Actress La La Anthony gifts Asiya Sports Hijabs to THHS Muslim Athletes

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By: Halima Tokhi, Georgia Malo, and Tamanna Saidi, staff writers

Photo courtesy of La La Anthony

Hushed whispers involving the presence of actress La La Anthony inside the building of Townsend Harris High School echoed through the halls on Wednesday, April 25. This was no random celebrity appearance; La La Anthony, alongside Fatima Hussein and Jamie Glover cofounders of ASIYA, donated sports hijabs to a dozen Townsend Harris High School hijabi athletes. A conversation about experiences as young athletes, young Muslim women, and representation of religions/culture in sports was filmed in hopes of providing inspiration to their communities.

The project is part of La La Anthony’s “Funded in America,” a six part series produced by SoulPancakes featuring female entrepreneurs who used Indiegogo to fund their businesses. For this portion, co founders Hussein and Glover were filmed donating their exclusive sports hijabs to young hijabi athletes. The students then changed into the sports hijabs and enjoyed a friendly game of basketball and volleyball without the constant worry of making sure their hijab wasn’t falling off. An interview with the students concluded the segment. The series will air on SoulPancake’s Youtube channel.

Actress and television personality La La Anthony exclaimed, “It was the best thing in the world to see the reaction from the girls who put the hijabs on and just the excitement. I think that’s life-changing, and that’s why I wanted to be a part of bringing this to light.”

Muslim Student Association advisor Ellen Fee added, “As soon as the producer of SoulPancake reached out to me, I knew this was a wonderful opportunity for all the Muslim athletes in our school struggling with their hijabs during physical education classes or on their sports teams. The sports hijab allows them to focus on the activities they want to do, rather than having to make sure their hijab is staying on.”

Junior Afeefah Anwar, a hijabi athlete who was interviewed, relayed, “I never realized how much of a dilemma it is to be a hijabi athlete until I joined the JV Basketball team my freshman year. I struggled a lot to layer up underneath my practice gear and jersey and would feel overheated after the games, but wearing the hijab has never stopped me from doing what I love.”

She continued, “The ASIYA sports hijab so far has been amazing. It doesn’t feel like I’m wearing anything, and I don’t overheat as much or as quick. It’s so light and comfortable. I genuinely feel like La La wants to bring awareness to this issue of Islamic regulations and athletic restrictions and I’m grateful because it’s long overdue.”

Sophomore Mariam Rahman, another Muslim athlete, expressed, “I want to point out that they never told us what to say on camera beforehand and just really wanted to hear from us and get our real reactions, and that made me very happy. Nowadays everything you see on the internet or on TV is all fake and thoroughly planned.”

She continued “Muslim girls don’t have the supplies they need to get into sports or the inspiration from hijabi athletes to motivate them to be pursue a professional career in sports or just as a hobby. The fact that celebrities, such as La La Anthony, are supporting this cause will hopefully allow the public to have more sensitivity towards it.”

Junior Safiatu Diagana, another Muslim athlete who is featured in the segment, added, “Often times, great projects such as ASIYA are not given their spotlight in the media due to the unfortunate racism that exists in the business industry. As a celebrity, La La helps girls like me realize that there are people who care about us.”

Freshman Ripa Begum stated, “La La is such a sweetheart. She gave us confidence in wearing the sports hijabs and she was kind enough to take pictures with us individually after the filming was over.”

Only a handful of faculty members and students knew that La La Anthony and the filming crew would be coming to THHS. As students eagerly walked past the gym during bands 8 and 9, the film crew told them to keep quiet due to filming and sensitive microphones. The event was extremely exclusive and its doors were opened only to those participating.

Cofounder Fatima Hussein described her personal reasons for creating such a product, “What really motivated me are the girls that I coach – I saw girls that were not playing on their school teams… mainly because of the hijab. So I co-created a sports hijab that would enable them to play and not worry about the hard choice of picking their religion or picking the game they love to play.”

Her cofounder, Jamie Glover, has similar reasons, “I played sports my whole life through college,” she said. “Once I got into my career, I found out that a lot of the leadership skills that were helping my career I learned on the court…  I heard about Fatema and this product she was doing and I loved the idea of helping more Muslim girls get into sports.”

The ASIYA sports hijab can be purchased on their website, coming various styles and colors. Alongside the hijab, you can purchase ASIYA gear, including drawstring bags and headbands.