Muslim model Mariah Idrissi breaking down barriers in fashion world

Mariah Idrissi was walking through a shopping centre near Wembley in London when a woman stopped her, took a photo and asked for her phone number.

She did not know it then, but that was to be a turning point in her life.

The woman was Coralie Rose, a street casting director who hunts out fresh new talent among the crowds of ordinary people in this huge city.

"I'm looking for people who remind me of myself," she said.

"I come from a mixed race family. And when I was growing up there were very few people of colour or mixed race families on TV and it's always something I've wanted to see more of."

She saw that in Idrissi when she walked by wearing a hijab and a nose ring.

Idrissi is of Pakistani and Moroccan heritage.

"She's got such a great look, she's got such a great style, she's so unique in her ways, she's so British in her ways, there was something I was really attracted to," Ms Rose said.

Idrissi's first job was with major fashion brand H&M.

She appeared for a couple of seconds in a video, but it was a start.

Now she has been picked up by a major modelling agent, Select, and the work offers are quickly coming in.

"I think it was the thing with brands like with H&M, every fashion brand has to have this very blank canvas, you can't show any political or religious preference," the 24-year-old said.

"So they always thought if you show woman with hijab it might seem too politically motivated or religious, but the fact that they deliberately avoided using us is actually in fact the opposite, it's quite insulting when really we're just normal girls. We just choose to cover our heads."

'There's so much negativity about Muslim people'

Idrissi does not want to simply be a model.

She wants to be a role model for other young Muslim girls.

Idrissi will never strut the catwalk, but she is happy to have a man apply makeup to her face.

The number of followers on her Instagram page has gone from a few hundred to more than 40,000.

She writes a blog for the Huffington Post and works with a children's charity.

"Even though I'm just in the beginning of my journey I never had to compromise my morals or beliefs," Idrissi said.

"I didn't have to sell my body as many young women are doing today, that's my main message — you can do it being yourself."

Her family provides her grounding.

"She's trying to promote Islam in the fashion modesty kind of way. I'm so proud of her," her cousin Nadia Derissy said.

"She's an amazing person who deserves this and more."

Ms Derissy believes her cousin is also helping improve perceptions about Islam.

"There's so much negativity going on in the media at the moment with Muslim people," she said.

"You know there's terrorist attack after terrorist attack and it's not concentrating on anything positive that we actually are, who we actually are, which is love and peace."