Dounia Tazi on Biculturalism, IG Fame, and Her New EP
What’s in a name? For model/budding singer and Instagram darling Dounia Tazi, there’s a lot to unpack: a marker of her Moroccan heritage, an IG handle that has garnered over 125k followers, and an imminent music project that has all corners of the Internet buzzing with anticipation. Spinning all of these plates at once is no small feat, and that hasn’t escaped Dounia either—if anything, she understands the importance of balance more than most.
We sat down with Dounia to talk details on the EP, discuss the importance of accentuating one’s own beauty, and what it really means to give zero f*cks about what Internet trolls think.
Tell our readers about yourself and your work. What’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you yet?
Well, I’m a 19 year old Moroccan girl from Queens. A lot of people don’t know that I was born here, but then I was flown to Morocco and raised there until I was about eight or nine.
What was it like to grow up partially in Morocco as a kid? How has that affected or influenced your adulthood?
I feel like it did shape me and it gave me a lot of the culture that I still retain to this day. It gave me lot of family morals but it also made me so much more hesitant to break free from cultural norms when I came here because I feel like a lot of my friends are so past breaking out of that bubble, especially being Muslim and Moroccan, but me, since it was so fresh in my mind, it’s still a constant process to get out of it. Like, every decision that I make that I know is contradicting their morals or beliefs it’s still like, “Okay, this is okay, this is fine” whereas for a lot of my friends, this has become the norm for them. That stuff that was ingrained in them has completely vanished, but for me it feels very, very new, so every new step that I’m taking, whether it be posting a provocative picture or voicing my very liberal opinions online, it does take more of a thinking process to accomplish than a lot of my friends who have been here for longer.
But yeah, so I went to Morocco, and I feel like I came here not speaking a lot of English, and I had no friends, and because of that I would say “hamburgers” instead of “homework” and people made fun of me for like mad long [laughs]. But yeah, that was a fun time, but I feel like that was super necessary. I feel like no matter how much bullying or whatever I went through—notice how I’m hesitant to even say bullying—it never affected me or dampened my soul; it only taught me to be an observer for a very long period of my life. I just realized the importance of being perceptive, and watching the world around you and letting that propel your self-growth rather than constantly having to be involved.
I feel like even though the language barrier was definitely something that a lot of people consider to be an obstacle, I feel like it definitely allowed me to be put in that mind state and to be so fixated on this thing called self-growth and learning and knowledge. Like, I wouldn’t view English the same way if I hadn’t speak—spoken it. Look at me, I can’t even English [laughs]. I wouldn’t have viewed it the same way because I think I would’ve taken it for granted. I almost made it my mission to learn English, and that’s why I became a writer and I was a published poet in the sixth grade because I was hustling and I feel like once you have that drive, you accomplish a lot more than when it’s naturally handed to you, so I’m grateful for that period in my life.
So as everyone knows, you’re killing it on Instagram and in real life in general. How would you encapsulate how you got to where you are right now, and where do you think you’ll be ultimately?
Honestly, none of it was predetermined or expected or strategic in any manner. I still to this day look back and just count the events and see how everything played out, and it’s so mind-boggling to me, because to be honest, if I wasn’t in the position that I was in, if I didn’t live in New York, if I didn’t meet the friends that I did organically, if I wasn’t working where I was in retail at American Apparel when I was sixteen, none of this would have occurred. Or it might have, but that’s just the path that I followed. It was all very, very organic.
People constantly ask me “how did you get involved” or “how did you do this” but when you’re contrived about it, when you’re fabricating yourself in order to garner an audience, it’s never appealing. I think the actual, substantial advice that I can give, or tell people that I think has helped, is probably consistency. It’s just about being consistent within your platform. The more I put myself out there, the more people were attracted to it, which was dope. I did have a game plan in mind…I wasn’t like “oh I want to do this, so I’m going to start with social media and build up to music or whatever,” it was just kind of like, as cliché as it sounds, everything kind of just fell into place very naturally. So I’m very thankful for that.
Totally. Let’s hear a little more about your music and what you’re doing right now.
Well, I’m putting out an eight-song project…I feel like I’m so confused on what to call it. At first I was like my EP, my mixtape, and then I was like my LP and now I’m just calling it my album and then I realized it doesn’t matter, it’s just a project, it’s just a song project. I feel like it really is indicative of what I’m going to be offering music-wise because it’s very lyrically compact. I feel like I’m a writer first and foremost, that’s why I started making music, because I’m a terrible conventional communicator, so my first song I posted I was subbing a boyfriend in high school, so shout out to him [laughs].
But yeah this project, I’m really proud of it and every song that’s on it to the point that when people tweet me that they’re listening to my old SoundCloud songs I’m like “chill” [laughs]. You know when you’re just like “oh, just wait!” That’s how I feel about this. I really didn’t want any song to be a filler on the project; I feel like there are a lot of projects where songs are just taking up space and I didn’t want it to be like that. I’ll listen to every single song on this project and I’m proud of it and there’s lines that I’m like “I’m glad that’s there, I like this” and even if people don’t receive it well, it’s still such a genuine and authentic piece of me that I’m proud of. Regardless of what happens, I’m very, very happy with it and I’m really excited to be releasing it.
Good! So as your music career is blowing up, how are you balancing that with other things you have going on and your social life?
I feel like when I started delving into music, before I didn’t see Instagram as work or anything, I didn’t see it as going out of my way, but then I got so entirely consumed in music that at one point I was like “I haven’t posted on Instagram” you know? I was like “I should probably post on Instagram.” That was the first time where I was like “oh…” but it’s never been a hassle or anything. It’s always just been me posting pictures of myself that I take for documentation purposes, but yeah that really allowed me to see how consumed and preoccupied I was with this and it also translated in many, many other ways.
It’s funny though, because I did have muses for my project obviously, but then once I was done with it and creating it and getting into my career, all of that was just gone. I felt like I had no space in my mind for boys, and I feel like that’s the vibe of the album too, if you listen to it, it’s very, very genuine because every song is nonchalant. I have a song coming out called “Casablanca” and it says “checks come and checks go, men come and men slow” and that’s like the entire vibe of the album. It’s like I’m hustling, I’m working on me and boys, yeah, they’ll get me upset for a little bit, but it’s whatever.
So yeah, balancing everything is definitely going to be a work in progress for me to figure out, but it’s nothing that I’m upset over or having a hard time with, because if anything it’s just super fun, figuring out how I’m going to fit everything, I’m like, “Woo! I’m busy now” and there’s a lot going on and I’m just super excited about it.
So I know you and all the people you surround yourself with are really admirable advocates for positivity and for good vibes and just really loving who you are as a person genuinely. That said, what kind of advice would you give to people who maybe aren’t there yet and who are aspiring to be where you are with that?
I think the easiest way to accept yourself is to stop letting other people to determine what’s good and what’s not. I think we are so concerned with these standards by this unseen panel of judges that they’ve created to make us feel less than, and whether it spurs from the media or social media or whatever it is, there’s a bigger picture that I feel like people are missing out on.
Personally what helped me love myself and gain confidence is that I’ve never placed my value on my body or my face or whatever. I was always very detached from looks in general because that’s not how I value humans, that’s not how I value myself, my talent, and my mindset, my mentality…just for my core, for my soul…that’s how I love myself. So when the conversation on my body started, obviously inevitably you have to recognize it because people are constantly talking about bodies and looks and whatever, so I feel like I was thrown into a world which is the epitome of that: modeling. And at one point I was very insecure; it wasn’t so much my body, but I was always insecure about my face, like I would wear so much makeup and I was constantly maintaining this illusion. I’d wear contacts, I think my hair was blonde. I was chasing a Eurocentric beauty that I thought was what’s up. I felt that in order to succeed in this industry, I’d have to do as much as I could to change myself, it was almost subconscious, but that’s what was occurring.
But throughout all that, I would still say I loved myself because my love comes from inside but on the outside I was still insecure. At one point, I just cut off makeup because I had a toxic relationship with it. I’m not saying makeup is bad in any way, I just personally had a bad relationship with it. I cut off makeup, I dyed my hair back to black, back to curly, wavy; I looked in the mirror and I was like, about to cry. I felt like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I was like, I’d rather be unconventional and ugly, whatever, rather than maintaining this illusion. And when I made that decision, that’s what kind of forced me into accepting myself for who I am, and accepting the beauty that I had to offer rather than trying to gain something that I don’t have. I think that’s so important, realizing that beauty is a spectrum. I feel like we’re constantly comparing ourselves and we have this very narrow mindset of beauty when in reality, you just have to see what you’re offering and just accentuate it, put it out there.
So at that point, I gained this crazy confidence, complete confidence. Like after putting on all that makeup and being like “I look cute” instead it was like I woke up and I was like “this is me and I look beautiful. This is fine, this is just different and that’s fine too.” The best advice I can give is to just recognize what you are offering and not what other people are offering. Stop seeing yourself as a project, that’s important. I feel like when you start trying to fix things, you just want to fix more things, because you can make a project perfect. Once you get in that mindset, you’re never going to be content. But once you get in the mindset where you’re like no, I can’t to change anything. It all just shows you how powerful mentality is, so it gave me another lesson on how crazy just your perspective is, because my perspective shifted completely and suddenly all the things that mattered just didn’t. I was like “Oh my god, our brain does wild things.” Delusional.
Featured image via Opening Ceremony
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