When it comes to breathtaking travel photos and inspiring global adventures, digital creator and influencer Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter (@thek.mb
) is queen. As a worldwide global traveler, Kiyonah voyages solo to places like Haiti, Greece, Korea, Jordan and Morocco and brings us along for the journey with jaw-dropping videos and intriguing photos, topped off with useful travel guides.
On top of exploring the wonders of the world by herself, Kiyonah also does so a Muslim, hijabi woman who wears a niqab (face veil). But this wasn’t always the case. A few months ago, I came across a YouTube video
in which Kiyonah explains how her journey took a pivotal turn during Ramadan four years ago and put her on a path to becoming more observant in her faith..
“My life completely changed,” Kiyonah told me. “Before this [particular] Ramadan, my religious practice was limited to Jummah, Ramadan and Eids. Outside of that, I wasn’t practicing my Islam daily. It was during the tarawih prayer that I felt that Allah (S) was telling me, it's either now or never to immerse myself fully in Islam's beautiful way of life. It truly felt like an awakening. I was shaking, crying. I knew once I left the mosque, my life would change forever, and it did.”
So Kiyonah made a decision right then and there to make the changes necessary to heed to call towards religion that she was experiencing. She developed a plan to introduce hijab wearing into her routine, until she eventually started wearing hijab permanently.
“I made the intention that each night during Ramadan, I would break my fast at the mosque. That forced me to wear something respectful enough to step into the mosque directly after my college classes finished. At that time, I started to understand modesty and hijab, but it was a process.”
So, Why Niqab?
Kiyonah in a gorgeous pink matching niqab, hijab and abaya.
I asked Kiyonah about her niqab and why she chooses to cover her face as well. What motivated her to practice face veiling? What has been her experience?
“Back in the day [prior to wearing hijab and niqab], I used my pretty privilege card all the time, and I believe that is how I got into a lot of doors,” she says. “So it's a very different experience for me now as a veiled woman. [Niqab] pushes me to be more conscious of my personality. The power of niqab is all about having your internal beauty outshine any external attractiveness.
“Nowadays, it seems like external beauty standards are so unattainable and outrageous that it makes you feel as though if you don’t have that, you’re no longer important. It is so empowering that I am no longer dealing with beauty standards – the standard is set by my own character and how I present myself in a non-physical sense,” Kiyonah says. “Did I make a good impression on that person? Did the person I just interacted with know that I am honest, genuine, caring and sincere? That is what I love the most about wearing niqab.”
During the pandemic, we were mandated in most parts of the U.S. to wear masks and essentially cover the same parts of our faces for health reasons as niqabis (women who wear niqab) have been covering for religious reasons. For some, this acceptability of face coverings even progressed into a coping mechanism for social anxiety, and many report finding comfort in anonymity
“The pandemic introduced people into masking, and people have begun to appreciate the power of being veiled,” Kiyonah observes. “Whether Muslim or not, woman or not, people’s faces were covered and can now understand that you can be fully functional without showing your face. Some women may be hesitant about veiling because they think that it will inhibit them from doing certain things. We did it for two years, and we survived.”
Kiyonah in a gold niqab and hijab complimenting a beautiful blue abaya with embroidery detail.
Face veiling has been ridiculed by so many who have no proximity to the actual experiences of veiled women, many of whom have had positive experiences that are far more nuanced and expansive than narrow minds can fathom. Kiyonah sees herself as “a walking reminder” of spirituality, and says that niqab has literally saved her from engaging in negative behavior that is detrimental to her purpose in this life.
“Hijab and niqab are garments of remembrance. A reminder that you are the slave of Allah (S); a reminder of honor, protection and love given to us by our Creator. As Muslim women who wear hijab, we are covering our hair and our bodies head to toe as a reminder of our service to Allah. Niqab is another layer to that reminder. Niqab has helped me to stay away from so many sins, so much fitna and so much drama. Niqab has saved me,” she says.
What’s It Like to Travel in Niqab?
I wanted to know more about Kiyonah’s experiences in different countries as a solo niqabi traveler and how niqab affects her travel.
She replies, “My mode of dress catches curiosity's eyes. I believe in some countries; I may be the first veiled woman people have seen in person; well, at least it feels like it by the way they stare and not even blink. But I have become a walking dawah (a public message about religious beliefs). My form of modesty opens up conversations with strangers that are often centered on religion. My challenge is trying not to get annoyed at people staring.”
Kiyonah overlooking the sunset in Santorini, Greece.
Well, as long as people are watching, they might as well take note of her impeccable style. With colorful matching hijab and niqab sets and breezy dresses, Kiyonah’s drip is unmatched. Kiyonah calls her style “The KMB look” – a signature style that consists of a short, Saudi-style niqab and a matching hijab. She is a vibrant woman in both wardrobe and personality and is in the midst of launching her own brand, Jayonamarie
, to make executing the KMB look that much easier.
Have you been considering wearing a niqab? Well, Kiyonah has some great advice on how to begin face veiling in a manner that is not overwhelming: “Choose to veil only a couple days a week, and increase when you’re ready.You can even start with a mask that you love and are already comfortable with. Start slow. Find a style and fabric that works for you and makes you happy.”
Thank you Kiyonah for sharing a part of your journey with us. Keep inspiring us as only you can!
Is there any cool modest wear fashion trend or fascinating hijab-wearing influencer you want our fashion writer to profile? Let us know in the comments!