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“Middle-aged, Caucasian, male”: Nadiya Hussain describes her struggle to belong in the world of TV

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Anna Brech
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Nadiya Hussain

The Great British Bake Off winner and TV chef Nadiya Hussain says she sometimes struggles to feel like she belongs in the world of TV – and she also feels scared to call out the racism she encounters.  

Nadiya Hussain has described how she’s struggled to feel like she belongs in an industry characterised by a glaring lack of diversity

In a new round of interviews to promote her upcoming BBC 2 show Nadiya Bakes, the 2015 champion of The Great British Bake Off says that there have been moments during her career as a chef and TV host when she feels that she does not belong. 

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“I now work in an industry that’s very much middle-aged, Caucasian, male, and there I am – a five foot one Muslim brown girl, and it’s not my world,” Hussain tells the Radio Times magazine.      

“We have to question why there aren’t more people of colour working in television, publishing, the hospitality industry.”

Mary Berry with GBBO's Nadiya Hussain
Nadiya Hussain, pictured here with Mary Berry, says there are moments when she's struggled to belong in the TV industry

Hussain also acknowledges that racism is an issue she finds difficult to talk about, because she’s worried about jeopardising her career. 

“If I ever feel like I’m complaining about anything, I have this god-awful fear that nobody will want to work with me ever again. So I’m really scared,” she explains. 

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Hussain chose to start wearing the hijab aged 14, and her star turn on Bake Off  is credited with raising the visibility of women in headscarves on TV.

However having a high profile has come at a cost for the Muslim baking presenter, who explains: “I’ve definitely experienced more racism in the last five years than I have in my whole life.

“People get away with being racist and if you say, ‘Well, that was racist’, then it’s ‘Take it on the chin’ or ‘Oh, she’s got a chip on her shoulder’.”

Despite sometimes thinking “it’s not where I belong”, Hussain is determined to carve out a space for herself in the TV industry. And she says the situation is improving in some ways, too: “Now people say to me, ‘My daughter wants to do exactly what you’re doing’, and that is a lovely thing to hear”.

“I haven’t always thought there’s space for me,” Hussain, who is second generation British Bangladeshi, tells The Mirror in a separate interview this week. “But I tell myself and my kids, ‘Keep your elbows out’. My grandad started it when he moved to the UK from Bangladesh and was beaten by racists. If he’d given up and gone back home, we wouldn’t be here today. This is why I say it’s more than just about baking for me, it’s about finding a place for me in this industry.”

Hussain will be fronting two new cookery shows for the BBC in the coming months: Nadiya Bakes (out on September 8 on BBC2, trailer above) and Nadiya’s American Melting Pot, which sees the chef travel to California and Louisiana to find out how generations of migrants are changing the national menu.

Read the full interview with Nadiya in the Radio Times magazine, out now.

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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