Discussing society’s expectations, self-love, representation, and giving back to the world.
By: Nithya Mullapudi
When her mother was pregnant with her, Nabela Noor and her family moved to America from their home country Bangladesh. She was born in New York and then moved to Maryland for a short period of time before spending the rest of her childhood in Pennsylvania. Noor grew up in a predominately white and conservative town, which made her want to have blonde hair and blue eyes to fit in. Due to a lack of representation around her, she struggled with self-love and identity crises. And because of the absence of representation, she was influenced to believe that the standard of beauty was being a blonde or brunette and white.
“There wasn’t a girl specifically Bangladeshi, South Asian, and Muslim. I didn’t see those stories celebrated around me and so that did influence what I thought was normal and beautiful.”– Nabela Noor on GirlBoss Radio.
This mindset changed for her once she saw The Disney Channel T.V. Show, That’s So Raven. Even though Raven didn’t have the exact same background as Noor, she was still the first curvy girl of color that Noor saw on television. This helped Noor to understand that she could be the main character of her own story, and was finally able to start recognizing that she was beautiful in her own way.
As Noor grew older, she wasn’t allowed to go out much so she started learning about Microsoft Paint, watching Bollywood movies, and learned how to speak Hindi. She was able to graduate high school two years earlier than most, at the whopping age of only 16 years old. She then proceeded to enroll in community college before transferring to Penn State University.
As a first-generation Bangladeshi American, and the daughter of South Asian immigrant parents, she was given three options for her future career: doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Noor chose law to pursue. While studying for her LSAT’s to become a lawyer, and achieve her dream of working for the UN, Noor started making Youtube videos as a hobby. She got into American University’s honor program but her dream was cut short when she couldn’t afford to attend. She didn’t let that stop her, however, instead she graduated from a private college and studied abroad in Mexico, and as her videos started to garner her a platform, she decided to pursue YouTube.
With YouTube and her platform, she was invited to speak at the UN and discussed important issues such as refugee migration, Islamaophia, and why immigrant stories are meaningful. When she told one of the people at the UN about how it used to be a dream for her to work there, she remembers that person telling her,
“Nabela, you might be able to make more of an impact now with how you’ll be working with the UN than you would have had you worked for the UN.”– Nabela Noor on GirlBoss Radio.
That made her recognize how big of a voice she had, and she now uses it for sticking up for the voiceless. Knowing how blessed she was, and how she wanted to share it with others led to her creation of the four businesses that she has today.
Under her umbrella company Love & Noor, which means ‘light’ in Arabic, Nabela has three other businesses she runs as well: Zeba, Nabela Noor Home, and Noor House.
Love & Noor was created as a digital media and content creation company to empower social change and redefine beauty standards. Noor hopes to increase representation, promote tolerance, and advocate for those who don’t have a voice.
Zeba, which was named after Nabela’s mother to help Noor continue her work as a self-love advocate, is an inclusive clothing company. Instead of having a traditional size chart like small, medium, large, etc. which can be harmful and lead to people being ashamed of their bodies, Zeba uses a different size chart completely. They replace size-labels with words of affirmation to promote the utmost positivity, confidence, and self-love.
Nabela Noor Home is where Noor shares everything in the homemaking community from recipes to home decor. Recently, during Quarantine, she was also able to start the Pockets of Peace series to help promote the goodness in every day. This series, originally started as a way for Nabela to cope with her anxiety, has gained over 6M+ followers and over 1B+ views and is now a globally recognized lifestyle.
Noor House, a non-profit scholarship program in partner with the JAAGO Foundation was created by both Nabela and her husband Seth. The program helps 20 girls between the ages of five and seven to be able to access educational facilities and resources necessary for them to graduate. A portion of every purchase made on Noor’s company Zeba is donated to the Noor House.
Nabela’s story is not that of an easy one; it is a story of resilience, acceptance, and ultimately success. However, I find that the most admirable trait of Nabela is her constant will to give back and help others. Every single one of her businesses has a backstory, a reason for why it exists in the world, and each one also helps others in one way or another.
I think that her work with Zeba will not only change and redefine beauty and fashion standards, but also help everyone around the world with self-love. It is important that we move away from promoting an ideal body type because in all honesty ‘ideal’ changes every decade. Perfect is not attainable and bodies aren’t made to be perfect. There’s going to be acne, hyperpigmentation, stretch marks, etc. but our imperfections are perfect and that is so important to understand. I think Zeba holds one of the keys to creating a change in society about both beauty and fashion for the better.
I also admire Nabela for following her passion for YouTube to transform society when her parent’s weren’t as supportive at first. I can’t say for all Indian households, but I know for some of them the common three career choices children can take are medicine, law, or engineering. Personally, my parents have always been supportive with what I wanted to pursue, but I do have friends and know people who’s parent’s only gave them these options. Despite Nabela’s parents also giving her those three options, she was able to stick up for herself and her passion which ultimately led her to being able to find her own voice. And look where pursuing her passion has got her today: success with a side of four businesses that aim to transform society forever!
I loved researching and reading up on every bit of Nabela’s life journey and I hope you all were able to enjoy it as well! Please like and comment; who do you think the next post will be about? Do you think that Zeba’s size chart should be implemented globally?
Cheers and until next time,