✩ PHEROZA Shaikh-Barnett ✩


What does being a Pisces mean to you?
My last name "Shaikh" is an Farsi/Arabic word which means a very wise person or a leader, a king, or in my case; a queen. That's how I view being a Piscean. As the last sign of the zodiac, Pisces is also connected to the idea of cycles -- that every ending is a new beginning -- which is represented by the two Fish swimming in opposite directions. They are a representation of Pisces' ability to transcend the physical evolution of the soul, leaving humanity behind. We are all living in a cognitive-dissonance reality (kinda like The Matrix). We want to live a certain way or do a certain thing, and we don’t because we are emotionally attached to how we as a society (or in this case school) thinks. Pisces transcends the physical evolution of the soul, leaving humanity behind, holding her infinite memories in her water. She knows what’s right in her mind and in her heart, and if she's strong enough to detach herself from the school then sometimes, just sometimes, she may be able to do the right thing.

What is your strongest Pisces trait?
Pisces ruling planet is Neptune which is linked to art and music. I've had a very strong connection to art and music since I was a child which continues to this day. I'd also say my resilience and uniqueness. South Asian/Middle Eastern women are a very small minority in the fashion industry. I used to think because I'm mixed and have such an unusual look I couldn't make it in this industry but have since learned that if you keep moving foward you eventually find the right people. Pisces are incredibly underestimated imo; we're very adaptable as we're a mutable sign. We've walked in the footsteps of all the other signs and since learnt and taken on their best traits. We're two-fish; with the largest deck of cards to play in the Zodiac.


Who are the most influential people in your life and why?
Growing up; Aaliyah and Rihanna were the first women of colour I saw in western media being these sexy, unapologetic seductresses. I still remember sitting on my mum's couch watching the S&M music video when it first came out. I remember how badly I wanted to have that much free autonomy over my body and wishing I could look and feel that sexy. Then Anti came out at a time I needed it most, and I dropped everything I was doing at the time and started acting, modeling and dancing. It's a very Pisces album. I listen to it whenever I need reassurance that I'm doing the right thing for myself or just as a pick me up. I should note that Rihanna and I are both Pisces Sun, Aries Moons so we can be soft and gentle but don't be fooled we're VERY spicy! Then you've got Kurt Cobain who's also someone I've looked up to for as long as I can remember. He and Rihanna are both Pisceans and both of them were born on the 20th of February. Both never forget their roots or what they stand for which are qualities I admire as both artists and people. I like how he and Marilyn Manson are themselves without even trying (if that makes sense). There's an interview where Manson is asked what gender he identifies with and he just laughs at the interviewer; that's the kind of level I wanna be at tbh.

I also really look up to my mum; I always carry a piece of her with me (my nose ring). She's the strongest person I know and has sacrificed a lot for me. It's really funny because when she was my age she'd wear red lipstick and big hoops too! I guess I know where I get that from lol. I also really admire my dance teacher Jane; she's this tiny brown powerhouse with a larger than life personality. I'm in one of her classes and we're currently working on a soul train burlesque routine to S&M funnily enough. I swear that song follows me wherever I go!


What does being a woman mean to you?
I'm gonna use a Kelela quote to answer this one: "I dunno... pride and vulnerability at the same time. Tenderness and a strength." I don't think there's any definitive answer to explain womanhood as everyone's experience will be different. Some may find wearing baggy mens clothes sexy, others may find dressing up as a dominatrix womanly. Mine personally is both depending on my mood. 

How do you identify with your Indian/Iranian background?
Through watching Bollywood films and Iranian movies. There's this incredible Iranian-language American western film called 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night'. It's about a skateboarding hijabi vampire, it's on Netflix and it's very me (goth) I couldn't recommend it enough! Also through dance. Dancing alone in my room to music ranging from songs from Bollywood films to Nine Inch Nails and Aaliyah has always been a ritual of mine since I was a kid. Doesn't matter what kind of music it is I can still belly dance and break out classical Indian dance to it, believe me. It's apart of my self care; which is very important for Indian/Iranian women. My nani would always oil her hair before combing it and moisturise every night before going to bed. Maintaining your beauty/youth is very important in our culture. I take a bit of time out for myself to moisturise, use a face mask and comb my hair when I can. Cooking curries at home, usually with my mum and my cat close by, engaging in religious celebrations like Eid and watching the Bollywood Film Fare Awards...


Describe a time when you experienced discrimination based on your ethnicity/gender?
There have been times where I've walked home alone where white guys have cat called me or told me to go back to my own country. And there was this one instance this dude told me I looked bad in crop tops and I laughed at him and he told me to reevaluate my life choices and I told him to reevaluate his wardrobe lol. Crop tops originated from traditional Indian/Middle Eastern dress so whenever I wear one I like to think I'm embracing my culture ;)


How do you overcome negativity and prejudice?
I think the best piece of advice I can offer is to find something you're really passionate about and stick to it. I've had to overcome a lot of traumatic experiences ranging from Islamaphobia to blatant racism whilst having severe anxiety. When you grow up in a society like ours it's easy to develop a lot of misconceptions about your own culture/religion. There's this story in the Quran about this sex worker who feeds a parched dog on a sweltering hot day (keep in mind this was in the desert and she was very poor) and the Prophet (S.A.W) says she is a servant of Allah. This story has stayed with me since I was a child and made me realise that anyone can have faith. So when I started burlesque I thought of it (and still to this day) as a means for me to reclaim my body as a sexually confident Muslim woman. Burlesque has existed in Indian culture/the Middle East before the west gave burlesque a name because the royal court would organise dancers to dance before the king. I am the queen and the world is my royal court.


A parting message for someone part of a minority group going through a tough time?
Put on your favourite tunes, watch a cute movie or some trashy TV and eat some comfort food (in my case hummus). Have a small cry and ride the wave of sadness but remember this is a small moment in time in your entire life and to keep it that way, don't drag any more energy out of this you have much bigger things in life to worry about. Find a way to express this negative feeling and turn it into something positive and show yourself who's boss. I find the more respect and love I give myself the better my circle (this advice also applies to breakups).