interview by Preveena Jayabalan
Preveena: When did your interest in being a social media influencer and an entrepreneur start? Tell us about your journey so far.
Zuleika: I ventured into the business world at the age of 13 and ever since then it has always been something I've looked forward to and something that I've always wanted to do. Being a social media influencer just came about as a product of being active and engaged.
Preveena: When did your big break in being a social media influencer and an entrepreneur occur?
Zuleika: Being an entrepreneur was the path to being a social media influencer. It just happened overtime and it basically sparked up. I was known to being a very young person doing a business and it just expanded into a very huge family in a small period of time.
Preveena: Who or what inspired you to do what you're doing right now?
Zuleika: My parents, especially my mom, because she’s a public figure in Malaysia as the Chief National Dietician. Growing up, I’ve always looked up to her. When I was young it was very annoying to try to spend a day with her out of her busy schedule, only for people to recognize her and talk to her for a long time. But I actually take that as an affirmation to have people acknowledge myself in the same way as they look up to my mom. In terms of what inspired me, it was the satisfaction after sealing a deal that felt like an achievement.
Preveena: Have you faced any challenges or setbacks?
Zuleika: Yes. In the beginning, my parents weren't very supportive about the idea of being a student entrepreneur and they were very afraid of what I was going to do with the large sum of money. Over time, when I received all the attention from social media, my parents became very uncomfortable as I’m the only child and there were a lot of restrictions, growing up in a strict family. I used to see people go for shoots and I wanted to do things like that too. One day I decided to rebel my way through it. It was a very difficult perio but I’m grateful I did it because I wouldn't be where I am today if not for it.
Preveena: You're a woman of color in a white-dominated social media industry. What does that mean to you?
Zuleika: Being a woman of color and being a social media influencer has become more common recently. In my case, on the 26th of May, I posted a story on Instagram speaking about the struggles I faced that I know many people can relate to. Over the years of influencing, I make a point to myself to be positive and empower women in knowing that just because you're a woman of color, that doesn’t make you bad or unattractive. I even tell girls of different body types that wearing a swimsuit doesn’t make you a slut. If you’ve noticed my captions, I stress the point of women not needing a man to survive.
Preveena: Body positivity and breaking stereotypes are two major causes of yours. Why?
Zuleika: It is something that we're coming into very slowly and I'm glad it is happening because it's raising a lot of awareness. I think the world should hear more of it because this is only the start.
Preveena: The key theme of The Homegirl Project is "female empowerment". How does this theme impact your own life?
Zuleika: My mom was a very huge figure in my life. I grew up with a mom who was very career-minded and at the same time family-oriented. It really impacted me in life because I saw it with my own eyes and I grew up with the impression that women can do just as many things a guy can do, and maybe better.
Preveena: You started your entrepreneurship when you were still in school. How did you manage your time between your education and your career?
Zuleika: I had guidance from my dad to set a schedule for myself so I had my slots to study, do postings, manage my shop, manage my orders and other tasks.
Preveena: What would your advice be to young women of color who also want to become entrepreneurs?
Zuleika: I want to tell all the girls out there that you should never have fear that you’re gonna fail in your business, as every failure is a stepping stone to success. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent because there would always be someone who would try to pull you down in life,
Preveena: Where do you see yourself in the following years to come?
Zuleika: My dreams are becoming a reality and I’m thanking God for that. In a few years to come, I see myself as someone who could take her mom out on vacation whenever possible and have a stable life financially. I will one day have my own accommodation and transportation and as well as influencing more girls to love themselves. I plan on opening a small center for people who would want to learn how to do what I did.