Featured Image: Zain Shah
In South Asian society, the pressure to conform to ‘a standard’ shapes the foundations of brown culture. This narrative enforces an expectation for brown youth to preserve this social conditioning through their own lives at the cost of slowly abandoning their individuality, their voice, and their identity.
This unwritten narrative is being challenged in this generation of modern, progressive, and free-thinking spirit, where a movement of social activism advocating the liberation of minority and underrepresented individuals is redefining the definition of ‘self’. This movement, powered by the influence of the digital world, is allowing a space of self-expression and embracing the diversified sense of individuality.
One such influencer is Zain Shah, better known as zaddyza1n on Instagram, a beauty influencer and skincare enthusiast with a mission to expand the acceptance of diversity, from all directions through their passion for beauty and creativity.
As a gender non-conforming individual, they are pursuing the elimination of social standards, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, unifying the associations that segregate individuals like them from their gender and sexuality.
Zain Shah’s personal pursuit of ‘diversified diversity’ is rooted in their experiences that deprived them of self-expression and owning their limitless individuality. In one of their posts, they recalled the burdening feelings that come with confronting family about social conditioning from internalized homophobia. Through the struggle against stereotypical entities, they recall how it felt to be acknowledged by their mom telling them ‘she was proud’ of how they embrace themselves, which is a liberating moment that many individuals within the South Asian community long for.
Zain Shah is not done with their vocation and seeks to embed a new wave of South Asian inclusivity in the beauty industry, surpassing the tokenism that is associated with minority non-conforming individuals that diverge from idolized beauty standards and embrace what it means to be South Asian.