Five Lessons Learned with Huda Fahmy
When 33-year-old Houstonian Huda Fahmy (’06 B.A.) started her online comic starring an American Muslim heroine (“Yes, I’m Hot in This”), she was pretty sure she could win a niche audience in the Muslim community.
But she didn’t know how it would play with a broader crowd. A few years later, the answer is pretty clear: It plays. Today, she says her online following includes “just about every kind of person from every background you could think of.” Here’s what Fahmy had to say about her breakthrough as a comic artist and the challenges of navigating in a space where diversity is often front and center.
1. Don’t always do what you’re good at.
Never let anybody find out you’re really good at something that bores you. For me, that was teaching: It came really naturally, but I just wasn’t into it. On the other hand, when I decided to start writing comics, the thing I had to overcome right away is that I didn’t draw. Really. But I’m working really hard at it. And I realized what was going to sell this — if people liked it all — was the story. And that’s turned out to be totally true.
2. Check your intention before asking somebody a question.
The main character in my comic is sort of like me if I said everything I wanted to say. I think a lot of the frustration comes from people asking the same questions over and over. It’s not that asking people questions is bad. But I think it’s important to think about your intention. Like, the question that led to the title of my comic, “Yes, I’m Hot in This,” comes from people always asking me if I get hot when I’m wearing my hijab. But why do you care if I’m hot in this? It has absolutely no impact on your life, and if it’s a hot day in Houston, the answer is pretty obvious because we’re all hot. So why are you really asking?
Having a platform means that what I do and say now has consequences.
3. Sometimes controversy is unavoidable.
My whole thing is that I try to be really inclusive. But you’re bound to struggle. One time I did this piece that featured meat, and I didn't think anything of it. But then I got all these comments from vegans that were upset that my character was eating meat. And I was like, ‘Oh shoot, the vegans! I totally offended them.’
4. Don’t read the comments.
I’ve learned to stop reading my comment section. Instead, my husband is my buffer, and he’ll filter them and tell me if he thinks something warrants a response. People can say some horrifyingly mean things, and for my own mental health, I can’t live in that space.
5. On being a reluctant spokesperson.
It’s really important not to look at every Muslim woman or man and treat them as a representative for their religion. For one, it’s not their job. And two, there’s so much diversity in the community. That said, I can’t be blind to the fact that some people see me as a representative. So I try to make sure people know what I’m saying is not the answer for all Muslims. Having a platform means that what I do and say now has consequences — even if I never dreamt that would happen.