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Yaz The Spaz on Hijabs, Halalywood and the Perfect GNI

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Welcome to A Cafecito With, where we let you sit in on our quirky conversations with our friends in Miami's fashion scene, cortaditos, coladas, and café con leches included.

Image via Ashley Brozic

A few weeks ago, the New York Times shed the spotlight on a set of sartorially savvy Muslim bloggers, as notable for their hijab styling abilities as they are for sparking a revolution of confident young women eager to frame their faces on Instagram. One of these bloggers, Yasemin Kanar, is a Miami native, so naturally, you know what we had to do: invite her out for a little morning cafecito, this time at The Corner Bakery in Pembroke Pines.

Yasemin (or YazTheSpaz89 on social media sites) is no stranger to a good cafecito. She's part Cuban herself (her other half is Turkish) and cites a time in her life where she flaunted her Chonga hoops with a vengeance. Since 2010 she's been teaching women how to style their hijabs on YouTube and her videos, some which have over 1,000,000 views, have made her so popular she's on the cusp of making her "Halalywood" debute (more on that after the jump). Although she now resides a few hours north in Stuart, this blogger at large is a Miami girl through and through, with her own thriving fashion business, a legion of global fans and tips for throwing the perfect GNI (Girls Night In), belly dancers included.

So what got you into blogging?
I started wearing the scarf when I was twelve, but back then, there was no inspiration. It was just put the scarf on your head and go with it so I just wore it like a bandana at first. I kept showing so many women individually how to do it and, not that I got tired, but I figured let me make a video so they can replay it and I don't have to take it off every time I see them. I made my first video around 2009 or 2010, literally with all my girlfriends around me. I shared it with my friends on Facebook, they shared it with their friends, and then it literally just went viral. Locally, there aren't many girls who wear the scarf— I mean we're in Miami, it's more liberal here— but worldwide? Let me step out of Miami and that's when it blows up. It's an amazing experience just trying to open up the doors to something different that religiously speaking, it would seem otherwise.

What has your response been like locally?
The response has been great. There are so many girls locally, from Miami to the Stuart area. You're supposed to start wearing the hijab when you hit puberty, which could be anywhere between 11 to 14, so a lot of girls are getting inspiration on how to wear it so they can feel beautiful and confident. At a young age you think people are going to judge you and my goal, my mission, is to make girls feel confident, still covering in the proper way but also in a cute, fashionable way.

I've read that the whole "selfie" culture is frowned upon by many Muslims around the world. As a blogger you're putting yourself out there every day. Have you experienced a lot of negative feedback?
Well, in general, for sure. Whoever exposes themselves to the world is going to get negative comments and backlash, but I'm not the type to respond rudely. That's never me. Number one, the fans have my back, so I don't really have to say much. Thank God for that! But every negative comment is an opportunity for you to learn. A lot of them are from countries where women have to completely cover, or they aren't in the media so they're not used to it. I'm in America. We have our own culture, our own ways. I feel like my purpose is helping more than I'm hurting. I know that God knows those are my intentions, and my connection with God is more important than what these people think about me.

You're huge on YouTube. Some of your videos have over 1,000,000 views. What tips do you have for other bloggers who are trying to make it there?
Well be yourself, number one. You can be a little silly and goofy. Just be yourself because if not you're not going to succeed. I've met lots of people who are one way on YouTube, but then you meet them and they're all quiet. Just be yourself and click record.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Miami?
Shopping! I love Zara. H&M is cute. But to be honest, it's not about one specific store. It's about finding that one special piece I can rock in many different ways because, you know, there's not one store that sells just long sleeves.

That has to be tough to shop during the summers. Where do you find long sleeved shirts?
Well one thing is to Stock up in the winter time with winter sales. Just kidding! But, for example, you're going to be amazed. [Rolls up her short sleeved shirt]. So these are sleeve extensions, so they actually cut off right at my elbow. It's just a little trick so you don't have to wear a full shirt but can still still cover your arms and keep it modest.

And how does your Cuban background play into all of this?
Where do you think I got the "spaz" from?! It's amazing. It helps me because I get to relate to more of the world. There are tons of Spanish people around the world, especially in South Florida. There are tons of converts, especially in Miami— Cuban, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican. It's those people I connect the most with. I have my Turkish background which, it's not Arab, it's Turkish, but I can relate to the Arab community too. I've been exposed to two different cultures so I can relate more and they feel more comfortable with me. And of course I love to dance! That is definitely the Cuban side. Turkish culture is more conservative. We used to have girl parties where we'd go all with belly dancers and everything.

Belly dancers?! Tell me more.
Should I even be telling the secrets? We get so dolled up, wear makeup and cute little dresses. We have lights and blast the music and just dance, eat and have fun all together. It takes place in someone's house, because we're not allowed to show our hair to men who aren't in our immediate family or aren't our husbands as a sign of modesty. Why would I want to show off to your husband when he's not mine, he's yours? I'm for my husband only and you are for yours. It's a modesty thing.

So there's talk of you jumping into acting. Tell us a little bit about that.
I'm in a movie, American Sharia, which is going to be coming out at the end of November. It's like a Muslim version of Rush Hour. It's not that I'm going to look for these things. God really is just it all in my path and I'm just taking it and choosing as it comes.

What was it like transitioning to acting?
Oh my God, I've never acted before and it was definitely an experience! It's the first of its kind in the sense that it's not Hollywood, it's Halalywood. Halal basically means kosher, but in itself, it means the proper way, the correct way. There's no curse words, no sexuality. It's just a straight up movie- there's action and drama. They're going to be doing premiers worldwide— Austraila, the UK, the US. The director, Omar Regan, was actually in Rush Hour. He was Chris Tucker's stunt double. Now he's getting into his own production of Halalywood.

We'll definitely be on the lookout. Now, though, it's time for the fire round!

8am or 8pm?

Rainy days or sunny days?
Sunny days, for sure!

Hip hop or house?
Hip hop.

What's your sign?
I'm an Aries.

You have one more meal to eat in your entire life. What's on your plate?
Sushi. Anything with cream cheese and eel.

What is your single favorite thing to do in Miami?
Spend time with my family, usually shopping. I love adventurous things, so if we go traveling I love white water rafting, hiking and anything outdoors, especially fishing and spearfishing.

One thing you wish you knew when you were planning your wedding?
One thing? My wedding was perfect! My mom planned it and I don't think there was one thing wrong with it.

What was it like?
There was salsa and merengue. We definitely had tons of music, from Turkish to Arabic, belly dancing to salsa. Everybody was just dancing together. It was amazing.

What is your spirit animal?
A bird. I always feel like I want to fly.

If you weren't blogging, what would you be doing?
Most likely I'd be a Physician's Assistant since I studied biology at FIU. Now I'm doing everything Yaz the Spaz related.
· YazTheSpaz [Official Site]
· YazTheSpaz89 [YouTube]
· A Makeover for the Hijab, via Instagram [New York Times]
· All A Cafecito With Posts [Racked Miami]