#GramGen is a series profiling the most radical characters in youth culture, who continue to shape trend behavior and spark controversy through their avant fashion sense and candid social media personalities.
20-year-old rising singer/songwriter, activist and model Dounia is part of a new generation of young creatives harnessing the power of social media to promote their personal brands and advocate for the social changes that are important to them. Whether challenging cultural standards of beauty as a curve model, standing against pervasive stereotypes about women of color or celebrating her Moroccan heritage, Dounia's Instagram is more than a place where selfies live.
We caught up with the singer to learn more about her future music plans, what change means to her generation and how she handles the backlash her outspokenness sometimes causes.
How old are you?
How has your outspokenness on social media contributed to who you are today?
Well, being on Instagram before delving into the music industry was definitely beneficial. It taught me how to navigate through a lot of misplaced hate strangers be having on the Internet. Sometimes you just gotta be like, "damn…people just be saying shit."
How does your advocacy for diversity and equality, particularly for women of color come through in your music and social media presence?
Everything I vouch for is an extension of me. Rather than going out of my way to represent a narrative I just care about what I care about. That's bound to subconsciously translate in my music and everything I do.
In the past, your outspokenness has sometimes been met with quite a bit of backlash. How do you deal with it, particularly as a model and artist?
At some point I just realized that I, as an individual, don’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things. Utilizing my platform to say the things that need to be said benefits more than me - there's a larger picture, and that matters a lot more than personal backlash. I think it’s about prioritizing; if something needs to be said or amplified, it shall.
How has transitioning to being known for music in addition to your advocacy and social media presence changed your Internet interactions?
Well, it's really easy to get treated like you’re disposable in the world of Instagram, fashion, modeling etc. A lot of that ecosystem revolves purely around looks, so it’s really cool for me to be out of that.
How do you think growing up in Morocco shaped your world view?
Growing up outside of the US definitely showed me the potential we sometimes take for granted. So many people feel stunted by their hometowns and I’m wildly appreciative to be living in a place where opportunities are a lot more accessible.
What has been the most difficult thing about breaking into the music industry?
The technicalities behind releasing music are super tedious, and probably the least fun part...Like what do you mean I don’t have unlimited resources three days into my music career??
What is the message behind your new track "Shyne"?
"Shyne" is about being kinda bitter that the spotlight isn’t on you, but also having a genuine and well-intentioned drive to earn it. It’s also about flexing on the uglies who underestimated you, LOL. There's definitely more of a hip-hop feel than "East Coast Hiding" because I thought it was an imperative track to showcase my ability to serve sum bars.
If you had one piece of advice for anyone who wants to try their hand at music what would it be?
I'd tell them that literally nothing is unattainable. The same people we glorify were broke and sad at one point. Little steps are important. Don’t be overwhelmed; even just making the decision to pursue music was a wildly defining moment for me.
What's the future looking like for you?
Ideally? I'd dominate the music industry. I'm a simple gal. LOL.
What do you think change means to your generation?
At this point I think it means a radical and monumental shift. I think we’re weary of throwing the term “change” around loosely with no real progress or dismantling of current oppressive social structures. I rarely hear the term anymore because we’re definitely more fixated on action rather than yearning for it. I never hear my peers say anything as vague as, “Wow we need change” but more so conversation along the lines of “No, that shit is NOT ok and won’t be tolerated.” We’re anything but dismissive of social issues and I think that plays an imperative role in actual change — the inability to brush off or normalize destructive dialect or behavior.
How do you think young people spark substantial changes in existing social structures?
First of all, I think it’s so important that we redirect where we receive information— the internet. Receiving unbiased news, participating in productive discourse, finding like-minded people and forming a community has definitely created a real impact within existing social structures. Twitter has gotten countless people fired due to racism, has urged representation and diversity in fashion and has elevated raw necessary conversation to a macro and mainstream scale. Young people can and do spark substantial change because they have a platform and voice to do so.
You can stream Dounia's latest single, "Shyne" below.
Also see why some young creatives are abandoning Instagram for greener pastures here.