Adorable Shabina Afzal has kept us entertained on her Instagram page Shabosphere with her drool-worthy food videos and happy-go-lucky character. A die-hard food blogger at heart, this charming lady has bagged Virgin Radio’s Top 2 Influencer in UAE award recently. However, she took some time off from the kitchen to chat with A Dame’s Handbook today, where she talks about the struggles and perks of being a food blogger.
Can you please tell us about your beautiful journey so far?
My name is Shabina, known as Shabosphere in social media among my followers. Mom of two girls, I am a passionate storyteller who loves exploring new recipes and clicking pictures. I started this beautiful blogging journey on Instagram 5 years back, but I was blogging actively on Facebook before that. I was working in a German logistics company as I have done my masters in MBA Logistics, but now I am a full-time content creator.
I had no idea about social media or even how to style and click pictures. My blogging journey commenced due to my friends who asked me to publish my recipes in a blog for them to check later. I took it up while I was working, and then I went for a maternity break. I never joined back to my boring office routine instead, I worked full time building up my social media career. And I work for myself now. I am officially a food and lifestyle blogger.
Have you raised the eyebrows of people when you pursued blogging? How did you cope up with such situations?
Yes, I have had very unsupportive, confused and mocking eyebrows at me initially. I have had several instances where the immediate family members raised questions like, what do I get by doing clicking pictures, why I am wasting my years and cost of MBA, why can’t I look for a job and earn money like others etc.
Content creation or social media wasn’t considered as a career option back then in my family. The only support was my husband and siblings who believed in me, who stood up for my madness, who still believes that I have miles to go and much more to do in life.
What is the story behind your page name, Shabosphere?
Before Instagram, I was pretty active in Facebook food groups. When I wanted to start a page of my own, I first listed down all the things I wanted to blog about.
I wanted to share everything around me- be it recipes, restaurant reviews, makeup, travel etc. So that’s when I figured out that I should put a name that resonates with all my likings. I started with a blog first, and it was more like a hobby for me. Shabinas world, Shabinas story, Shabinas life- these were the names I considered for my blog. From there, I took a poll, and Sabina’s world was what most liked one. But it was very plain and not quirky enough.
That is when I went for synonyms of the world like the universe, sphere etc… After a good brainstorming with my family, we came up with Shabosphere, and the rest is history!!! Alhamdulillah Shabina grew when Shabosphere grew… It wasn’t an overnight success; it’s a good five years of hard work, trust and goodwill.
What was the most challenging moment in your blogging journey so far?
Many challenging moments have passed. The worst that affected my mental health is when PR and brands reject me from campaigns because of my ethnicity and low follower count. Initially, those rejections were tough; that’s what made me work hard also. Now over the years, I have learnt to adjust to such situations.
What’s destined by GOD would come by. You just need to be you and trust your work.
What is your favourite dish to cook and eat?
Definitely, it’s desserts. I have a lot of dessert recipes on my page. My followers always message me saying that you’re a dessert queen because I step in their shoes and prepare one dessert in different ways- with an oven, without an oven, with eggs, eggless etc.
Also, I try to recreate the restaurant recipes I eat for those who can’t access the eatery.
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You are the Virgin Radio’s Top 2 Influencer in UAE 2021. How do you feel about it? What was your reaction?
I was shocked !!! To be honest, I wasn’t aware of such competition. It is when the Radio messaged me; I came to know about it. With God’s mercy and with the love of my followers, I made it to Top 2.
For me, it was a significant achievement. Though I didn’t win, my name and profile were checked out and mentioned by the Radio. A Malayalee blogger with a very small niche of the crowd to be as top 2 was a big thing. Definitely, I am a winner in my eyes because I know it’s from scratch with no help or contacts, I have reached where I am today. And that recognition and reach are due to pure love and support from my followers.
Do you think there is unhealthy competition among bloggers in UAE? What is your take on it?
I don’t know about that, as I am not in any blogger groups, nor have any blogger gang or attend any blogger meetups. I do hear from people on social media that there are bloggers who talk back behind me. I haven’t checked on it, as I believe haters/stalkers/critics are also supporters.
Also, you could make good friends from this platform. I have found such a friend. We were college mates but never friends back then; years later, we connected through social media as we both were blogging. We became social media friends first, started hanging out together, then became best friends, our families connected, we went for the trip and whatnot. So there is a good side also; we need to risk our time and effort to find out right friends on social media.
How do you stay motivated in content creation? Who is your inspiration in blogging?
It’s tough to be consistently motivated. I do have my fair share of ups and downs. My issues are self-doubt, not being happy with content’s reach and engagement, not being satisfied with content quality, etc. Mainly it’s because we compare ourselves to others on social media. Criticism and rude DMs affect my mental health as well.
When I am emotionally down, I burst out to my husband, and the only question he asks me is, why did you start this? What was your impulse then? I then motivate myself by saying- it was to share things around me, so nothing else should matter. Just be yourself and follow your passion.
Every content I see on social media is an inspiration for me.
What one piece of advice would you give to any aspiring bloggers reading this?
Everyone has scope to grow; you just need to be you, find your niche, polish your skills, be honest and build trust and rapport with your community rest all will fall in place.
In today’s social media world, it is more difficult for your content to reach out or be known among the many talented contents, but that shouldn’t make your work any less worth it. Your aim should always be to maintain the quality of content, your style and your personality. We see different types of content going viral, maybe such content wouldn’t be our style, and still, we would get tempted to try it out. If you are confident, go ahead; no harm in it. If not, it’s totally fine, but never feel left out for not following the trend.