Meet the hijabi competing on the new season of Project Runway

“I want to be an acclaimed designer for the modest market.”

Ayana Ife center, with fellow contestants on Project Runway Source: Facebook/Ayana Ife

When Ayana Ife found out she’d been selected as a contestant on season 16 of Project Runway, her main goal was to win. But now Ife has realized that she’s become an icon for her community.

The American Muslim hijabi’s appearance on the show has “inspired” and encouraged members of her community, with many saying she’s “normalizing Muslims.”

“The feedback I’ve been getting came out in a way that I didn’t really expect,” Ife told The Salt Lake Tribune.

“My main goal was, obviously, I want to win. And I really, really, really need this exposure. I want to be an acclaimed designer for the modest market. I really want to be branded that way. Not just for Muslim women — for women who love modest fashion,” she said.

Since the season launched on Aug. 17, Ife has fast become an icon for other Muslim and hijab-wearing women.

“Of course, I want to inspire my little sisters and tell them, ‘Yay! Live your dreams,’” she said. “But this kind of ended up being a little bigger than maybe I had initially planned.”

“But at the same time, I think it’s such a positive thing that I’m going to do my best to continue representing in the best light,” she said.

Despite the growing visibility of anti-Muslim sentiments throughout America and Europe, the fashion industry overall has been quick to embrace Muslim designers, models, and modest fashion.