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Sapphic Softness: Shaz & Amirah

Updated: Apr 11

Written by Devanshi Arora.

Sapphic Softness Shoot Credits:

Models: Shazmeen Karishma Awan & Amirah Ahmed

Creative Direction & Photographer: Holly Sapna Singh 

Producer: Aaliya Choudhury 

Stylist: Diya Beecho 

Interviewer: Devanshi Arora 

BTS Photographer and Videographer: Sophia Green

Love is kind. Love is acceptance. Love is naked. 

It slumbers between the light and the dark. If you look carefully, love is in the curves and corners of your existence. And when you decide to share love with someone, love is all-encompassing. The good, the bad and the ugly. 

I have never seen two people so deeply in love. Watching Amirah and Shaz fill each other’s space revealed an emotion to me I had only dreamt of. They swirl around, offering a space to laugh in, to dream in, to let go in. Their love is soft, even though fighting for their right to love was not. 

It is in a writer’s nature to attempt to find words to describe what you see in front of you. For the first time, in a very long time, I was rendered not speechless - but wordless. Their love was like a magnetic forcefield, drawing us all in and filling the room with warmth and comfort. It is rare to see two people believe that they are made for each other. It is even rarer to experience them together and know that they are two souls destined to walk the long, tireless road of life. Together.

We spent the whole day watching this beautiful couple caress each other with an infinite tenderness, smiling with no fear in their eyes and holding themselves together - they fit like puzzle pieces. It felt like we were intruding on immensely intimate moments but we were stuck. We didn’t want to miss a single moment of the love they have and the home they’ve found in each other.

After filling our day with love, we sat down to discuss this elusive, mysterious life force. Here’s their story.

Shaz, a dazzling 25 year old, grew up in Kolkata, India and moved to London when she was just 12 years old. Her lovely fiancée, Amirah, 23, grew up in Leicester, a hub for the South Asian community. As we settled into the couch and the giggles faded, I posed the question: what is the queer experience in the South Asian community?

Almost immediately, Shaz scoffs and smiles “there was no community to begin with”. She was the first person to come out in her year group, and being a Hijabi presented a separate set of struggles for her to overcome. Her struggle to find someone to relate to, someone who is a person of colour, someone who is religious and queer came full circle. She found comfort on Tiktok during the lockdown as more and more desi queer people began to emerge. It was the first time she revelled in her existence, which finally felt validated. In the present day, she is that someone for her thousands of followers on Instagram and Tiktok. 

Amirah faced a very different reality than Shaz did. She spent a lot of time in closeted relationships and didn’t actually ‘come out’ to anybody. That is, until she met her fiancée. Amirah, eventually, was introduced to a whole community that she didn’t even know existed. 

Discussing their engagement, they both come to the agreement that it feels like a dream come true. Overcoming the fear that your reality as a queer desi woman is to be alone was not easy but it did lead to having a lot of gratitude for the life they are living right now - happily engaged, living together, working together and growing together.

The importance of family underpins the value system embedded in South Asian culture. But family isn’t always the most supportive. I asked the girls how they confronted this complicated yet significant part of their lives. Amirah replies “fuck them, that’s the only thing I can say”. She faced a lot of backlash from her family as they uncovered her online presence, which showed her celebrating at the Pride Parade in London. This led to a long winded message from her aunt asking her if she had any sharam. Amirah’s response? No. I don’t. She continues “I've grown up and I've always been a person that I like to wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't believe in doing bad to people because I genuinely believe that if you fuck somebody over, something is going to happen to you. What goes around comes around, no matter what.” While her blood family may have cut contact, Amirah finds comfort in her chosen family.

While Amirah dealt with confrontation, Shaz faced a different response. Disacknowledgement. But Shaz’s platform prepared her well for this response - it gave her a thick skin. Eventually, her family’s opinion didn’t matter. Her thick skin also gave her the courage to take a rather bold step - she came out on BBC News. Prior to this, her mum was aware of her sexuality and she was quickly told to keep it a secret. But after a point, all truths must come out and so did Shaz.

When dissecting queerness in the brown community, the dynamic it shares with religion must also be examined. The couple was raised Muslim and a way they connected in their religion was praying together. Shaz recounts a fond memory in the early days of their whirlwind romance. They were on facetime in the early hours of the morning praying the Fajr prayer. Shaz recalls crying and thanking God for this person she’s found, who’s been a rock for her. While religion can be a saviour for many, it can often be a source of deeper troubles stemming from religious trauma. When it comes to queerness, it's a complicated and tumultuous relationship, says Amirah. Regardless, they both expressed their gratefulness to God for the peace they felt upon connecting with each other.

You may be wondering how this love story came to be?

Well, it started like any classic modern romance. Sliding into love by sliding into Instagram DMs. Amirah decided to shoot her shot, and Cupid couldn’t have had better aim if he tried. The talking stage passed, leaving Amirah giggling with her legs in the air and the time arrived. The first date. 

The pandemic was tough for everyone, but that didn’t deter our lovers. They also indulged in some KFC and precisely 14 minutes later, they shared their first kiss. As for the rest of their evening? Amirah aptly describes it “We basically fucked in the car park.” After their first date, the rest of them continued on Facetime with calls sometimes spanning for 7-8 hours at a time. They’d sing together, watch films and even do arts and crafts on call. 

To Amirah, love is dating your best friend and there’s no other way to put it. She goes on to say “You know what it is? Falling in love, it just carries on. We'll be at work and I'll just catch a glimpse of her and be like, babe, I love you. You just feel it.”  For Shaz, love is in Amirah’s biryani. She continues, “It’s the little things that make a big difference.” 

In terms of how they show love for each other, Amirah tells us that while communication is key, understanding your partner is also key. Taking action on communication is important. Acts of service is a big love language for the engaged couple, whether it's running a bath or oiling hair. “It's little things like that, that show that hey, I love you and I'm here for you.”

Amirah’s situation at home wasn’t kind to her when she came out. It was then that she decided if she makes it out, she wants Shaz. Three months into the relationship, she proposed. The room takes a pause. And another. 

Amirah is looking intently at Shaz as they both grin, looking into their eyes. Without looking away she says “I think no matter where I am, as long as she's with me, I feel like I'm home. Honestly, like, here, being out, travelling. I don't think it matters. Because I used to say, I want this and I want that. When you're a kid, you do, you know. But I'm happy. As long as she's with me, I'm happy.”

We couldn’t help but coo at the happy couple.

Wrapping up our interview, I couldn’t resist asking a question that I often think about: What would you say to your younger self right now?

Amirah can’t help herself and begins to laugh. Suffering from depression since she was incredibly young, she was suicidal and never saw any of this ever happening for her. She was confused and questioned God why she was made to like a girl. It was a feeling she bottled for all the years as she got older. Amirah’s piece of advice to her younger self is to be patient. “I was patient and I gave myself to others and tried to be a good person so that good would come to me. I got the best fucking gift of all time. And I'm so, so grateful. I love you so much.” 

Shaz caresses her hand and continues. “And when you're young, you're very impressionable…And getting DMs like that from, like, people that kind of are the same age as your parents telling you to kill yourself because you don't belong in this religion because of your sexuality. Like, it's a lot for a young kid to handle.” She still receives messages from young teenagers who are suicidal and feel like they have nowhere that they belong to. 

To those who need to hear it, Shaz reiterates. “If you're young and, you know, you're going through what you're going through, be patient, as Amirah said. Like, you never know. Things might turn around.” Amirah adds on “It will turn around. It always gets better.”

In terms of falling in love, our couple stresses the importance of truly allowing yourself to enjoy the feeling, specifically “the giggles and the flutters” but remember, it always gets better.

Wrapping up the shoot, we were all filled with an intense calmness and gratitude. Gratitude for this platform, that allows us to share the stories that are often forced into submission. Gratitude for the people in the room who participated in the shoot and made an idea come to life. Gratitude for the courage you need to define your own story. 

To create a new one, filled with all the love you can carry. 


This article was published in Volume 002, The New Generation. For more content check out our print magazine now!

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