The winner of last year’s Great British Bake Off told the BBC that racist abuse is common in her life and she expects it everyday.
Speaking candidly on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Sunday, Nadiya Hussain said she still suffers racial abuse despite being a popular celebrity who was chosen to bake the Queen’s 90th birthday cake.
She told the show’s host, Kirsty Young: “It sounds really silly [but] it feels like that’s become a part of my life now– I expect it. I expect to be shoved or pushed or verbally abused, because it happens, it’s happened for years.”
Despite the obvious challenges this has brought, the 31 year old Brit of Bangladeshi origin said she is determined to be a role model not just to her three children but also to wider Muslims.
“I love being British and I love living here, this is my home and it always will be regardless of all the other things that define me. This is my home and I want my kids to be proud of that and I don’t want them to grow up with a chip on their shoulder, so I live as positively as I can.”
Earlier this year she was named one of Britain’s 500 most influential people by DeBretts.
Nadiya’s success on the TV show, which was the most watched of last year with 15 million viewers, led Kirsty Young to say she has been “credited by many credible people as doing more for race-relations than any great, big government initiative could ever do.”
Asked how she felt about this, Hussain responded: “I genuinely found that astounding. My jaw is on the ground when someone says that because I can’t understand how that happened.” She added: “Sometimes I feel like it’s quite a lot of pressure…because I’m not perfect.”
Maintaining perspective, she continued: “We live in times where things are so strange sometimes that if something like a simple baking show can do something like that, you know, that’s a good thing.”
Hussain has received praise for her impact on race-relations from writer Yasmin-Albhai Brown and novelist Jenny Colgan.
Others have downplayed the sociopolitical impact of her victory. The Sun’s TV columnist Ally Brown last year claimed, controversially, it simply improved political correctness at the BBC.
Speaking about the racial abuse received, Nadiya said she responds by ignoring it. “”I feel like there’s a dignity in silence, and I think if I retaliate to negativity with negativity, then we’ve evened out and I don’t need to even that out because if somebody’s being negative, I need to be the better person.”
Speaking to 5Pillars about Nadiya’s revelations, the Yorkshire & Humber Regional Manager of Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), Shahab Adris commented: “We’ve come a long way collectively as a country addressing issues of racism but we still have a long way to go. We have to start thinking beyond boundaries of cultures, colour and language, doing projects that bring people together such as MEND’s anti-Islamophobia event inspired and hosted by Reverend Heston, held in All Hallows’ Church in Leeds where Nadiya lives.”
Racial equality campaigner Zita Holbourne also gave her reaction to 5Pillars: “I’m not surprised she [Nadiya Hussain] faces racism everyday because as somebody who campaigns against racism I’m aware of it. People are feeling emboldened by politicians to express racism.”
Regarding Hussain’s impact on race-relations Ms Holbourne added: “Having a public forum it’s important she’s speaking about her experience. People will listen to her more that they’ll listen to well known campaigners against racism. She has that audience they don’t have.”
Nadiya Hussain skyrocketed to fame in October last year. She now makes regular TV appearances, has a weekly column in The Times, published her first cook book last month and has an upcoming two part BBC documentary, The Chronicles of Nadiya.