Mona Mohammed Ali

Mona Mohammed Ali

Life I trust you - has become my mantra, but the road to get there has not always been straight. As a four-year-old, I was forced to leave my parents and flee to Sweden with my aunt. I lived with her together with my siblings and cousins in Norrköping and it took ten years before I was reunited with my parents and moved with them to Norway.

Growing up, I was constantly reminded of the color of my skin. I had a hard time finding my identity trying to balance between two different cultures. My inherent curiosity and a certain amount of anger became the driving force to not let my origins limit me.

Although I have been through big changes in my life and lived in a lot of different places, I didn’t hesitate to move to London when I was 19 years old to study design and marketing. I alternated between different jobs and was met by a diversity that in many ways shaped me into who I am today. But after 11 years in London, the longing for my family got to strong and I moved back to Stockholm.

The contrast between Stockholm and the multicultural London was huge and I was struck that it was still very standardised with the same kind of models in advertising campaigns. I saw a great need to get more people to discover the fantastic diversity that actually exists in Sweden.

This became the start of the modelling agency FIIRI Agency. Fiiri means look, see me in Somali and is one of the first words children learn. Everyone is worthy of being seen and my mission with FIIRI is to represent the underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera. Everyone, regardless of ethnicity, appearance, skin color, gender or body size, should feel included. That’s diversity for real.

We must stop coming up with excuses and realize that we all have a responsibility to change the norm. I want to send a clear signal to all major brands that they must work with inclusion at all levels. It is not enough to have a black or Asian model in a campaign. Diversity also needs to be seen among the employees in a company and in the products they sell. The more we can accept each other’s differences, the better society will become.

I try to tackle most things that come in my life in a positive way and I constantly remind myself of how important it is that we help each other. My message to young people who feel lost is that there is hope. Life has a plan for you, trust in it and keep working hard. It’s never too late to change your life.

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