Fearless, Flawless and Fashionable are just some of the words that have been used to describe journalist Noor Tagouri. The hijab-wearing journalist and speaker who tours globally on breaking barriers through storytelling made waves in 2012 when she posted a photo of herself sitting in an anchor chair, labeling it ‘My Dream’ that quickly went viral and began the #LetNoorShine movement-a movement for Noor to do motivational speeches about her identity and dreams around the world. The Libyan-American who started college at just 16, “to get a head start on the prejudices I knew I would face” has covered topics such as changing ideas on the sex trade, interviewing female sex workers at The Bunny Ranch all the way to doing a TEDx Talk on her identity as a Muslim woman in America.
As I arranged the sequin turbans on loan from designer Julia Clancey and made sure the make-up station was all set up at a house in Malibu, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this influential, intelligent woman I’d researched, who is only 24 years old. Welcoming me and the rest of the crew with warm hugs, Noor’s infectious smile and sharp wit made it easy to see how she has garnered over 300K Instagram followers, she remains completely herself, she’s kind, curious and above all, authentic.
Shaping her own identity wasn’t always easy however, Noor says in between laughs with her husband and talent manager Adam Khafif, “I didn’t have a single role model growing up, of someone that looks like me and dresses like me, besides my family,” she continues, “so many times Muslims and other minorities either aren’t represented, or if they are it’s in a very negative light…so I hope I can inspire other girls around the world to be proud of who they are.”
Starting college at a young age and then entering into journalism with an internship at CBS Radio, she started as a switchboard operator and moved into eventually becoming an a local television reporter, to correspondent and producer at Newsy. Noor is changing the way people think about Muslims, and changing the possibilities and opportunities for minorities around the world. “Social Media connects you to people all over the world, and it’s so amazing to see girls in London or Amsterdam or even the US wearing the hijab…it’s so inspiring to see the courage of so many girls” she says, continuing that “it’s not even the hijab, it’s that there are so many people around the world who are finding a voice and choosing to be themselves.”
Noor has had to be the change she wants to see in the world, stepping into the light and facing controversy, as she did when her feature in Playboy Magazine was released, she’s always questioning the world in which we live, and helping others through her many projects. So far her projects include 4 documentary series #andcounting she’s done, such as ‘Americanize Me,’ ‘A Woman’s Job with Noor Tagouri’ on Hulu, ‘The Trouble They’ve Seen: The Forest Haven Story’; and her latest, ‘Sold in America: Inside our Nation’s Sex Trade (of which a podcast spin-off will be released this fall).
The hijab is a head covering for women in the Muslim community, which, for Noor says she “wear[s] this every day to remind myself and to tell others that what I have to say matters more than anything else. My opinion, my voice matters… it’s a reminder that when you put on the hijab you are living for something more than yourself.” For many women around the world, the hijab is worn by choice, many women in Muslim communities choose it because, for some, it makes them feel closer to God.
Women around the world have chosen to wear some sort of head covering based on their religion or personal moral preference, from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity, a head covering has been seen around the world for hundreds of years, and continues to evolve. From head coverings in Medieval Europe, all the way to scarves, hats, and turbans that many women have worn globally, but especially in Europe and America adorned their heads within the 1920s-1960s, head coverings, and hijabs are not so dissimilar as most may think. A rich history of head-covering cultures continue to expand, and the fashion comes with it. Take Dolce & Gabbana for example, who in 2016 released a line of hijabs and abayas for their Muslim customers in the Middle East. As cultures are embracing the Muslim community, so are many high-end brands that not only see the marketability but that more diversity should be included in the fashion world.
Noor’s career has expanded past breaking news, journalism and documentary features, she’s also personally contributed to the fashion world, with ‘The Noor Effect,’ for two collections, the first combatting sex trafficking and the second (currently available!) is helping to alleviate youth homelessness. She’s also been featured in many fashion campaigns, most recently in Reebok’s Be More Human campaign, which launched yesterday, July 19th! Can you say this girl is on fire??
Noor Tagouri is changing the way that people in America and the world see a Muslim woman, she’s worked hard to excel at the skills she’s now becoming famous for, and inspiring those around her, whether they come from her community or not. “I’m a storyteller” she explains in between bites of her bagel, “my favorite thing is to ask someone to tell me a story, about anything, about their day, I love to learn about people in that way.” From her recent road trip on the West Coast with Supermodel Ashley Graham to being featured in Playboy’s Renegades Issue, Noor, meaning light in Arabic, is lighting a path for those from all walks of life and all types of backgrounds to be represented more on a public platform.
On a recent trip to France, where the hijab is banned in public schools, Noor met women who are considering moving to other countries and learning new languages to pursue their dreams while keeping their faith. “I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to leave my home country, learn a new language, and leave my family to pursue a career in a place where my identity is allowed and accepted. Seeing the passion that other Muslim girls have in their choice to wear the hijab, the importance of their identity being recognized and allowed is so inspiring for me, and I hope I can be there to inspire and support these women around the world as well.”
“A hijab is 100% of my identity, no one in my family thought I would continue to wear it,” she says, continuing that “we’re constantly taught to be in this box, to live a certain type of life, if you’re a journalist this is the path you’re going to take, and I realized it wasn’t going to be like that for me. I knew that I could tell stories that people weren’t telling because of my identity and this identity that people kept talking down on…I was going to make my own path time and time again.”