“I’ll have a mocha cookie crumble frappuccino,” a young woman says, placing her order at a local Starbucks. She’s dressed in a NASA shirt and a navy hijab.
“And I’ll have an iced white chocolate mocha with sweet cream and cold foam,” another young woman says, a black clutch slung casually over her shoulder.
For most people, this interaction is an everyday occurrence; everybody goes to Starbucks and orders coffee, right?
Think again. This isn’t any ordinary phenomenon — not everybody orders their coffee according to what their Instagram followers have chosen for them while wearing outfits that were voted on by those same hundreds of people online in a carefully curated day. For most, this is rather extraordinary.
Luckily, Warisha Saeed ’23 and Rameesah Sabir ’23 aren’t everybody. Saeed and Sabir are the owners of and faces behind @raggedy.dollz, an Instagram account dedicated to everything and anything related to the pair’s lives, both as best friends and as individuals.
Named after Saeed’s longtime affinity for the word “raggedy” and Sabir’s idea to incorporate a wordplay on the phrase “rag doll,” the account features vlogs and other related lifestyle content for their over 800 loyal followers — or “dollies,” as the two lovingly have nicknamed them — to enjoy. As their account name suggests, the two are fond of getting dolled up and posing for Instagram photos, yet they are unafraid to show their more ‘raggedy’ sides with unfiltered, realistic vlogs of their everyday lives.
“I think the account is more for us to have fun, vlog our day and show people that what everybody does is relatable for a college student,” Saeed said. “We just live our lives, and we record it and have fun. So, like, if anyone else is having a bad day, they can relate to us or even smile and be like, ‘oh, they’re so funny, they’re so dumb.’”
At its core, @raggedy.dollz arose from Saeed and Sabir’s mutual love of documenting and sharing their lives. The account was initially created on March 7, 2022 from a simple joke shared between the two for as long as they could each remember.
“We both wanted to become influencers, and we would constantly joke about it to each other, but we were not serious about it,” Saeed said. “We kept being like, ‘Oh, let’s start a whole YouTube channel,’ and then the other person would be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, totally, let’s do it.’ And we would kind of diss each other like, ‘Oh, you were supposed to work on the vlog channel today!”
But their running streak of lighthearted jabs would inevitably culminate in Sabir launching what would become a fully-fledged, successful Instagram account for the two to regularly express themselves on.
“One day, we were studying, and Rameesah was like, ‘I have nothing to do.’ She was just watching some show. And I was like, ‘well, it would help if you were working on the vlog channel!” Saeed said, giggling at the memory. “And then … she created the vlog channel!”
Though the two had toyed with the idea of opening a YouTube channel together, they settled on Instagram as the host for their new online persona because they felt more familiar with the platform and enjoyed the greater control that Instagram allows with its privacy settings.
The private nature of their account is also one of the most unique aspects of @raggedy.dollz. Despite creating highly interactive, public-facing content that emulates many mainstream influencers, the duo chooses to keep their content private — meaning the two must manually approve who follows them — and limited to only people identifying as women.
The choice to keep their account female-centric was influenced by their strong Muslim faith. Saeed explained that at the inception of the account, Sabir did not yet wear a hijab, so she did not feel comfortable allowing people who identify as men access to the account. Under Islam, Muslim women are traditionally expected to dress modestly and cover their hair from men they are not blood relatives of.
“I think part of Islam is to present modestly, especially for the women,” Sabir said. “So just keeping the account private and knowing who’s watching our stuff, like knowing our stuff is being seen by people we know of — it allows us to be more comfortable.”
Monitoring the gender of their audience allows Saeed and Sabir to more comfortably express their authentic selves. A women restricted audience removes the pressure for them to present themselves aesthetically in every post or rush to dress up in their hijabs every time they want to make a quick post — especially since a large portion of their content is more spontaneous rather than meticulously planned out in advance.
“It definitely makes us more comfortable because this way, we can just vlog whenever, and we don’t have to, you know, get ready and put on our hijab quickly, like, ‘Okay, now we can make a video,’” Sabir said. “And it ended up working out because when we started the account, I wasn’t a hijabi. So we had posts with my hair out, vlogs with my hair out and everything. And it ended up being convenient because when I did become a hijabi, we didn’t have to delete any of that stuff.”
As a part of creating an online safe space for Muslim women, Sabir and Saeed strive to promote a greater understanding of Islam, intertwining their faith with the content they produce and post.
Conscious of her status as a role model for many other women, both Muslim and non-Muslim, Saeed described how she is careful in how she presents herself to her followers as she wants to portray her identity with integrity.
“Since I’m wearing the hijab, I want to put that correctly,” Saeed said. “I want to enforce that because I’m a hijabi, I’m not going to be showing my hair to everybody online. Like, you know, it’s not a public account — it’s not like there are guys on the accounts watching me and seeing my or Rameesah’s hair out.”
Saeed further noted how she works to dismantle long standing prejudices held against Muslims by normalizing the presentation of Muslims in mainstream media.
“For people who don’t know what a Muslim is, what a hijabi means, I want them to see that they’re like anybody else, you know, to take away that stigmatism of like, ‘oh, she’s a hijabi, this and that,’” Saeed said.
Sabir also spoke about how the two work to educate their followers about Islam through the content they create.
“Around Ramadan, we did a few posts describing what it is, just to educate and let people know who didn’t have any idea what it is,” Sabir said.
Beyond their shared devotion to Islam, the inseparable duo is bonded by a passion for the medical field, with each of them serving as a co-president of the College of William and Mary’s Remote Area Medical and studying on a pre-medical track. This mutual interest manifests within their account as the two regularly post medical-related content and are followed by many others on the pre-med track.
“Sometimes when I’m scribing, I’ll make a vlog,” Saeed said in reference to her position as a medical scribe at Riverside Doctors’ Hospital. “And a few times, people have reached out asking me like, ‘how do I get the job?’ or like, ‘what do you do?’ And I help them out. And I think Rameesah has posted a vlog of her shadowing in the operating room.”
In addition to medical content, Saeed and Sabir particularly enjoy creating interactive stories and challenges. Some examples include fashion polls in which their followers choose outfits they prefer, a “post a picture of” series in which the two post images of certain people or items that their followers request and time lapses of quotidian events like passersby walking.
“I know some people have told us that they really enjoy that type of content because even though it’s kind of random, it’s also kind of calming, just watching people, you know, zoom by,” Sabir said in reference to their time lapses.
As alluded to previously, Saeed’s personal favorite series was “Instagram Decides Our Day,” in which Saeed and Sabir allowed their followers to choose between different activities for them to do, clothes to wear, foods to eat and more for an entire day.
“I had people come up to me in person and say they really like controlling our day,” Saeed said. “So I definitely like pushing [challenges] out more.”
Receiving offline compliments is no foreign phenomenon to Saeed and Sabir, who expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support their account regularly receives from their hundreds of followers.
“We sometimes have people DM us, but a lot of times people come up to me in class or on campus, and it’s the best feeling ever,” Saeed said. “They’ll say something like, ‘Oh, I saw your story, and I really liked it,’ or like, ‘I follow your account.’ Or if we posted something recently, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I saw that!’”
Getting such positive feedback in real-time also helps Saeed and Sabir avoid burnout and remain motivated to upkeep with the Instagram hustle as it reminds them of the positive impact they are creating in their peers’ lives.
“It pushes us to make more [content],” Saeed said. “Because sometimes, especially when we’re further apart, we tend to stop making vlogs. It’s just because we don’t know what to do, and we kind of lose that motivation. But then when someone reaches out to us like that, then we’re like, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re actually doing it.’”
As rising seniors slated to graduate in the winter of 2022, it’s only logical that the two are beginning to look ahead to the future. For now, Saeed and Sabir have no plans to discontinue their joint Instagram account — though they may expand platforms to TikTok and/or YouTube. As they evolve past the collegiate lifestyle, they know their content and platform must evolve as well, especially because they will likely not be able to remain in the same geographical area together.
“Our content might switch over because the bulk of our followers are people that go to William and Mary, so us posting content about William and Mary is relatable,” Sabir said. “So as we do leave, we might have to switch up what we start posting and you know, we might end up losing followers for that, but we would also gain new ones depending on where we end up.”
Saeed also spoke to the potential difficulty of being physically separate post-graduation, as the two have found it to be much easier to remain consistent and post frequently when they make content together in real time.
“It’s easier when we’re together because if we’re together, we’re just like, ‘Oh, I’ll post this, or I’ll post this,’” Saeed said. “When we’re separate, sometimes our stories overlap if we’re both posting, so it’s like, one story is mine, another is Rameesah’s, then mine again. So it’s not like a consistent story, and then I’m like, ‘Will our followers understand what’s going on?’”
While their plans for the future are not yet set in stone, the two remain very much dedicated to their Instagram account and their loving dollies in the present. Even once the pair leave the College in just a few short months, the positivity and spirit they have brought to campus will surely not be forgotten any time soon.