By Zaina Arafat
Salam Alaikum, everyone!” Yasemin Kanar, known to her fans as YazTheSpaz, uses the traditional Muslim welcome to greet her 68,000 subscribers at the start of almost every video on her YouTube channel. I’m watching as she films a tutorial on how to achieve a simple, stylish look with a navy-blue hijab — the headscarf worn by some Muslim women, and the Arabic word for “cover.” We’re in the guest bedroom of the condo that she shares with her husband, Zeyad, in Jupiter, Florida, 30 minutes outside West Palm Beach. She and Zeyad have lived here since they married in 2013. (Their wedding video is among the most popular on her channel.)
Their guest room has a dimmer switch that’s been set to low, and a floodlight in front of the stool where she sits is shining bright. Her backdrop consists of a leopard-print sheet that Zeyad recently hung, “to make the set more studio-like,” she tells me. I’m sitting on the edge of the double bed, watching as he films.
Yaz has shoulder-length brown hair that until this weekend I’ve never seen, as it’s usually tucked underneath one of the many varied headscarves that have brought her recognition within a subset of Muslims in the US. Her thin, slightly pinched nose has been powdered, as have her cheeks and forehead, and her lips are coated in a pink gloss. Her tutorials, which are step-by-step guides to different ways of wrapping a hijab, require a good deal of planning, primping, and choosing — outfits, makeup, and of course, the hijab itself. “This one is Rabia Z brand,” she says to the camera. “I just love the way they drape.”
Yaz films without a script; she knows the material well. Zeyad puts down the camera as she removes the hijab and places it on a small table beside her. She still isn’t showing any hair; it’s tucked beneath a bonnet (pronounced “bon-nay”), which is a cap worn under her hijab to keep it in place and to prevent any stray hairs from getting loose. She wears it to further protect modesty, a central value of Islam that’s deeply important to her. It’s also a value that seems especially difficult to maintain when you’re a YouTube personality, and when you’re broadcasting hundreds of fashion tutorials to tens of thousands of viewers.