Talking to Tahmina Begum of XXY Magazine

by Jenna Von Oy | Last Updated on: June 25th, 2021 at 1:45 pm
It’s not every day you meet a 20-year old student who edits a gender politics magazine, is a Muslim, who has a penchant for pom-pom earrings and purple lipstick (or eyeshadow – or both)! Here she is and her name is Tahmina Begum. Writer and contributor Rosalind Jana has a few words about her friend Tahmina.

Rosalind: Tahmina Begum heads up XXY magazine – a fabulous online publication full of smart writing and great imagery.

I only met Tahmina recently but she’s someone I immediately clicked with. Her work ethic and ability to balance so many things at once is something I both admire and, I think, recognize slightly.

Talking to other driven young women who are open and curious and full of questions is always a pleasure: they’re the kinds of chats where the hours just disappear. She’s also, like me, in her final year at university. I can’t wait to see what she does next. 

Tahmina: The foundations of XXY are that it is an ‘agender’ magazine and platform which produces intelligent content and striking visuals to form conversations. The name ‘XXY’ comes from the blend of the male and female chromosomes. It’s a clear statement in which our content is suitable for both genders.

It is run by myself and Georgina Dunn, my business partner, with myself as Head of Content. I also have a kick-ass team of editors, directors, and journalists who simply have a love for this labor.

We have six themes a year and we are currently on Neverland– tales on things from your childhood that affect your adulthood. However, we concentrate on emerging designers whether that be in textiles or a filmmaker focusing on architecture.

We’re niche in all our culture subsections. It is vital to me that we create worthy content as digital journalism still has a bad name. The ethos of quality over quantity is very real.

I grew up in Solihull in the West Midlands and currently reside in lovely Oxford, where my university is-though I am a fake Londoner in how often I am there for work.

My parents are from North East Bangladesh making me first-generation British. I don’t know how much you’ve heard the term ‘the immigration story’, it’s a term of endearment, children use of their parents who weren’t born in the UK as a reminder to strive for a better life. It’s rather funny when you look back and see how your parents used that with not finishing your vegetables but nowadays, it is clear how much of an effect my roots have had.

Maybe it’s because I’m a woman of colour, I have an ‘outside’ perspective whilst been ‘in’ but the consequences of having my parents migrate were positive such as teaching me to have a strong work ethnic.

Although in any Asian culture, creative paths are not encouraged, which was a struggle especially as the public in general, in my opinion, still lack the knowledge to what happens behind a fashion and art magazine- through no fault of their own.

Therefore the struggle was just having to constantly justify and explain what I am trying to achieve but I look at it as a positive – another glass ceiling to break.

I think I naturally am interested in stories of those who have grafted from the bottom and those who have not had certain privileges, a reason I am grateful to my role as it allows me to be the gatekeeper in posting work of or from these individuals, which may have not have been noticed by another title before.

But most importantly I try to reflect and make sure I’m making decisions to make myself happy and not because I owe ‘my community’. You cannot be everything to everyone, so I’m going to do me and if that happens to shatter some roofs, then that’s an added bonus.

I do not think I’ve received any negativity before from the Asian community- or Muslim, which I am. I think what it does is surprise people as it’s part of a career many go into. However, what’s interesting is that people, regardless of their background don’t expect someone who is Muslim, female and from a rich heritage which is still a third world country and a feminist who works in the creative industry such as fashion to exist or be discussing these themes. As if that all does not fit together.

Although I think humans are walking contradictions, I see those factors are utterly streamlined. With the Quran stating to educate yourself daily, how better to publish intellectual content discussing social politics and culture, with fashion being a celebration of stories. It’s true when they say ’empowered women empower women’ therefore having self-love makes me want to do more for those coming up and naturally, young women. Thus it comes full circle.

My inspirations growing can be summed up in two words: Jacqueline Wilson. Until I started to discuss with The Publishing Girls (a sisterhood and
close friends at university) I didn’t realize the diverse stories she told and the seriousness of them. Whether it was on addiction, individuality, divorce, care homes, homelessness, neglect by a mother- I relish in that the girls she created were not flat but oh so very real.

I actually attended her talk at the Oxford Literacy festival in the Sheldonian and of course, I already knew everything she had to say being the ultimate fan and reading all her books (fact of the day: that is over a hundred now) and meeting her exactly a decade ago when I won a competition to be the first to get my hands on Candyfloss.

I was this close to running onto the stage, bearing in mind I was on a high tier thus swooping down with an imaginary cape to just remind her that was me in the bad pink suede blazer and matching hat who fawned over her and brought her chocolates and that she’s great. I’ve rambled too much on this question but no seriously, she’s Queen.

I am thoroughly inspired by the creatives I luckily get to work and how hard they try in making sure their success does not last for one season.

But every day, I am inspired by the group of women around me- and the men, who are open-minded and make me feel as though ‘thank god were the next generation’.

I adore those conversations exploring all aspects of life and if it should be that way. Shoutout to the American talk show: The Real for uplifting me on happy days and not so happy days and all the days in between.

The future holds exciting themes but I’m also aware of how we are pushing the notions forward in discussing subjects which are not talked about or thought about yet, and how we continue to do this via talks, events, and working with the best creatives. We’re building an Empire.

Jenna von Oy began her professional acting career at the age of six, when she landed her first big break in a Jell-O Pudding Pop commercial with Bill Cosby.