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[EXCLUSIVE] “Keep love in your heart & stay true to yourself,” Sarah Hildebrand Addresses Backlash Over Hijab Removal

She talks about her family’s response to her choice as well as how she manages the hate thrown her way.

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30-year-old Malaysian model and actress Sarah Hildebrand has been making headlines recently for her decision to omit her hijab (headscarf). Although many assumed that her first photo sans the hijab was an old throwback photo – with Hildebrand initially making the decision to don the hijab back in 2015 – a closer look at her Instagram stories confirmed that she had made a decision to be without it. Netizens were quick to condemn the Kuala-Lumpur born ‘Pujaan Hati Kanda’ actress of  Malay, American and German descent. Amidst the condemnation, however, Hildebrand has remained strong in both her faith in herself and her religion. Speaking to Fly, Hildebrand shares how her family have reacted to her choice; how amidst the backlash, there has been an equally strong amount of support and how she manages to stay above all the hate.



What were your initial thoughts (and/or worries) before posting the picture of yourself without the hijab? Did you consult your husband, family, friends? If so, what did they say?

I was a little worried about how people would react to it, based on the backlash I’ve seen other local celebrities endure when they chose to remove their headscarf. I knew what to expect, and it allowed me to mentally prepare myself and my loved ones. I consulted my husband, my mother and father first.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sarah Hildebrand (@sarahhildebrand)

 

They are the most important people in my life, and I value their advice. Obviously, they were concerned as to why I had come to that decision, and why I would subject myself to such a drastic change. They were deeply concerned for my religious path and for my public image. Still, we thoroughly exchanged all of our thoughts and opinions on the matter – in full detail. Ultimately, they want to support me emotionally, and they claim to have absolutely no qualms with the way I choose to follow my path.



Were the reactions you got as per your expectations? 

To be frank, I was surprised. Obviously, I knew that my decision would not sit well with many people, so, I was definitely expecting backlash. However, I was surprised at the extremity and the degree of the hatred that came with the backlash. I was surprised at how many netizens could be so intentionally hurtful, aggressive, and abusive in response. On the other hand, I was genuinely surprised at the great lengths that many other netizens were willing to go to in order to spread a message of positivity my way. 


(Instagram / @sarahhildebrand)


They saw the hatred flowing from other people, and they were not afraid to step up and counteract the flood of negativity. Whether they thought I was making a bad decision or not, they noticed how hurtful some of the comments were towards me, and they took time out of their day to spread love and compassion.


To those people I want to say, I appreciate you and your positive energy. Thank you for being kind human beings in our hectic world.



How does it make you feel to see comments like, “I hope all these will wash over and you can see things clearly” and “may you be guided back to the right path”? What is your response to comments like this?

I have no problem with the tone of these comments, and I appreciate them. My response to these comments is simply Alhamdulilah.



Do comments attacking your appearance after having taken off the headscarf affect your perception of yourself? If so, how?

(Instagram / @sarahhildebrand)


I don’t allow these comments to affect my self-image. These comments are just silly.


I wore the headscarf for religious reasons, I did not wear the headscarf to be pretty.



Some have gone as far as to say that you’re a bad example for your younger fans. Is there a specific message you want your fans and young women & men to know about being true to yourself?

I want all of my fans to be comfortable with themselves. To be true to yourself is to listen to your own heart and to not allow your own happiness to be determined by the criticism of other individuals.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sarah Hildebrand (@sarahhildebrand)

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People have been attacking your husband as well. How does that make you feel and how has that impacted him?

I understand that some people are let down by my personal decision, however, to direct their anger towards my husband is severely misguided. This is not his fault. Plain and simple.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Otto Gillen (@otto.gillen)


Otto has said that the hurtful comments have not negatively affected him because he tries to hold onto a more positive attitude. He doesn’t like to let the opinions of others control the way he feels, and he wants our family to be happy.



How do you deal with the hate and continue to stay positive and to live by your own narrative?

Being grateful is the key to happiness. I just focus on my personal growth, my faith, and matters that are important to me. I spend my free time doing activities that make me happy! Activities such as cooking, reading, light exercises, watching movies, painting and drawing, observing the latest fashion trends, and producing handmade soaps with my brand Bare Babe Beauty.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sarah Hildebrand (@sarahhildebrand)


When I stay busy, I’m less likely to dwell on my problems. Optimism is good for your health and I choose to be healthy.



Overall, how has your mental and emotional health been since going public with your decision to go without the hijab?

Overall, I have remained emotionally and mentally steady.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sarah Hildebrand (@sarahhildebrand)


I try not to let the negative responses bring me down. It is important to remember that you can’t please everyone, so just do your best. Keep love in your heart and stay true to yourself.

Always be kind to others and keep a clean heart. That’s all that matters.

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