Nadiya Hussain is one of the most famous television chefs in the UK. She has written seven best-selling cookery books and a memoir, hosted her own shows on BBC and Netflix, made a Christmas roulade with Kate Middleton and Prince William, and baked a 90th birthday cake for the Queen. In other words, she has achieved everything a cooking enthusiast could dream of. Yet she never thought that such a career was even possible for someone like her.
Nadiya was born in 1984 in England to a working class British Bangladeshi family. She was one of six children. In school, she was severely bullied for being “brown” and wearing a hijab. She would have panic attacks for decades afterwards. At the age of 20, Nadiya met Abdal Hussain through a traditional arranged marriage setup. Later they would fall in love, but at first, marrying a complete stranger was clearly hard. By 2015, Nadiya had three children and was a full-time mum.
As a way to battle Nadiya’s anxiety and encourage her love of baking, Abdal applied on her behalf for The Great British Bake Off, the most popular TV cooking competition in Britain. To Nadiya’s own surprise, she triumphantly won the show’s sixth series. She wowed the audience and the jury with her masterpiece cakes, buns, and desserts. The final was watched by 15 million people and became the most-watched TV programme of 2015 in the country.
Nadiya Hussain became a household name in Britain. She helped break the stereotypes surrounding Muslims and sparked a cultural shift in the country. When her victory on the Bake Off was announced, Nadiya said through tears: “I’m never ever gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never gonna say ‘maybe.’ I’m never gonna say ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can. And I will.” And she did.