Stiz Santosa is a model, born and raised in New York City. Having moved around a lot growing up, she shares her story on belonging, adversities, and triumphs which she experienced in her life. She loves spending her time reading self empowerment and history books, and dancing.
This story is part of “American Muslims”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist based in NYC. The project is dedicated to capturing the diversity of the Muslim community in the United States. We will not only be sharing the images from the project, but each image will be accompanied by a personal and unique story to show our shared humanity. To read more about Stiz and the rest of the faces from “American Muslims” click here.
What has your journey been like as a more secular Muslim woman?
Tough. People will judge you. They’ll judge you for the things you wear, the car you drive, or when you haven’t gone to the masjid (mosque) in a while. But as with anything in life, you have to develop a thick skin. Not everyone is going to have your views and not everyone is a saint. Fortunately, I was raised with good values and I usually win over anyone with preconceived notions about me because they see that underneath the tattoos and all, I am a sincere and good-hearted person.
What are you proudest of?
I’m very proud of how far I have come and continue going with my modeling career and everyone I have worked with. We are all still doing what we love and to see what projects everyone, including myself is getting into is really inspiring and pushes me to keep working even harder. Modeling brings out my creativity in fashion and production. I put my heart in everything I do. One day, I was like, “Hey, I want to do hair,” so I got a job as a stylist assistant. Another time, I was like, “I want to cook” and I started getting great responses off of my Snapchat and Instagram doing cooking tutorials. You can do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be, but you’ve got to go out and do it.
What made you go into modeling?
A friend of mine told me I should model and booked me my first photo shoot for her clothing line. I received a lot of positive responses and was immediately booked for a second shoot by a photographer on set. I always go full force when I start something so ever since then, my modeling career skyrocketed from shooting with well renowned companies to being flown out to Ecuador for a video shoot. I love every minute of it. Modeling is a very competitive industry to get into, do you think talent triumphs over hard work or is it the other way around? Hard work always perseveres. You can have talent but if you don’t put the work into it then you have nothing to show for it. And always be on time! You can never take back time, so why waste it?
If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
My father, when he was having a stroke while I was driving him to the hospital. I felt so helpless. I wish I could have talked to him to calm him down. I didn’t know what to do. And I wish I was more mature back then so I could have deep, meaningful conversations with him and tell him that I understand now how hard it is to be a parent and that I appreciate him. Sometimes things need to be said, not just for you but for the other person, too.
When in life have you felt most alone?
I feel alone a lot of the time. Like a lot of people aren’t on the same mindset as I am. It isn’t a bad or a good thing, just different. I think I was meant for the world. It definitely feels that way a lot. What I bring to this world like charity and building a foster home back in Indonesia, and taking those children out to eat is what makes me feel that I’m on the right path, and that I am accomplishing what I was put on this earth to do.
How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
Totally different. I thought I’d marry one of the cast members of Saved by the Bell and live in Malibu. Instead, I’m here in New York City, still grinding. But when you love what you do, it isn’t work, it is passion. I am human, I have made mistakes, and it is inevitable that I will make some more. But all I can offer is prayer and hope that my parents will be okay, and know that I appreciate all that they have done for me. Your family is here on this earth for a very short time in the grand scheme of things, so I believe it is important to pray for our parents whenever possible. They deserve it.