From New York to Milan, Neelofa made her mark at the ‘Big 4’ fashion capitals of the world during last year's Fashion Week season. From hosting one of the top entertainment talk shows, meleTOP (she has since departed the show), Neelofa has levelled up to create her very own talk show. Her collaboration with Italian shoe maestro Giuseppi Zanotti also marked her entrance into the international fashion world where she aims to crush stereotypes of the Asian hijabi. With her sweet, gentle smile and down-to-earth personality, the 30-year-old looks very much like the girl next door. But it’s hard to miss the star presence she carries. As soon as she walks into the room, she oozes confidence – one just can’t help but be drawn by her charisma and enthusiasm.
HW: What does survival mean to you?
N: What I have been through in the past 10 years is survival. It’s about being consistent and how much one is willing to do to overcome setbacks. A survivor, to me, is someone who addresses a problem and not run away from it. If one could do that, that’s survival. You stay in the game and fight through it.
HW: Have you ever thought of leaving the limelight?
N: The first two years of my career was quite difficult. I was hammered with all manner of gossip and controversies. It was tough, but because I’ve been through that, I feel like nothing can beat me now, I can overcome any problem easily. Have I ever thought of not being in the spotlight? No, I don’t think so. Since I’m already in the limelight, I think there’s no point in looking back or to stop doing what I’m doing. I might slow down a little when I have a family in future or when I’ve achieved my goals, but I don’t think I will ever leave the industry entirely.
HW: Are there any challenges or incidents that have made you feel like giving up?
N: I would say the worst backlash I’ve ever encountered both personally and in my business was when I launched the hijab line at Zouk Club in early 2018. To be frank, I knew clearly what my intention was; I didn’t mean to offend my religion and anyone else. It was merely an event that took place in a nightclub. The fallout was massive, but I took it in stride. I’m a strong believer of finding the ‘silver lining after the storm’.
HW: Being a celebrity, do you think you live a privileged life?
N: Everything comes with a price. I was in my early twenties when I first started out so I missed out on living an ordinary life – like other young adults. I get gossip, criticism or hatred hurled at me no matter what I do, where I go and even what I eat. It’s like living a life constantly under a magnifying glass.
Yes, I’ve been privileged – businesswise. Since people know who I am, I feel like it’s easier for my business to thrive amidst a vast sea of other brands; it’s a plus point, for sure. However, I do believe sustainability is still the key to every successful business. I’m grateful for my strong follower base, but I still need a good team to run the business with me. I was lucky enough to have my sisters with me when I wanted to start Naelofar Hijab. I knew I needed a strong team that is skilful and experienced enough to keep the business going; not just a trend that exploded suddenly and ends just as quickly. I also think every entrepreneur needs to be a risk taker. You have to take on risks willingly and accept that there will be pitfalls. You need to acknowledge that there’s a chance that one day, you might lose everything.
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