Be it her quirky facial expressions, her witty one-liners or simply her brilliant bakes, there are plenty of reasons why The Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain has won the heart of the nation.
But the 30-year-old says she didn't expect her win in the final to be viewed as a triumph for multicultural Britain or that there would be so much focus on her being a Muslim.
“Going in, the things that worried me were not these deep issues like: ‘I have to represent all Muslims.’ What bothered me was more that I didn’t want to go in there and sound unintelligent or get my bakes wrong,” she says in an interview with The Guardian.
“While genuinely flattered by the praise she has received,” wrote interviewer Homa Khaleeli, “she is instinctively wary of the idea that her religion is her defining feature.”
“It does feel nice, because essentially it’s a baking show, but that tent is also a symbol of British society today – and 12 of us from very different backgrounds went in,” continues Hussain.
“I knew I represented different people – stay-at-home mums, Muslims, the [British] Bangladeshi community … [and] for each and every bit of me someone has said: ‘You have done a really good job for us; she seems like a good mum, she’s done well for Muslims and the Bengalis are proud.”
She is pleased that she was able to represent Muslims, but she says “When I watch a TV show I wouldn’t notice if someone was Muslim or wearing a hijab,” she continues. “It’s nice to be on a show where your skin colour or religion is incidental.”
While growing up in Luton, Hussain says, “I didn’t see that many Muslims on TV and we don’t see many now. But essentially I am a mother and that’s the job I know best.”
“For me, it’s important to instil in my children that they can do whatever they like, that no matter what their religion and colour, they can achieve what they want through hard work,” adds Hussain, echoing her empowering closing speech in the final where she vowed to never doubt herself again. “And it’s nice to be able to do the same for a wider audience. If I have – amazing.”
When asked how she feels about The Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell’s comments that contestant Flora would have been in a better chance of winning if “she’d made a chocolate mosque,” Hussain says:
“I don’t know. It’s all very…It’s just so negative isn’t it? For me, the experience is so much better if you don’t concentrate on negativity.”
“If anything, putting people of different cultures in the tent is the reason why they had amazing bakes this year,” she says.
Images: Rex Features, Facebook/The Great British Bake Off