Maryam Deanna Jafaar, Top 20 Finalist for Miss New York USA 2020, sits down with our very own, Scarlet, as part of our Queenly Tea Talks series to talk about her journey into the pageant world, discovering her inner beauty and empowering others.
Scarlet: Welcome to Tea Talks! To introduce our guest today: Maryam Deanna Jaafar is from New York, She graduated from Queens College with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration concentrating in Economics and Finance, she is a POLYGLOT fluent in English, Spanish and Arabic.
She dabbles in photography, hiking, modeling and painting, what does this girl not do? Maryam is working on becoming an influential blogger so that she can inspire the future generation on following their dreams and accomplishing their goals. Maryam is also a Top 20 Miss New York USA 2020 Finalist, and she is competing in this year’s Miss New York USA 2021. Welcome Maryam to Queenly Tea talks!
Let's jump right into it! What inspired you to start competing in pageants?
Maryam: It all started one day when I was on instagram, I saw an ad for it [Miss NY USA 2020], and I wanted to enter it! But at the same time, there was a conflict with my dad because of our religion. He asked “How are you going to be modest with swimwear, you’re going to be the only girl there that is fully covered”. He was against it, but my mom was so ‘with it’ and persuaded him and convinced him to let me do it. Now that I competed, he is very supportive, especially knowing I can influence other girls. He said “Go ahead. Be you”
Scarlet: Wow! And having your dad recognize the impact you can have on other girls is amazing.
That’s actually the perfect segue to my next question! You were the first contestant to make it past the preliminaries wearing a Hijab in Miss New York USA, how did that feel? What was that experience like?
Maryam: It was overwhelming. Just hearing my name! My heart dropped and I was like “wait what? Did he just say my name?” I was so nervous, but my roommate was pushing me to go up, and I went up smiling, realizing “this is actually happening!”.
I was shaking the whole time, but luckily the audience was so far away that they couldn’t tell. It was overwhelming and exciting, and it inspired me to want to do it again. I might accomplish my dream, or I might encourage other girls to accomplish theirs.
S: You’ve said that “Miss New York USA 2020- was one of the most challenging experiences you have ever faced” , but it taught you so much about yourself”. What were the challenges, and what did you learn about yourself?
Maryam: I was nervous in the beginning. But the minute you get on stage you’re a different person. Something inside of me that I didn’t know I had, just came out of me! My nerves left the minute I got on stage, I was just doing my thing and I did not know I had that in me. I didn’t know I liked being the center of attention until that moment.
Also, being there [ at the pageant ], there are so many beautiful girls competing-and it’s not like in the movies, where they’re hating on eachother. You become best friends and stay in touch year after year. That’s another reason why I like going,
Scarlet: From an outside perspective, there are those stereotypes and preconceived notions of it being really competitive. I learned that a lot of these stereotypes are just not accurate, or at least anymore, and it was lovely to read through your experiences and hear about how positive that experience was for you.
Maryam: There’s so many lovely girls you meet at pageants. My roommate actually taught me how to walk, she kept making me practice, and I think it’s because of her that I made it to the top 20. She took coaching lessons, and I never did, so she kept teaching me. We all supported each other and told each other we could do this.
Scarlet: I’d love to talk about the topic of self love and inner beauty with you, a topic you focus a lot on on your social media. What advice would you give to people who are working on discovering their inner beauty? How was that journey for you?
Maryam: For self love, the first rule is not to compare yourself to others. Each person is doing their own thing. You just have to love yourself for who you are. It takes time! For some people it takes years. For me, I learned throughout the years.
I love wearing this scarf, I try to embrace it. There’s a lot of people who have seen me without the scarf and have said “you can definitely win without it”, and I wanted to prove them wrong! This scarf has nothing to do with who you are. It has everything to do with who I am , but it doesn't make me any less beautiful. I feel like it makes me who I am, and I am beautiful because of it. I try to embrace it as much as possible.
Scarlet: Yes! Definitely. Also what you said about not comparing yourself to others, to have that mindset and just focus on yourself, clearly that is how you got into the top 20.
Maryam: You have to focus on yourself and go into it knowing that you are doing this for yourself. Don’t compare yourself to the other girls, know that you can achieve this, this is your goal, you are coming into this for a reason.
Scarlet: Also, you launched an online store! Marydeanmodety.com, tell me about that! What inspired you to do that, give us that pitch.
Maryam: I’ve had this dream since I was 18 to launch my own Hijab line, and clothes too. I wanted my store to be affordable, so I give 10% off to people in need. For the girls who aren’t able to find the quality they need for a fair price, just because some people are overpricing their Hijabs just because there’s not that many people selling them. It’s so unfair, and for that reason if anyone is having an issue with pricing, I offer 10% off and I have made marydean modesty affordable for everyone.
Scarlet: So you're competing again at Miss New York USA 2021, what are you excited about, what are you nervous about?
Maryam: One of the things I'm always scared about is falling on stage! I've seen it happen, and I always hope it won't happen to me. I practice, alot! I try to jog in my heels and run with them to make sure I can walk in my heels on stage. Falling on stage is definitely a fear. I’m most excited about meeting new people! This is a place where you meet new people and make friends. Especially with COVID, it has been so long since I've gotten to meet new people, it's so exciting.
Scarlet: That sounds amazing! What are the changes you want to see in the fashion industry as well as the pageant industry?
Maryam: No one’s ever won a title that was a Hijabi yet. That would be something big, and I feel like it would be world news. To show that a girl who was modest, not showing that much skin, is capable of winning- her beauty is everything too. That's one of my main goals. Even if I don’t win, I hope that I inspire that one girl out there to win it.
Scarlet: Any insider scoops on what you’ll be wearing this year? Your outfits last year were stunning!
Maryam: I will be wearing burgundy for my dress! I think this year the less detail the better!
Scarlet: So exciting! Also, you are a polyglot! Are you someone who is always looking to learn something new? What is the next language you want to learn?
Maryam: French! I grew up speaking Spanish, English and Arabic at home. My mom is Latina, and my dad is Lebanese who speaks Arabic. I lived in Lebanon for a few years and studied French.
Scarlet: Anything that we haven’t covered yet that you’d like to chat about?
Maryam: When I first competed in Miss New York USA in 2018, it was just for fun, and then after that experience I wanted to take it more seriously, and that’s when I gave it my all, really put in effort and made the top 20. Now, I’m taking it even more seriously and I want to see how far I can get this time.
Scarlet: While we’re here, what are some tips for anyone listening who is going into their first pageant?
Maryam: Don’t go into a pageant with colorful nails! You want to be the one that's glowing, not your nails. Nude, or French is the way to go. I want the judges to focus on me, not my nails. Also, nude heels! They make your legs look longer. For a swimsuit, pick one solid color. One of the mistakes I made was wearing a colorful burkini- wear a solid color!
Thank you Maryam! Check out the full interview here and make sure to follow Queenly on Instagram for more exclusive interviews.