This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.
I remember two years ago spotting a duet TikTok video of a woman fixing her hijab as someone fell out of a hammock that went wildly viral because of its perfect timing.
That video was created by now-23-year-old Munera Fahiye, who lives in St. Louis and graduated from college this summer. Since making an account in November 2019, her TikTok has amassed 6.4 million followers and garnered over 194 million likes.
Around the start of the pandemic, I started watching more of her videos, often spotting her younger sisters, Fatima and Anisa, participating in TikToks with her.
The adorable trio have based a lot of their viral videos around their Muslim identity as hijabi women.
Unlike most of the high-profile faces often associated with the app, the sisters' presence on TikTok has been drama-free and wholesome. One thing I love is how they troll the barrage of commenters asking for a “hair reveal” with silly TikToks that unveil another hijab.
I spoke with the trio on a video call where Munera told me that at first her sisters just used her TikTok. “I slowly introduced them to my account, because they weren't sure if they wanted to make their own accounts,” Munera said.
Fatima later joined in December 2019 and Anisa in September 2020. Despite having their own accounts, they continue to create videos together. They have mastered the art of the “Don’t Leave Me” challenge by creating several videos that reached millions of views.
Now the sisters have partnered with animation production company Toonstar for a short-form cartoon series with characters who look just like them. Munera said they have been working on the cartoon for the past six months. “We'll be re-creating some of our most viral TikToks, like the ‘Don't Leave Me’ challenges or like any fun sister content,” she told me.
There was instantly an overwhelmingly positive response to just the teasers alone when they were released in October, and that has continued as they’ve posted more cartoons.
“We didn't expect it to be such a big thing,” Anisa said. “There is so many people saying ‘finally hijabi cartoons,’ and they feel represented. It’s motivating us even more because we want to create more projects like this that allow hijabi women to feel seen in the cartoon/entertainment space.”
I asked the sisters if they ever felt like they were represented in the cartoons they watched when they were younger, as I had never seen an animated character with a hijab.
Like the sisters, I grew up watching The Powerpuff Girls and various other popular shows, but it's only really in hindsight that it was glaringly obvious there was no real form of Muslim representation in mainstream, internationally available cartoons.
Munera said they felt that they had always seen other ethnicities represented, and that even shapes and mundane household shapes got more representation in animation than hijabis.
“Phineas and Ferb was like a triangle,” she told me. “SpongeBob is a sponge. Banana cartoons. Like, there's everything but the hijabi cartoon. And we're like, How can we bring this on to the world?”
The cartoon's episodes have been released in parts on the sisters’ TikTok pages, but I can’t help but wish that it had been published on a streaming service to really reach a mainstream audience — and a lot of the commenters seem to agree with me.
The sisters noticed all the comments and said they are hoping to get it on a major platform.
A younger me would have loved seeing a cartoon centered around three Muslim sisters who are just having fun, but until then I will be watching the TikToks on repeat.
Until next time