In 2016, YouTube launched a series of ad spots, featuring young adults who defy stereotypes and labels, such as a young white man who lives in a rural area and goes home to dress up as a woman in his bedroom, a Latina woman who is shown finishing up a day of community service and then is greeted by her male partner and young daughter, and an Asian American teen who is dancing to a hip-hop song while he walks through the subway station. The ads, which can be viewed here, all end with the tagline, “Music isn’t just what we listen to. It’s who we are.”
Perhaps one of the more controversial ads in the series features a young Muslim American woman, wearing a black gown and a black headscarf. She is first shown in the clip leaving a college classroom and talking in Arabic with her friend, who is also wearing a headscarf. The two friends part, and the main woman puts her ear plugs in and starts rapping to “Alphabet Aerobics” by the hip-hop group, Blackalicious.
Earlier in the year, YouTube had sent out a casting call through the Mipsterz listserv for hijabi women to appear in this ad campaign. Although it is not clear whether the woman in this ad regularly wears the hijab, the fact that YouTube solicited for hijabi women to appear in the ad indicates that they wanted this ad campaign to feature “real” people.
While this ad is short and the woman only speaks briefly in Arabic, the visuals of the spot present a unique portrayal of a Muslim woman. The woman is more traditional in her appearance, especially as compared to the fashion gurus in the Mipsterz video. She wears a long black gown, or abaya, and a black headscarf. The drabness of her outfit is personalized with her subtle but attractive make-up, red painted nails, hot pink watch and floral backpack. The woman is also shown enjoying and rapping along to her music, highlighting the ad campaign’s theme of how people connect their identities to their favorite music. This ad fits into the larger series because it is all about defying assumptions and stereotypes. Many people would never think that a Muslim woman who wears all black would have a unique personality that she would want to express through her accessories and her music tastes.