The viral video-sharing app TikTok has become one of the most popular social platforms among Generation Z. As a platform, it has a wider audience reach and puts your content in front of the people that would cater to the most. However, with fame and followers come the hate and people who disapprove of you or your message. Social media influencer Sophia “Fifi” Jamil spends the day with The Bunny Barbie to share her own TikTok story. Sophia is a musician, a content creator, and an activist who is out to change the world. Her latest single, Mera Jism Meri Marzi, is all about fighting for our basic rights, breaking glass ceilings, and making our mark.
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Making Our Mark With Sophia Jamil
How are you?
I’m good. I’m excited to be here. I’m sitting in my car because I had my entire family home. I’m visiting and I’m not in New York. For peace and quiet, I thought it’d be better.
It’s understandable. I have to get away from my son. It’s craziness a lot of the time too.
Your son is the cutest. He’s adorable.
Is there anything you specifically want to talk about?
I was interested because you were talking about TikTok as a platform, in general, and people living upon TikTok or if somebody dies and all of the hate that comes with that territory. I personally have a story as well about how I started and what happened.
I live through your page so I thought it will have a good conversation.
It’s been cool. TikTok as a platform has a wider audience, reach, and puts your content in front of the people that would cater to the most. I love that about the platform, for sure. With fame and followers comes the hate and the people that don’t like you are always aligning with you which something that I can definitely relate through.
Were you popular before TikTok or have you blown up on TikTok?
Honestly, I wasn’t that big into anything. I remember when I was nineteen, I had moved out for the first time and I don’t know what to do with the freedom. I was happy. I knew I wanted to be a little beauty blogger. Jaclyn Hill was big back then. Social media is the same since 2014 but that was the trend. That’s what everybody and their mother was a YouTuber, beauty blogger. Never see anybody from Upstate New York which is where I was from. I couldn’t relate to anybody.
Where are you from? I’m from Upstate New York.
I’m from Albany.
I’m from Albany too. I grew up in Menands.
I grew up in Colonie.
How old are you?
I’m turning 30 so I’m a bit older than you.
Not a lot of people here would do what I’m doing. It’s go to school, go to college and get a good job area here. I felt and I grew up in an extremely religiously conservative family like hijab, off throughout high school thing. Breaking away from that and I put this little thing together. I named myself as FiFi from Sophia. I had this little beauty blogger persona which didn’t last a long time because I lost interest but I have this platform somewhere.
Did you do YouTube?
I did YouTube. I love blogging and I always blogged and then attempted to do a few makeup tutorials but it is so much work. I wasn’t into anything until TikTok came about. A lot of people were like, “You should make TikTok.” I would always be on my Stories, sharing news feed, listening to music, and lip-syncing over it.
Did people start telling you to go onto TikTok and post videos?
I thought it was ridiculous and ludicrous. This was in 2018. It was before it was big in the United States. I had people like Pakistani and Indians are telling me, “You should do that.” I was like, “Okay.” I started doing it and I started making videos in that language, not in English. I was going to lip-sync over their music.
Do you speak Urdu?
I speak Urdu. It’s not my mother tongue. My mother tongue is a different dialect called Chitrali which is from the North of Pakistan. My mom and everybody speak Urdu. It’s a common thing. Urdu and Punjabi is where I would do these lip-syncing videos and they would get millions of views and people loved it. I did the first two video of TikTok, I got 100,000 followers. That became a hit so I did it all the time not knowing what I was doing because I was putting out this persona of somebody that I wasn’t me. I go listen to my video like I don’t live in since.
Did your videos go viral over there or was it in the States?Launch yourself. Be whatever. Click To Tweet
They went viral over there. People were like, “What is going on?” When I started wearing the clothes that I normally wear on a regular basis or started making content because then TikTok became big in the US. When that happened, I started doing the US trends and I started doing all of that but then people didn’t like it. I got a lot of hate for everything that I was doing. I even launch music in Punjabi.
I saw on your page, you still have a Spotify and everything.
This was all not even so long ago. It’s funny to me. I launched two songs. I launched New York Di Kudi which means a girl from New York in Punjabi. The lyrics were written by somebody else all the way in India and given to me. I’m in the studio talking, singing in Punjabi I don’t even know. People loved it though. It was fun. I got to experience music video and recording. It was overly fun but it was never the thing that I wanted to do. That’s what was eating me up alive because I was taking this career path and becoming this person that I wasn’t.
I got a manager since then, he came in and helped me. He was like, “What do you want to do? If you want to become something, what do you want to become?” I had this book full of songs that I had written in English since I was a kid. I’ve been rapping since I was a kid. I was always told like, “Don’t, be quiet, be proper, and do the right things,” so I never pursued it. He was like, “Fuck it. FiFi, do it. Launch yourself. Be whatever.” Now I’m working on my EP. I have a great team and I’m working on the next single that I’m releasing. We’re getting music video and it’s all cool.
I’m excited for you.
Thank you. I’m excited too.
Are you still in Albany?
I live in Long Island but my family lives in Albany. I’d come up here and I visit them. It’s a two and a half-hour drive. It was my little brother’s birthday so I had to come up.
Did you go to high school in Albany?
Yes. I went to Colonie High.
I went to Shaker.
My little brother goes to Shaker.
My ex-boyfriend went to Colonie when I was in high school.
What about you? What do you do? You came up on my For You page and I was like, “She’s beautiful. I love everything she has to say, what does she do?” I’m seeing here you would your jets. I’m like, “Is this for real?” This is living her best life and I’m here for it. You inspire me.
It’s funny that you’re from Albany because I’d never meet anyone from Albany. I own a couple of businesses. When I first started TikTok, I started posting about them and then people started stalking my employees calling them and disrupting the workday so I don’t talk about it anymore but I did start a new company. I don’t know if you saw me posts about the merch. I’m doing influencers’ merchandise for them, creating them websites, and doing logos for them. I’m not posting about it because I don’t want to get overwhelmed with business because I already have many people wanting to do it. If you want to launch your own brand and put your logos on sweaters and stuff, we can do that. I’m focusing on TikTok and I want people to know who I am. I feel like people look at me and they assume that I’m a snobby, such a bitch. It was so not me. I will clap back at you obviously. I have plenty of clap back videos, but people look at me and think that I’ve always been rich taken care of person. It’s not me.
It does show a different side of you. Ever since TikTok, Instagram is boring. Instagram is my portfolio. I don’t even go live on Instagram anymore.
Every time I go on live in TikTok, there are people from all over the world joining. I can’t imagine that this platform is big. It’s amazing that if small creators got good content, it can go viral and stuff like that. You got verified.
The verification thing is big for me. The reason for the verification and how it even started this my entire career was there was an International Women’s Day in March of 2020. This is right before Corona. There was a Woman’s March in Pakistan that happens. I was happy that there was a march happening in Pakistan because you will not usually see that. You see it everywhere else but it was trending in New York and everything. I saw my own cousins and people I knew back home talking about the march, how it is obscene, and how it’s spreading all of these Western ideas amongst Pakistanis and all this stuff.
I was like, “What are you talking about?” I went on YouTube and I see how they go live on the ground and they interview people like, “What do you think about this?” They were doing those interviews. A lot of people were like, “What other rights do women need? Women have all these rights.” In a place like Pakistan which they have one of the highest honor killings, Pakistan has the largest gender wage gap in the world so I was shocked. It felt compelled to write something that would connect the thoughts and the ideas of what the Women’s March stood for because I felt it was being misinterpreted by the masses. I ended up writing a song called Mera Jism Meri Marzi which is Urdu.
It means My body, My choice. I wrote that song and I put about acid attacks, underage marriages, child brides, and everything having to do with women. “Mera Jism Meri Marzi say it loud and proud where the Mera Jism Meri Marzi stand with my crowd, breaking glass ceilings and making our mark. We were in the dark, put it up with a spark.” That the song that I wrote and then in two days, I shot a little video to it, I uploaded it, and it ended up going viral. There are people who are mad at it, who loved it, who wanted to kill me, wanted to hug me but it was everywhere.
It ended up making the national Pakistani headlines as well as in the UAE and stuff. It spoke to a lot of women. I remember the Brush Challenge was going around then so they were doing a Brush Challenge to it and it made me happy. Many people reached out to me and that’s when I was like, “I can make an impact with my music, my voice, and my platform.” Because of that, being published, and everything, TikTok verified me and I’m happy. I’m like, “It makes me happy.”
You deserve it. You’re helping people express themselves and how they want. How do your parents feel about everything?
They pretend like I don’t do it. They’re pretending like it’s not a thing. Everybody ignores it. It’s the biggest elephant in the room. Nobody understands why I do it or what I do. It’s become hard for me to even get to this point with my family where they don’t say anything. It does hurt. It’s funny too sometimes because my family is downstairs, I’ll be upstairs, I have a little studio set up and ignoring it. Then I go out, I’m like, “Is dinner ready?”
Your hair looks cute.
It was a big risk. I was like, “Let’s do it.” I got the underneath blonde. It’s my first time doing something a little out there. I’m glad you like it.
Do you have lots of Pakistani friends in America?
I have a diverse friend group which is always been that way. I have a lot of Pakistani friends and I know the Pakistani culture. My parents raised us to be in-tune with language, culture, and people. I always see it to be hard though because girls from our community don’t say certain things or you don’t look a certain way. I don’t go to family parties and functions because I’m completely oddball.
That’s not good. Hopefully, it’ll change.
I do think times are changing. Gen Z and the generation coming up, we don’t put up with any of that BS. It’s going to be inclusive.
Especially if it makes you happy and you’re living your life. Hopefully, they’ll come around.
I live my best life. I’m happy.
Do you have a brother?
I have a little brother. He’s awesome. He’s into everything, TikTok and all. He gets it a little bit. He’s like, “I see what you’re trying to do.”
Does he ever get embarrassed or no?
He eats it up all the time. It depends on the circumstance and the people around, but his friends know that his sister is popping on TikTok and the kids in middle school. They’re like, “Is FiFi your sister?” Sometimes he’ll be like, “I don’t like it when my friends say that you’re cute.” I’m like, “Okay.”
My brother was two grades older than me. He’s always a shy, nerdy guy. When he went to college, he was in a frat house, all the guys print it out sexy photos of me and would tape them up all around the frat house.
That’s a different level.
He was embarrassed.
I wouldn’t even know how to react. Poor guy.
At least he’s younger.
It’s not as bad.
Did you ever see yourself moving back to Albany?
During COVID, I came here by the end of May and I spent June, July, August here and a little bit of September in Upstate New York. I’ve never been more depressed in my life. At first, it was pretty and I was into it because I had spent so much time in New York. Being back, I was like, “Open field.” We live right next to a farm so I can see the horses. It’s nice up until it’s not and it gets old, dry, and boring. You’re like, “Can someone get me out of here.” That’s exactly what I did. I got the hell out of here, I went back, and I got myself an apartment. Now, I’m back and forth. My manager even tells me that your energy and your aura is completely different when you’re in Albany versus when you’re in New York. I don’t even want to be in New York. I want to be in California.
LA is my favorite place.
You can adopt me and you can keep me in one of your rooms.
LA is the best. I could totally see you in LA. I feel like that’s where all the TikTokers are now.
That’s what I told myself that once I established myself then I will go out because if I go out now, I will be chunked, I will be chewed out by sharks, and I don’t want that.
You plan on your career being a singing career?
Do you sing as well?Living in capitalism, we have to learn that sometimes it's okay to breathe and relax. Click To Tweet
I do. Even when I write songs, I tend to write the hooks to be more singy or more poppy rather than rappy. I’m not super hardcore. I would say if you were to mix like pop with rap. Nowadays, music in itself has developed and drastically changed. There are no genres anymore. You mix rock with rap, pop with rap, or alternative with country.
Songs have turned into fifteen-second parts of it on TikTok.
It’s where you could be listening to a whole song and not know any part of it and then you’re like, “Wait a minute.” That one fifteen-second part, you know every word. That’s why music has evolved so much in platforms like TikTok especially have had a huge role in that. When I think about my music, I’m working on my EP now. Before my EP, I want a few songs out there that show a little glimpse into what’s going to come. I’m excited because, for the first time in my career, it’s me putting myself out there. It’s this thing that other people want.
Who would be your dream person to make a song with?
It’s Nicki Minaj. I’ve been a bar forever. My sister was probably right because I was twelve years old listening to Nicki Minaj and she’ll be yelling at me. I would be like, “You’re a hater.” She’s a hater. She’s like, “A hater? What do you listening to?” Nicki Minaj is like, “If I had a dick, I would pull it out and piss on him.” Looking back, she had every right to be concerned. I’ve always loved her Nicki Minaj. She was a huge inspiration in my life word-by-word. I’m always waiting on her songs and her albums. She’s also a New Yorker which is huge too. Female rap wasn’t as big as it is now. She started the game so a lot of credit I owe it to her and Lil’ Kim. If I had to work with anybody, it would be Nicki Minaj. That would be cool. I already know her verses, she’d be like, “I got my girl Fi on the track.”
You already know what she’s going to say about you.
I’m going to write her bars for her.
Your album that you’re working on, are you working with other artists or just you?
I don’t have anybody else. It’s just me. What I want to do is I want to get my demos recorded. Every week, I go to the studio and I’m recording. Every day, I write.
Do you write all your own stuff?
I write all my own stuff. I used to not because I wasn’t confident in my ability. I was like, “I don’t know how to write music. I don’t know this stuff. This is something else that other people could do.” When I then saw them doing the process, I’m like, “I can do that.” I have been writing music but I never thought it was good enough. With time and practice, I’ve gotten better with writing and I’m going to continue getting better but I would rather have it be something that’s not perfect but something that’s coming from my heart completely rather than me spitting somebody else’s words into the mic. It’s a different feeling. It comes from the heart.
Is it all going to be in English?
It’s all going to be in English because that’s what I speak. People are like, “Why is it going to be in English?” I’m like, “Do you hear me?” I’m like, “I’m not here, I grew up in Albany.” It’s confusing and I feel bad too. Even my manager, when he first met me, I had two Punjabi songs out. When he talks to me for the first time, he was surprised to hear me because he thought that I didn’t even speak English. Being somebody on social media, knowing how the value of your brand, I was sabotaging myself hardcore. I’ve done that to myself where now when I post content that’s me, it’s not going to the right audience. People are commenting like, “I want boobs.” I’m like, “This is a picture of me and my dog.”
TikTok has figured out that men do not like me. I have no comments for men. If a man comments on my thing, it’s once a month. They don’t even push me to men.
TikTok pushes me on to all these 40, 50-year-old brown men all the time. I’m like, “Why are you showing my content?”
They figured out your category.
How is that my category? I’m like, “No.” My comments and all become dry and negative. People are like, “This is not a good look. This is not what a decent girl should be doing.” I’m like, “Okay, dad.” People don’t get it. It’s okay though. It’s a process, it’s time, it comes with the territory. It takes thick skin to be on social media and doing something different.
Especially putting music out there. I don’t know if I could put music online.
Music takes a lot. I got so much hate when I first put on my Punjabi song and I got all the hate from the Punjabi community because they were like, “What are you saying?” I’m like, “I don’t even know what I’m saying.” “What do you mean?” The song was like, “I’m wearing Louie Vuitton clothes and I have Prada glasses on my eyes. I went down to Times Square to take a walk.” This is the song. I’ve never gone to Times Square to take a walk.
Did you write it or you didn’t write it?
I didn’t. It was written by an Indian guy in a language that I didn’t speak. I went, I sang it into a mic, it was produced, I released it, and I shot a music video to it.
Did people love it?
No. They bashed me. My ass was dragged on the internet completely.
You’re on other websites and stuff of people.
There were memes.
Where did you shoot the music video?
In New York.
Who found the song and thought that was going to be good for you? Was it the manager?
People that I was surrounded by at that time. They thought that it was a good idea like that was the move. Me not knowing better, I was like, “That’s the move.”
What did your American friends think about your song?
They’re like, “What are you saying?” I’m saying, “I’m that girl from New York that everyone was talking about.”
How old were you? How long ago was this?
This is in 2018. I wasn’t a kid either. I can’t even tell you. I look back and I’m like, “What a dumb bitch.” I’m like, “It happened.”
It made you who you are. It started your career.
It did for sure. I’m like, “Remember that meme? I rebranded now.” It doesn’t pan out well.
I saw her on TikTok too, Rebecca Black. She had that bad song and then everyone is hitting on her. She was young.
She was young but the thing is even her song at that time, she didn’t write it. It was given to her by somebody else who wrote it. They’re like, “Sing it.” The funniest thing is my manager sent me Rebecca Black’s profile. I was like, “What the fuck are you trying to say?” I completely understand because it made me happy because she came out of nowhere. I don’t even remember how much I even hated her. Everyone hated her. You had to hate Rebecca Black.
It was cool to not like the song.
The only time you sing was to make fun of it. That was my song was too and you should have seen my TikTok promotions for it. I had a whole marketing plan.
I’m going to look it up. It wasn’t market here.
I’ve marketed it in India and they still hated it a bit but it was crazy. Whether people liked it or not, it ended up getting a lot of views and streams.
Do you think people would recognize you over there?
In the Indian side of Punjab, people would recognize me and in Pakistan too.
Are you Pakistani or Indian or both?
I’m Pakistani. They would definitely recognize me in both places. I don’t even know. It happened and I’m glad that I stopped it before it got to the point where a whole album is out. I’m glad it didn’t go that far. It did teach me the ropes and a lot about the music industry. It taught me how to deal with people then I took that and everything I learned from that. I applied it to what I wanted my brand to be and what I envisioned of myself to be. I never could do it because I thought people would think that this hair is crazy, lyrics are crazy, this and this. I’ve already done the crazy. At this point, I got nothing to lose.
That’s a good place to be at. You’re young, you have so much ahead of you, and I’m excited for you.
I’m excited too. It’s all a journey though.
I’m going to ask you two questions that I asked my son every night before he goes to bed. The first one is, what is the best part of your day?
My mom made kebabs. I would dig into it and it was delicious. I hadn’t had that in a while. I was happy about that. The best part was eating kebabs.
Is your mom a good cook?It's good to take a break once in a while; we don't do that enough. Click To Tweet
My mom is phenomenal. I’m trying to talk to her about starting a business. I’m like, “You need to get this food out there and show the rest of the world. This is immaculate.” She’s like, “I don’t have time for that.” I’m like, “We need to make a biriyani company for you and how to put on trucks and sell it.” I’m telling her this and she’s, “You are wilding.” Nobody likes my business ventures. Nobody thinks what I think.
I think it’s a great idea.
I think so too.
Get her own little person that can help her and ship them out.
That’s what I told her.
Do you want to do recipes or a cookbook?
I want her to do the actual meals, have them pre-packaged, and send them out. I told her and she was like, “You’re out of your mind.”
The second question is, what did you learn now?
You know what Urdu is and you’re from Albany. These are all the crazy things that I’ve learned. I’ll tell you something that I learned that’s important. It might help people out. I learned that it’s okay not to always be doing something and it’s okay to take a break because I came Upstate to spend time with my family. I did a photoshoot, I’m here working on the phones, doing all this stuff. It’s wonderful, it’s great, and it’s good to be a go-getter.
It’s definitely a good time to have some rest.
Living in capitalism, enrich society, we have to learn that sometimes like, “It’s okay, breathe, and relax.”
Especially alone time and having genuine connections. Both of those are equally important. Getting some time to relax and be by yourself but also connecting with people when you’re not checking your email, TikTokers.
It’s a balance and it’s hard to reach that balance. It’s easy to especially distance yourself or push everybody in your life away from you because you feel like you’re working towards something that’s personal to you. It’s good to take a break once in a while. We don’t do that enough. I don’t think I do that enough. I can tell you don’t when you were like, “I have to do it virtually.” You don’t rest.
I’m still young. I’m going to retire in five years. Every time I say it, people are like, “You’re not retiring in five years.” I will. We bought land in this area. It owns its private airport. You have the airports at your house and everyone parks their airplanes in their driveway. It’s like a movie. Everyone has helicopters and small airplanes, big airplanes, ATVs. It’s like a Batman movie. All the houses are ultra-modern. It is beautiful. I am excited to live there.
It sounds like a different world.
Not near Kanye or anywhere because they were in the middle of nowhere. This is civil-ish. There’s lots of neighbors and stuff like that, but you have to be a pilot to own lands there which is cool.
You got it covered. That’s exciting. I wonder why Wyoming? Does it have a lot of land?
I’ve never been to Wyoming. We were there for 24 hours and bought the land. It was cool. Everyone seems to love Wyoming. Everyone is moving there and I feel like they’re going into Montana.
It’s up and coming.
Everyone is moving out of the city. It’s like New York. You might get some lower rent.
I hope so because they killing us in New York. They give you a little shoebox and they’re like, “That’ll be $6,000.”
The rents will go down. New York will hurt the most out of post-COVID but we’ll see.
In Long Island, I was telling them when I was moving in, I was like, “Do you have any deals because of COVID?” They’re like, “We haven’t been hurt at all.”
Did you even get a deal?
I didn’t even get a deal. I would have if I lived in Brooklyn which I went and I saw the apartments in Brooklyn. I wanted to live that life where I live in New York and Brooklyn, I come down, and I go to a little coffee shop. When I went there, I was like, “This isn’t what I envisioned.”
It’s also weird with COVID. There are a lot less people out.
The amount of people is the same and don’t wear masks. I was like, “Maybe not.” I like to be at arm’s length from the city where I can go to the city anytime I want to. I can make Uber but I don’t necessarily want to be living in it. Trying to figure out like, “Where do I park my car?” To be in New York City, you have to be good with public transport. I’m bad with public transport. It doesn’t ever go my way. I’m drowning in parking tickets because I’m like, “Fine.” I remember once, I was driving into New York City, my assistant was with me, and she’s like, “Are you sure if you park your car here, you will get impounded? Do you know how many parking tickets you have?” It’s wild.
Did you get impounded?
Not yet. God forbid. I hope they’re not reading but if anybody in New York scans my license plate, it’s over for me. I’m going to have the worst day. The yellow boot is coming up on me. I would make a whole scene out of it too. I would like to put it on my Instagram Story. Even though it’s completely on my part. “These bitches put a boot on my car now I can’t get far.” I hope not. The thing is I don’t like to go to New York City in general. Living in Albany, I envisioned New York to be something that it wasn’t because I was in Upstate for a little too long. I went there and I was like, “I’m going to stay on Long Island.” I’m fifteen-minutes from Queens though. It’s not bad. It’s nice. I’m happy to be there.
Thank you for joining me. This is great. I learned so much about you.
I learned so much about you too. I’m excited. It’s cool that you’re doing this everything that you do and everything you’ve got going on. It’s nice that people can get their voices heard and stories be told in genuine conversations. I love listening to podcasts where it’s genuine conversations all the time.
I don’t want to listen to someone’s interview where it’s one-sided. I want to hear people vibe and get along. It’s been awesome.
Thank you for having me.
It’s been great. Hopefully, I’ll have you again sometime.
About Sophia Jamil
Sophia is a musician, a content creator, and an activist who is out to change the world. Her latest single, Mera Jism Meri Marzi, is all about fighting for our basic rights, breaking glass ceilings, and making our mark.