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Muslim woman from Utah represents her religion on ‘Project Runway’

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Television • Ayana Ife did not expect to become a role model for Islam — she just wants to win the reality TV fashion design competition.

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One of the contestants on the new season of “Project Runway” is a Salt Lake City resident who has, to her surprise, found herself representing her religion on the reality/competition show.
To a lot of people’s surprise, the religion she’s representing is Islam.
“When I first started on ‘Project Runway,’” said Ayana Ife, “my main goal was, obviously, I want to win. And I really, really, really need this exposure. I want to be an acclaimed designer for the modest market. I really want to be branded that way. Not just for Muslim women — for women who love modest fashion.

On social media, Ife is hearing from “a lot of Muslim women saying, ’Wow, you’re representing us so well. We really feel inspired. We feel like you’re normalizing Muslims — especially in our current political climate.‘”
And, perhaps, widening expectations of who lives in Salt Lake City. Chances are that most viewers don’t expect to see a Muslim from Utah.
Ife — who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in a small New York town — moved to Salt Lake City two years ago because she “kind of needed a fresh start” after a divorce. She moved in with her sister until she found a place of her own and, somewhat to her surprise, discovered she likes Utah “a lot.”
“I actually had a really warm, welcoming experience. Before I came here, I didn’t know any Mormons,” the 27-year-old said with a laugh. “But now I have Mormon friends, and they’re really cool.”

Her friends and family are excited that she was cast on “Project Runway,” Lifetime’s fashion design competition show, after applying several times. Ife’s fashion niche is that she creates modest-but-chic clothing — she doesn’t expose a lot of skin, but her designs tend to be form-fitting.
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