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#HHWT Explorers: Meet Aliza Kim, The Thai-American Model Who Embraced Islam


 •  Apr 12, 2017


For many of us, change is something that we often struggle to grapple with. For reverts, the struggle is harder as they have to change not just one, but every aspect of their life. Aliza Kim, a Thai-American revert, faced a struggle that is no different. She even made the decision of leaving the modelling and media industry to start a new life as a Muslimah? Read on to learn more about Aliza! Her patience and wisdom will truly inspire you? 1. Tell us a bit about yourself 
My name is Aliza.  I am a Thai-American born in Oklahoma and raised in Boston.  I am a bit of a nerd with a double Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Sociology and a Master in Business Administration in International Business and Marketing.  I also have a Diploma in Islamic Studies and a few Certs in teaching English as a Second Language.  I suppose you can call me a lifelong student.  People know me as having a bubbly and talkative character but I’m actually a severe introvert who has learned to adapt to social settings. 2. Can you share with us more about your journey of how you found Islam?
After experiencing the corporate world and also having a full career as a model, actress and TV host, I found myself feeling empty and my life in chaos.  I felt I needed a spiritual awaking and began an inward journey towards God and the truth.  I opened my heart to whatever truth the Almighty wanted to show me and this led me to a full academic study of the Abrahamic Faith and eventually to Islam.  The details of my reversion, or rather my coming out story can be read here. 3. What has been the most rewarding experience for you since you began your journey in Islam? The most rewarding experience for me since I began my journey in Islam is coming to the realization that Allah chose me to help convey the beauty of Islam in my own way.  Drawing on my past experiences as a person in the media industry and someone who relates easily to many generations from pre-teens to grandmothers, I am able to craft a style of conveying Islam that is unique and easily accepted by most. It has been an honor to be able to share about my own journey in Islam but more so to help correct some of the misconceptions of Islam, when I help new and born-Muslims better understand and practice the Deen. 4. You mentioned that the Islam you found was vastly different than the media’s portrayal of the religion. What are some things about Islam that you wish non-Muslims knew?
I think this point is a common denominator across the board for most new Muslim adults.  Islam in Western Media has been portrayed as all things evil, bad and oppressive whereas the true Islam as it was taught by Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam is the opposite of all this.  Every point set out by the media is easily refuted by the teachings found in the Quran and body of Hadith.  It is hard to pinpoint what I wish not-yet Muslims knew about Islam but what I wish for everyone is exactly what I found…Truth. Truth for yourself about Islam and Muslim - not from what the media shows or what your neighbors say but from your own first-hand experience - what Islam says about women’s rights, what does it say about the roles of men and women in society, what it says about everything single aspect of life down to which foot to use to enter or exit a location and why. In a world where there is chaos, insincerity and misinformation, Islam can bring true inner peace to a person which will then be reflected in their thoughts, words and actions.  This change can be what we are all looking for.  We all just want a happy life with peace of mind and also peace of heart. 5. You’ve moved 12 times during the course of your life. Tell us more about it and what it has taught you. SubhanAllah…is it 12 times? That’s a lot right? Haha. What I have learned from being exposed to so many types of people of various cultures, colors, races, creed, socioeconomic status - you name it - is that we are all humans with similar struggles and similar needs.  Putting aside social norms and societal standards, we are all the same and we are all a part of the same family that is on the same journey towards an ultimate ending. People are people - some are good, some are bad…but these are all results of experiences, upbringing and a person's choice to act or react in certain ways.  But all in all, we are essentially the same. If we could all just slow down, stop, and try to understand this simple concept, our world would have more peace and harmony. 6. Why is traveling and knowledge important to you?
Traveling and knowledge are important to me because they broaden my mind and open my heart.  But when traveling, I see different landscapes and lifestyles along with other cultures and types of people.  This causes me to reflect about myself and my life, so that I can improve myself or help improve the condition of others.  Knowledge is also an important journey for your mind and soul.  The more you learn, the more you realize that you don’t know.  This keeps you humble and wanting to learn more.  The more knowledge you have, inshaAllah the wiser you also become. This wisdom can lead to more inner peace for yourself because you know how to handle life’s tests. Also, it leads to more peace outside of you because you know how to handle people so that they will also have more peace because of you. Wisdom is not only in the mind but it should translate to words and actions that lead to peace. 7. What are some of the differences you experienced while you travelled before being a Muslim and after? How did you deal with these differences?
To tell you the truth, there are only 2 differences for me in terms of being a Muslim traveler as opposed to a not-yet Muslim traveler.  First, obviously, food has become more of a challenge. Planning where to eat, what to eat and also what packaged convenience food to take along for halal meals is now a big part of every trip.  Second, time management has to either be much more flexible or truly planned to the minute so that prayer times are accounted for. Alhamdullilah, so far in my travels both of these points have not been too much of a problem - it just takes slightly more planning beforehand and some extra sabar during the trip if issues arise. 8. Being in the media industry, how do you think the industry can be used to portray a positive light on Islam? The media industry can be a very powerful tool in portraying Islam in a positive light.  However, Muslims in the media must first make sure they are portraying Islam in the right way to start with. Islamically-inclined video programs and publication that can appeal to wider audiences – not just Muslims – could be good place to start.  Programs that show how similar we all are as opposed to how different can win hearts before moving onto deeper discussions about the more profound teachings of Islam. 9. What is the most meaningful ayah, to you, in the Quran?
Ihdinas-Siraatal-Mustaqeem; Lead us to the Straight Path (1:6) 10. You’ve had to make many changes to yourself and lifestyle in your pursuit of Islam. What is one piece of advice you would give to those who are seeking the religion? Learn as much as you can early on.  With knowledge comes understanding, with understanding comes action.  Changes are natural and easy when you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. 11. Fill in the blank: My hope for the world is that… My hope for the world is that people seek to understand one another without bias and for as many of us to be reunited in Jannah as possible.