In December last year I was asked by one of Holland’s best vintage magazines if I would write a small piece about my life for their March issue. Having never written for an international publication up til this point, I was stuck for words to share!
Lucky for me I am a monster fuelled by midnight coffees and so this humble little article found its way into issue 13 of Vintage Lifestyle Magazine ! For those of you who aren’t fluent in Dutch, I have also provided the English version of the document I sent to them, below. My sincerest thanks to the staff who reached out and helped translate my article into a language I have admired for such a long time.
A huge thank you to David Woolley and Jennifer Villalobos for creating the images that ended up being selected for publication in this exquisite magazine!
Here’s the translation for my non Dutch readership!
My name is Laila Shalimar. I am a twenty something tattooed pinup from Western Australia. I was born in Peshawar, Pakistan to a Muslim Pashtun father and a mother of mixed Indo European ancestry. I grew up between Karachi, Islamabad, and Peshawar. I have also lived in the UK and briefly in some parts of Europe. I moved to Australia with my family in 2003 and have lived here ever since. I like to think of myself as a Desi Australian.
My love affair with vintage began at a very young age. As a child growing up in the post-colonial Indian subcontinent, I was surrounded by beautiful old buildings, and gorgeous vintage furniture from Europe. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic. This means that a lot of the shows on national television networks prior to American Cable TV had to pass a very strict censorship code. Most of the times the only western shows that made the cut were the old tv shows like I Love Lucy and Petticoat Junction.
When I moved to Australia, vintage clothing gave me a way to feel comfortable with a body that at times felt like a battlefield. As a new migrant whose parents didn’t have much of an income, op-shopping was equal parts necessity and thrill! Much like vintage fashion, tattoos have helped me embrace my body. I wouldn’t say all my tattoos have stories behind them but a vast majority of them were inspired by moments in my life where I felt something move me to my core.
I view my body as a passport and see each tattoo as a little stamp for moments in my journey, from my darkest moments to the happier ones. As I haven’t visited Pakistan since starting my body modification journey, I really don’t know how people would react to my body art or style of dressing. I suppose it would be no different to how tattooed ladies got treated in the 20s and 30s in America or Australia!
I work as a receptionist at Holdfast Tattoo in Perth, Australia with my tattooer partner who is a Catholic. When I try to explain my life to other people they are often surprised. People have a very narrow idea of what a Muslim woman is meant to look and behave like.
Unfortunately the world media has convinced people that all Muslims are dangerous, criminals. I hope that my visibility in the local and global pinup scene can help change that mindset and show the diversity within the Muslim community.
Muslim people come from all walks of life and in all shapes, colours and sizes. Now more than ever it is very important for all of us to build bridges through common passions while celebrating our diversity. That is what I hope i can achieve with my Vintage blogging and Pinup modelling work. I believe that love, understanding and empathy is crucial in combatting the violence and hatred we are experiencing in the world today and I hope that I can be part of positive change.