Discovering Afghanistan with Mejgan Lashkari

Read on as Mejgan Lashkari narrates a vivid tale of the culturally rich and diverse land- Afghanistan!

1.Tell us about your journey as an Individual.

 

I’ve never liked labels or my identity to be placed into boxes. People’s expectations or opinions of me do not concern me anymore because I am constantly evolving. I am a deeply curious person and always want to know more than I did yesterday. I’ve made a lot of my mistakes in the past but I have learnt valuable lessons from it, particularly on humility and extending grace to others when they too make mistakes. I have accepted that life is not linear, but rather a flow of highs and lows, and what will help me persevere is having strong faith in myself. That is why I am always learning, reflecting, and growing. That is not to say that I view myself as incomplete or in constant need of improvement. On the contrary; I full heartedly believe that I am both whole and a work in progress. And I find that so reassuring. Most people focus only on the destination and end up disappointed when they realize that the happiness they thought they would attain, is only temporary. But that is because they forget that the journey is the best part. That is where lessons are learnt, friendships are made, love is found. My journey is mine and mine alone and I am excited to see just how far I will go.



2. We would like to know about your experience with beauty & beauty rituals growing up?


Growing up, I never took care of my appearance believing it was unnecessary and unfeminist. However, I realize now that maintaining a clean and polished look is something we should all take great pride in, despite our genders or our political beliefs. I used to always experiment with makeup but now that I look back through my photos, I can’t help but cringe as I look over photos of me with pencil thin eyebrows, then boxed in square brows, too much eyeliner, heavy lashes, copious amounts of highlighter, etc. I realize now makeup is like clothing; it’s best to not follow trends and instead stick to what we know looks good on us. You should study yourself carefully and determine what pieces or looks suit your face best. That is how you create your own signature look, and best of all, it will remain timeless.

 


3. Could you tell us a few traditional beauty rituals & practices you discovered while travelling or through cultural influences or the women in your life?


I love learning about beauty rituals from around the world, I find it absolutely fascinating. From Mursi women in Ethiopia wearing disk clays in their lower lip, the women of Burma wearing brass rings around their necks, foot binding in China, to kohl eyeliner in Egypt-beauty practices show us a glimpse into how beauty and femininity is defined around the world. Even within my culture I instantly see how differently they define beauty. In Afghanistan, Hazara features are looked down upon. Our small noses. Our big lips. Our “Asian” like eyes. Our strong bone features. Afghans have told me I’m “too pretty to be Hazara,” and they wait for me to say thank you as if not looking like my ethnicity is something I should take pride in. We are shamed for our physical features back home, but here in the West, our features are appreciated and even emulated through makeup and cosmetic enhancements. It is the strangest thing to see people
fetishize your features while also seeing your people back home getting killed for looking like you.
Being a Hazara woman has taught me to never allow my worth to be defined by
trends or other culture’s beauty standards. It is important that you feel confident
within, or at the very least that you accept your body and face as it is...otherwise you will always be held hostage to ridiculous and constantly changing beauty standards, and love, life is simply too short to be stressing over how desirable you are to others.

 


4. What is your daily beauty regime like? Could you tell us a few of your favourite beauty ingredients?


My beauty regimen is not like most. I do not conform to using endless expensive
products on my face. I believe less is more. Also, I think if you struggle with your skin, products are not what you should be focusing on. Instead talk to a dermatologist and see what can be done. I do not think you can cure problems like acne, scarring, and wrinkles with creams and serums. If you have the money, you may need to consider procedures like micro needling to really make a change in your skin. I struggled with bad hormonal skin between the ages of 26-28. Nothing worked. No diet changes, no skin care products, no gallons of water. I finally made an appointment with a dermatologist and after only using the pills he prescribed to me for a month, my acne was all gone. I did not experience any negative side effects as well. I’ve experimented over the years and finally found a regime that works for me and my skin. I start off by washing my face with only water every morning. I then use a vitamin C serum and moisturizer while my face is still wet, to lock in the moisture. I also apply sunscreen on my face and neck. At night, I will wash my face with a gentle
cleanser (only if I had been wearing makeup) then I will apply moisturizer. I use an exfoliator and apply a clay face twice a week. I am not picky with ingredients or products to be honest. I just use what works for me and my skin. For skin care, I do love Cera V, Vichy, and La Roche Posay. When it comes to skin care, find what works best for YOU and don’t listen to others because everyone is different.

 


5. Do you have a secret beauty tip for our readers?


I have a few. Find your best feature and emphasize that. For me it is my lips and
bone structure. Don’t follow beauty trends, you will look back on old photos and
cringe. Blush is your best friend and looks good on EVERYONE. Name me one
person who doesn’t look good with blush, I’ll wait. Wear lashes that suit your eye
shape and length! If you don’t have a lot of time, pulling your hair into a low bun
with a red lip does wonders. Master a quick makeup look in 15 minutes so you will always be ready for whatever life throws at you. Master doing your own makeup so you are not reliant on others. Clean and brushed hair is the best and easiest way to look put together. And lastly, have fun!

 


6. Lastly, what is your definition of self- love, self care & beauty? What makes a woman beautiful according to you?

Self-love to me is not having to wear a mask and truly knowing and loving yourself. It is embracing and trusting your intuition. It is not allowing others to define your worth. It is staying true to yourself. It is accepting your strengths and shortcomings. It is about accepting and forgiving past versions of you that didn’t know better. It is honoring your own happiness and desires. What makes a woman beautiful to me is someone who is unapologetically herself. She knows who she is and what she wants, and she doesn't care whether you like it or not.
She carries herself with poise, and elegance but there is also a fierceness to her. A boldness that cannot be tamed.

 

 

7. Please tell us about Afghanistan, its culture, cuisine, women and beauty secrets ! How has it shaped or influenced you as an individual


Being an Afghan woman living in the diaspora is complicated to say the least, what with having to navigate and negotiate between multiple identities, as an immigrant, as a Muslim, as an Afghan, as a woman of color, and so on. There are particular issues we go through that very few will understand: they range from unresolved trauma, mental illnesses, toxic relationships, racism and sexism outside and within our very own communities, and so on. To make matters worse, we come from cultures where speaking out is considered to be taboo. We are constantly silenced. A woman who speaks her truth, and lives her life authentically is not met with praise, but with death threats, harassment, and shame. Who then do we turn to in times of need? Who can we trust to share our deepest struggles with? How can we heal if our communities refuse to acknowledge and address our problems? How can we stop the cycle of trauma and generational pain? Although the identities I hold weren’t easy, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Existing at these particular, and specific intersections shaped me, and shaped the way I viewed the world, it enabled me to see gaps in representation, rhetoric and policy which forced me to dream, it forced me to imagine those gaps are filled, a world where women like us are no longer disposable but centered.

 


8. Please tell us about the Hazara community in Afghanistan and the oppression women of this community are being subjected to?


Many children of the diaspora feel like they don’t belong “here” or “there” but for
Hazaras, these words are too vague and shallow to even begin describing the deep sense of displacement and loss we all feel. Being Hazara often feels like having a stepmom, who makes you sleep on the floor in the cold basement while her “real” children sleep comfortably in their warm beds, but your stepmom is smart. She doesn’t act this way outside the house, in public she hugs you tight and smiles at you. But you hear her at night talking to her family about you, how she’ll never love you. How you’re not “really” a part of her family. But you can’t talk about it to anyone because she’ll deny all your claims or accuse you of trying to break the family apart. Hazaras have a conflicting relationship with their motherland. You are expected to forget. Forget years of genocide, enslavement, displacement, and exclusion. Forget and never speak of it to anyone. And non Hazaras refuse to remember. They want to talk about unity and peace, but you are ruining that image for them. You are too uncomfortable for them. They do not want to remember or acknowledge your suffering because that will mean admitting that they too have blood on their hands. They don’t want to remember. And you can’t seem to forget. So you pull further and further away from one another because seeing one another is just too painful.


9. What do you think about the latest attack on school girls in Kabul, what is your message for young girls growing up in Afghanistan.


Devastating. I have no words to describe the horror and grief we all feel.

 


10. A famous proverb or saying from your culture that lives with you.


Well since we’re talking about beauty, one of my favourite proverbs is when someone compliments us we do not say thank you. We say “chashem hai e taan maqbool ast” which translates to “your eyes are beautiful for seeing the beauty in others.”

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