.
Who are these people you speak of?
Well, let me tell you about my people.
They create art.
They aren’t afraid to feel.
Masculinity and femininity are ambiguous.
Their veins run through art and their minds are illogical.
They are irrational, Rational. Ridiculous.
Contemplative. Extraordinary. Indecisive and decisive.
They see ART in you and me.
They laugh and sing and cry.
They dance and love and never dare lie.
If I may confess… they call me out on my B.S.
These are my people.
They are the people I call my friends.
The dreamers who walk around the city,
But they never catch a glimpse of sleep.
The dreamers that are hustling and breaking
Every preconceived notion you have ever known to mankind.
So forgive me please if I don’t understand your categorizations and generalizations.
I am simply not surrounded by the stereotype.
I am surrounded by people who chew up the stereotype —
Spit it out, and live to tell about it.
They live to create about it.
These are my people.
So, forgive me please.
I simply don’t know what you mean.
Who are these people you speak of?
Well…let me tell you about my p e o p l e.”
Other: Thank you for joining me in the beautiful recitation of my heart. I hope my words travel and pray they bring ease and help someone feel seen and heard. Follow along my journey at instagram.com/themuslimunicorn
Takata Photo & Design.