We may be starting to get to know her as Shahira, since the beginning of Ramadan we’ve been slowly getting hooked to her character’s presence and charisma in one of Ramadan’s most prominent TV series “La Totfe2 El Shams”.  Her natural look accompanied with her natural acting skills, have helped her win a place in our hearts and made her a face to be reckoned with. And that’s not it, Shahira or originally Mariam El Khosht is a makeup artist who is challenging the norm by using only cruelty free makeup products. Mariam is redefining mainstream beauty and TV standards by staying true to herself and her beliefs. This multitalented rising star is doing her own makeup for the show and of course she is supporting her cause by using only cruelty free makeup products.

Animal cruelty is not scarce in the age we live in. We’ve seen many videos of stray dogs beaten up and tortured just for the fun of it, and we know the stories of how famous sporting clubs have poisoned stray animals that dared cross their precious borders.

But animal cruelty is not just in these obvious and frown-inducing incidents. It is ever-present, lurking in many of the things we use on a daily basis and never think about. Mariam, who goes by @Payaswonderland on social media, opens our eyes to these less obvious ways of animal cruelty.

Mariam is an animal lover by her own confession. She explains that she “has always been appalled by animal cruelty – as should everyone!”. Her love for make up brought her in contact with the gross injustices against animals in that field and prompted her, first, to boycott any products tested on animals, and, secondly, to raise awareness about the topic. For her, it was another way she could rescue animals she’s so passionate about. In fact, she tells us that animal testing has even proven a less accurate method of testing than other techniques.

Mariam explains that cruelty-free make up products are those that are not only not tested on animals, but are also free of any ingredients that have been tested on animals at any stage of production. Thankfully, they’re not that hard to find – even in Egypt. Because this is a cause that’s growing in popularity worldwide, many brands are changing their strategies and becoming completely cruelty free. Some of the stores that carry such cruelty-free products are Colors (her favorite because they offer the widest range), Ramfa and Bloom, in addition to various social media accounts that sell online.

But how do we find out which brands are cruelty-free? According to Mariam, Google is your best friend. She warns us not to check the brand website itself, though! Their marketing and wording might make it seem like they’re completely cruelty-free when they’re not. Paya herself uses websites, including Peta and Leaping Bunny, who post lists of cruelty-free brands that get regularly updated. She also warns against any brand that sells in China, given China’s policy that a brand has to be tested on animals before it is sold. She explains, “That actually means, if a brand is entirely cruelty free but wants to sell in China, products will be pulled off the shelves, taken to labs and tested on animals, which is a process that needs to be funded by the brand itself, i.e. The brand then contributes to facilitating animal testing. Some respected brands have chosen to pull their products from China to remain cruelty free, such as The Body Shop.”

Because some people often think that production with such strict regulations is often more expensive, Mariam reassures us that, like everything else, cruelty-free products are available in all price and quality ranges. Mariam, through her blog and initiative, is only concerned with raising awareness, bringing the cause to life, recruiting more people on board and, of course, saving animals. She doesn’t want to make money out of it, but only wants people to stop using these products and realize that there are alternatives.

You can also do your own research and/or go a step further, like Mariam. She has extended her personal policy to home cleaning products as well. Even though these can be harder to find and are only available at high-end supermarkets, she tells us it makes a huge difference to know she’s using those instead of others. She also promotes looking for animal food products that do not subject other animals to unnecessary cruelty and poor living conditions.

Though Mariam says some people still think she’s crazy and/or that there are more important things to worry about, she’s also receiving feedback that is overwhelmingly positive and supportive. If you want more information on the topic or want to learn how to do your own make up – cruelty free! – you can check Mariam’s Instagram and YouTube channel.