At BHAV, we believe in empowering women to find unique ways to embrace their cultural heritage. We started 'The Culture Connection' to explore the impact (both good and bad) of heritage on a variety of incredible women, and understand how it continues to play an influential role in their lives. We invite you to join us on this journey, with the hope that you find value in these conversations.
Azka (@azkaay) is a woman in tech, student, and lifestyle blogger all-in-one! In her spare time, she loves traveling, hosting social gatherings, and cooking/eating (she's a major foodie)! Read on to learn how Azka has transitioned from growing up in Dubai to now settling in Seattle, WA, and charting her own unique path.
On Her South Asian Heritage:
What's your background?
Pakistani-Muslim - I was born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
Overtime I have learned to use my heritage as my power tool. It is where I come from and I embrace it all with open arms. Being a brown, Pakistani-Muslim comes with a lot of misconceptions on how one should behave, dress and act. I have learned to incorporate culture and its ways in my own way by blocking out opinions of society. I define myself as a very cultured but modern woman. I don’t restrict myself due to any culture/religious beliefs of others. I have broken down stereotypes by marrying outside of my culture, being the first woman in my family to go to college, dressing up the way it best suits me, working at my own pace and juggling a thousand different things all at once because I do believe we can do it all as women without putting family secondary. My religion, culture, and experiences have shaped me into the person that I am today and am thankful for that.
You've had the unique experience of living in Dubai and now Seattle. How were each of these locations different for you and did you assimilate in a particular place more over the other? When moving to the US, did you find challenges in assimilating to American culture? If so, how did you handle those challenges?
Life in Dubai was extremely fun. The people, food, and culture was so homely. Dubai will always be my home and still dream of moving back some day. I was used to living a simple, conservative, yet fun lifestyle in the Dubai that I never noticed anything different or if there was anything more to life until I moved to the US. I used to dream about finishing school and getting married, as wasn't to ambitious.
I moved to the US in January of 2014 with my parents and my little brother. It was a wild experience because as a 16 year old I had left behind all my friends and my brothers but at the same time I had this American dream of living the American lifestyle. I was excited but at the same time extremely sad over the change. I wanted to move back to Dubai after I finished my education but life had other plans for me. I graduated from high-school in 2015. I met my now husband in 2016 and then Seattle became my new home. Through the years, I've adapted to the change , become more confident with my surroundings, and started having ambitions. I've realized that I wanted to be more than just a daughter or someone's wife.
Even though Seattle is my new home, Dubai will always be my first choice for living – it is still my first love – my home.
You have aspirations to start your own skincare line. What has inspired you to venture into the beauty industry? Being a South Asian woman, what do you feel you can most contribute to the industry? For example, are there any certain products or recipes that have been used in South Asian culture or ones that you have personally experimented with that have worked really well for you?
I have been always been skin obsessed as I constantly experiment on myself, my friends, and now my husband. There are a lot of gaps in the beauty industry and lack of representation of different cultures therefore I want to expose more of it. I want to represent all South Asian women and men. There aren't many skin care brands that represent the South Asian men and their skin care needs. I'd to change that. I want to launch a skin care line that serves all races, genders and cultures. I want to create a brand that gives back to the community and serves a purpose more than diversity.
As a South Asian woman I have used aloe vera, honey, flour, saffron and turmeric on my skin. These are some key ingredients also used in our food and extremely beneficial for the skin. I have experimented a lot and I continue to enhance my skills. I am currently working on getting some certifications so I can formalize my process. I am just super excited for the future and what next launch will be.
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
I LOVE jhumkay, jhoomar, and naths (Indian jewelry pieces). I love Sharara's and lehengas (Indian outfits). To be honest, I LOVE all of it.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now, or the piece that gives you the most confidence?
Red suits! It makes me feel all kinds of confidence and "I can do it all" attitude.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
What are you currently watching?
Emily in Paris
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
Morning person or night owl?
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
Chocolate and my moisturizer