Burieva Shows Why She’s Not Afraid to Show Off Her Roots
By Caitlin Mastandrea
You probably can’t find Uzbekistan on a map, let alone name the Central Asia country’s signature dish, but Malika Burieva hopes to change that. The 21-year-old Adelphi University junior and Brooklyn resident has quickly gained traction on social media educating others about her family’s homeland.
During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Burieva channeled her time at home in quarantine into making videos for the popular social media platform. She was attracted to TikTok because of its format of short, yet creative videos.
Burieva posted a video on Nov. 10, 2020 using a popular song to show off her Central Asian heritage, which is a mix of Uzbek and Turkmen. That video gained a lot of attention with the help of using the viral sound and because there weren’t many Central Asian creators on TikTok and now has over 119,000 views. She says that it was at that time that she felt it was her calling and what she was meant to do. In the past two years she's attracted nearly 38,000 followers and continues to develop her online presence every day.
Although she is comfortable expressing her culture online, this feeling didn't always come easy. When Burieva was seven she moved from Miami to South Brooklyn where she still resides. It didn't take long for her to realize the unfamiliarity people had with her culture. Burieva is ethnically Uzbek-Turkmen, with both sides of her family mostly coming from Uzbekistan as well as both of her parents being born and raised there. Many people were curious where she was from, but when she answered Uzbekistan, they’d invariably follow up with, “What’s that?” or “Where’s that?”
Although this experience made her feel like an outsider, she said, it also helped her connect with her culture more. And it inspired her to educate others by sharing information about her culture online.
Originally Burieva made YouTube videos but found that it took too long to film and edit. “With TikTok, it doesn’t require a thought for a video. You can just create. YouTube is more of a thoughtful process; TikTok was definitely what got my foot in the door in regards to content creation,” she said.
When she started using TikTok in 2020, she said there weren’t — and still aren’t many — Central Asian social media creators. “It felt as though I was the spokesperson for Central Asia,” Burieva said. She didn't come across many influencers who were knowledgeable about her culture and through the feedback and questions of her followers she found a way to educate others about her culture while also being creative.
Burieva feels that she is most known for her video essays where she teaches her followers Uzbek through a series called, “Teaching Basic Uzbek in 60 Seconds.” Although she is also ethically Turkmen, she chooses to focus on Uzbekistan in her content creation because she feels more in touch and connected to that side of her culture.
While exploring her passion for her culture, she's connected with many other creators on different platforms who share the same passion. In May 2022, Burieva was featured on An Immigrant's Life Podcast, “All-American Uzbek: Malika Burieva” hosted by Aeron Dellosa. Dellosa’s podcast is popular in the immigrant community because it highlights cultures from all over the world.
“During the recording, I can tell how excited she was with the process of podcasting. I appreciated how she was on time and prepared. She even had her own microphone for a better audio recording. Overall she was an amazing guest,” said Dellosa, a popular, award-winning podcaster who chronicles immigrants and their immigration stories.
Others have also taken notice of Burieva’s professionalism. Several merchants and brands now sponsor her videos, particularly Central Asian-owned small businesses such as “AsalChic,” an Uzbek-owned female-owned business based in New Jersey that sells contemporary and modern Central Asian merchandise.
“As one of our ambassadors, she’s always promoting our product as well as the non-profit we work with,” said Layla Shatursun, an employee for AsalChic. “What I love most about our partnership is that she keeps her content authentic and showcases our items in a relatable way that brings customers to our page.”
But for Burieva, the business she generates as a social media influencer is just a bonus. She said sharing her story and connecting with others is what motivates her to keep creating content.
“Getting comments that say, ‘It was because of you that I started to become proud of my culture,’ or getting direct messages asking for advice on Uzbek or Turkmen culture because they are in a relationship with an Uzbek or a Turkmen and don’t know who to turn to, definitely makes it all worthwhile,” Burieva said.