Meet Asrar Aref, Saudi Arabia's star hijabi vlogger
- 30 April 2018
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Asrar Aref. Image: instagram/@asrararef
A vlogger who never shows herself on camera? The concept really shouldn’t work, but that’s exactly what Saudi YouTuber Asrar Aref did when she first burst onto the Internet five years ago. Her channels quickly attracted attention, and her main portal, Drama Queen, has just hit one million subscribers.
Now 24 years old, Asrar has made the decision to unveil her face and vlog publicly, and her audience now finally knows what she looks like. So what made her switch direction? Was privacy getting in the way of success?
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
It was during her first year in college, in 2012, that Asrar launched Drama Queen. Her videos range from experimenting with products, to trying snacks from around the world, to cooking, to playing with her little brother. Asrar has said that she never showed her face on camera because she wanted viewers to solely focus on the content of her videos.
“Up until 2015, I only had 5,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel. 2015 was our year, the year I met you all,” said Asrar in one of her reveal videos. The communications graduate added that it was in the same year that she launched Drama Beauty, a YouTube channel that features makeup tutorials and tips. Asrar’s passion for makeup and her witty sense of humour earned Drama Beauty over 600,000 subscribers and over 46 million views, but these numbers didn’t come easily. It took Asrar over three years of editing videos for hours, collaborating with other YouTubers, and hosting giveaways to build her six-figure following and her unique Millennial career.
“One of the biggest challenges I faced when I first launched my channel was not having a studio to film in,” she recalled. “I remember I was shooting a live video in our living room once and my father walked in, switched off the lights, and started yelling at me in front of my fans. Also, reading comments about how a woman’s place is in the kitchen, in a very male-dominated YouTube culture, made things very hard for me. Of course, now this has changed, and us girls are capable of changing the world and creating more.”
To celebrate her millionth-subscriber mark, Asrar revealed her true identity in a live video by hiding behind 20 balloons and asking her fans to answer a slew of questions, popping a balloon with every correct answer to slowly uncover her face. In the reveal video, which garnered over 790,000 views, the YouTuber stated that she wanted her fans to know who she really is and to move on to bigger, more exciting things with her channel.
And what is her key to success? “Persistence, persistence, persistence. I consistently created content that was purposeful, informative, and generic to fit all tastes.”
It seems to be paying off. Since revealing her face to the world, the vlogger has been invited to Dubai, where she celebrated the launch of the region’s first YouTube Space in Dubai Studio City. She has also just released a series of false lashes, her first own business venture.
With the changes taking place in the Kingdom, the future certainly looks bright for Saudi vloggers. According to YouTube reports, Saudi Arabia ranks first, with a 95 per cent online video penetration amongst Internet users. It also ranks highest for daily online video access.
Diana Baddar, head of YouTube partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa commented, “Each of these creators continues to make high-quality content that is not only useful but is also an expression of their creativity. They are telling their own stories to their audience and the world.”
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