BABE #125: NABELA NOOR,
Since the conception of her YouTube account in November 2013, Nabela's online audience has grown to over 600k. With video content ranging from makeup and beauty trends to plus size fashion and pressing social issues both nationally and globally, she has become a voice for South-Asian women and Muslims around the world. Did we mention that she also speaks four languages fluently and is currently working on her singing and acting careers? You are a babe, Nabela. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us!
Hometown: Born in New York
Current location: Central Pennsylvania
Alma mater: York College of Pennsylvania
Degree: B.S., Sociology + Spanish
Very first job: Working at my parents’ jewelry business
Hustle: YouTuber / Content Creator
Babe you admire and why?
I love Zendaya so much. I have a huge girl crush on her and Yara Shahidi for not only who they are as individuals, but how beautifully they demonstrate girl love and sisterhood as friends. I try my best to use my platform for social good, which is something they do on a daily basis. They are activists using their influence to help change the world. Love, love, love them.
How do you spend your free time?
My free time is spent figuring out what I want to do next. It takes a lot for me to unwind and clock out, but when my husband and family finally get me to give in and just relax, I enjoy watching Shark Tank, The Profit, Law & Order: SVU and my guilty pleasure—Lifetime movies. I also love to play The Sims.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
My mom’s chicken curry and rice with a side of, like, 10 cobs of corn.
Go-to news source?
Twitter is a great place to start to know what's happening as it’s happening, and then I go from there to read individual articles.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Oprah Winfrey. I have so many questions for her. I am inspired by her every day. In my head we’re friends, because I start every morning listening to her interviews and inspirational talks to get motivated and centered.
Tell us about your hustle:
Describing what I do is always fun because there are so many elements to it. I have my hands in so many things that I’m passionate about, but essentially I would say I’m a YouTuber and Content Creator. I’m also a singer, aspiring actress and writer! With my many passions comes a busy schedule packed with shooting and production for my Youtube channel, hitting the studio to record vocals and work on new music and attending acting classes. It's important that I use my public platform wisely and meaningfully, so I bare my heart to my audience and speak up on issues I’m passionate about. On my channel, I talk about everything from beauty and body positivity, to Islamophobia, racism, bigotry. I try to stay on top of current events and lend my voice when possible, or stand in solidarity as an ally whenever I can. I’m grateful for a hustle that is packed with both passion and purpose. Every day is an unique adventure that explores each of my interests and I am just happy to do what I love!
What does your typical workday look like?
I wake up, shower, do my makeup and listen to my besties Oprah, Will Smith and Jim Carrey inspire me with their interviews and speeches (I have many of them memorized.) Then I film or edit videos, plan uploads and posts, interact with my manager on upcoming projects, and just create content, content, content. If I'm not filming or editing all day, I'm doing photoshoots or brainstorming skit ideas and projects. On certain days of the week I have acting classes and intern meetings. What each day looks like varies, but the goal is always the same: plan and put out meaningful content.
What inspired you to start your YouTube channel? What has your channel's progression been like?
I was inspired to start my channel after discovering two Youtubers who helped transform my own self-image through their content: AndreasChoice and AlbaMayo. Before watching them, I really had not embraced all of me. I used to wish that I could wake up with blonde hair and not be so “weird” or “different.” I discovered YouTube and saw representation I had never seen. Suddenly, I felt beautiful, finding my quirks and differences to be a blessing rather a curse. Once it clicked for me, I knew I wanted to spend my life helping it click for others, too. Fast forward to now, and Andrea and Alba are my mentors and friends - both were bridesmaids at my wedding. The women who inspired me are now more like sisters, and I have them to thank for my hustle today. My YouTube career has been extremely fulfilling and has opened so many doors to meaningful opportunities including my participation in the last election's GOP debate. I was able to use my platform to ask potential candidates how they would combat Islamophobia and intolerance if elected. That was a special moment in my career that I will forever hold close to my heart. I also had the amazing opportunity to be a Keynote Speaker for VidCon this year, which was a major milestone for me. It’s been an amazing ride and now I am lucky to have a team behind me who believe in what I’m doing and support my journey towards more representation in the entertainment space.
What has your journey as a plus-size, Muslim-American woman and public figure within the current political climate been like?
When I first started to become vocal on political and social issues, I quickly learned some people have no problem wearing their racism and Islamophobia as badges of pride on the internet. They’re also not afraid of making violent threats. After participating in the GOP debate, I experienced intense national backlash. I received multiple death threats and graphic messages. I remember a comment on my public Facebook page calling for me to be beheaded, all because I was advocating peace, tolerance and equal respect for Muslims. That’s when I knew and realized having these conversations was so necessary. It has been tough, but I am absolutely prepared to use my platform to continue what I started during the election: to use my career online as a vessel that can help bring important messages to the forefront. Tolerance, combating Islamophobia, representation for people of color in entertainment, body positivity, social justice—these are the areas I want to focus on for the rest of my life.
Thoughts on the current state of plus size clothing representation? What can we do to change it?
First off, even in the plus size community there are unrealistic standards set by brands and companies striving to appear "body positive." There is nothing body positive about having plus-size models who only fit a certain criteria. If we’re going to be body positive, we need plus size women of all shapes and sizes represented. There is still so much work to be done, and so many areas where I feel the plus size industry is missing the mark. When I’m shopping online in the plus section, the models wearing the clothing still do not represent or reflect my body shape or most plus-size shapes. There are still unrealistic standards out there and non-inclusive messages being spread that need to change for the plus size industry to truly be a body positive space.
How often do you feel satisfied in your work? Why do you think that is?
I’m a perfectionist, and my perfectionism interferes with my work a lot. There are a lot of things I have put on hold because I want everything to be just right. I’m working on launching my music career and have three songs I’ve fully made and haven’t released because my perfectionism has always stopped me from doing so. I’m working on it. It’s definitely a process, but I’m trying to be easier on myself and just post. Sometimes I have to stop editing or rewriting and just click “upload” or “send.”
How have your past education and work experiences prepared you for the work you do now?
My degree in Sociology undoubtedly helps me in my advocacy. When I speak on social issues, I don’t just do so from a place of experience, but also from a place of formal education. There are systemic issues of inequality that need to be addressed and changed for our society to truly see the change we seek. To identify those problems and see how the system is built for certain marginalized communities to fail or struggle is important. To identify and understand the difference between xenophobia and racism, and prejudice and bigotry is important. My education has afforded me an awareness that helps me every single day as a public figure using her voice for social issues. Working for my family and our family businesses growing up totally shaped my idea of what work should look and feel like. My parents were entrepreneurs. They were their own bosses. I always knew I wanted to be my own boss. I saw how it liberated my parents and wanted to feel that same sense of independence and pride, and now that is exactly how I feel every single day.
What is your personal support system like? Have you ever received any negativity for pursuing the lifestyle and career that you are? How did you handle that?
My parents, like many South Asian parents, wanted me to be a doctor. They were very hesitant about me leaving my first post-college job to pursue YouTube full-time. But once it really took off, they were so overwhelmed with pride that they just embraced it completely. To this day, my parents are my number-one fans.
How has your gender and/or ethnicity have affected your professional experience?
Being a brown girl (and a plus-size brown girl at that) in this space has had its challenges. In the beauty world, not all brands have put representation for girls like me at high importance. It’s starting to change, but I’m hoping we see way more inclusion for women of color, not just in makeup shade ranges but also in advertisements and campaigns. There are tons of beautiful, inspiring women and men of color in this industry. Highlight them, uplift them! Taking it a step further, diversity in color is the first of many important steps. Diversity in sizes is still important in the beauty world, not just the fashion world. Diversity in age. The list goes on.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
There are more men entering the beauty space, which is so exciting. I hope it continues to evolve. I’m all about representation. I am excited to see more men and women of all shapes, sizes and colors dominating this industry.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
The fat shaming can take a toll on me some days. Most of the time I am a fortress that cannot be broken, but there are days where it gets to be too much and I look in the mirror and ask myself, “Am I really all of those things they call me?” It doesn’t last long, because badass Nabela comes back, and I remind myself that I am what and who I say I am, and will never be what or who they try to label me to be.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Superwoman aka Lilly Singh is incredible and is such a hard working “bawse” whom I respect a lot. Liza Koshy is amazing and so effortlessly hilarious and uniquely her, which is so inspiring. (I also high-key hope my future daughter is just like her.) In terms of the perfect blend of being a beauty/fashion guru and using her platform to have tough conversations on social issues, Jackie Aina will forever inspire me. I think we use our platforms similarly, and I think we’re both just trying to share a great look or tutorial while also tackling important issues like racism, colorism, representation, etc. She has the perfect balance I respect so much.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
Be unapologetically yourself. Be intentional. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Be consistent.
What motivates and inspires you?
The idea that through our work today, future generations may be able to grow up seeing themselves represented, from the entertainment they consume to the career fields they want to enter. That our hard work and persistence to be equally represented will change how future kids of color view their possibilities. That’s wild, to me.
What’s next for you?
I’m releasing music in 2018! I’m going to be writing, acting, breaking into all the categories I’ve been dying to explore. It’s just going to be a blast.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Go easy on yourself, and never forget to take a step back and look at how far you’ve come. No matter what industry you’re in, don’t become so obsessed with your next step that you forget to look at all the steps you’ve taken and the amount of strength and resilience it took to get you there.
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