Nov 17, 2021 · 13 min read
My hope is to help women and girls who are stuck in a similar situation like mine, with limited resources, to get out and start a new life away from abuse and violence. I would love to be able to help them to see their potential, to see there is a better life waiting for them after they leave their abusive environment and what is waiting for them on the other side is far better than their current situation. I like to encourage women to stand up for their rights, to expect better for themselves, and to stop thinking their suffering is a life sentence.
Asa part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Naz Meknat.
Naz Meknat, born in Tehran, Iran is a Los Angeles-based fashion stylist and author who has been working in the fashion industry since 2005 with a degree in Fashion from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. As a celebrity stylist, she has worked with celebrities such as Sterling K. Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Nyambi Nyambi, Camilla Luddington, Jeannie Mai, and Tara Reid to name a few. She has also worked on countless editorial photo shoots and ad campaigns. Her work can be seen in publications such as Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
In May of 2014 Naz was featured in People Magazine for her beauty, style, and unique story.
On August 26th, 2021 her first book, 7000 Miles to Freedom, a memoir, will be released. 7000 Miles to Freedom is a story of survivorship and triumph, a story about persistence and resilience.
Naz is an advocate for Women’s rights and works tirelessly to bring more awareness to Sexual and Domestic violence against women. She actively volunteers in her community serving as a member of non-profit organizations such as Women Helping Women, Live Your Dream, Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, and Out of the Closet.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Igrew up in Tehran, Iran under an Islamic extremist regime while the country was going through a brutal war that lasted for 8 years. I grew up getting used to running for shelter when sirens went off in the city because bombs and rockets were facing on our homes and in our neighborhoods and at the same time try not to get arrested by the morality, religious police if a strand of our hair showed from under the hijab or if we had some makeup on.
I tried to distract myself from the harsh environment we were living in by playing my favorite sport soccer until I hit puberty and that was not allowed for girls anymore, then I drowned myself in exploring art. I loved poetry, painting, fashion music, and everything film and cinema.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or change your life? Can you share a story about that?
I was always inspired by the beautiful poems by Persian poets, old and new. Rumi, Hafiz and Sohrab Sepehri to name a few. Reading these amazing books of poetry introduced me to Philosophy, taught me storytelling, and encouraged me to look at life and its meaning on a deeper level at a young age. It also taught me and perhaps millions of other Iranians to never forget our heritage and culture, remember who we are at our core, remember our great Persian civilization and the force Iran was once, and keep going and keep living even under the dictatorship that took over our country in 1978 after the Islamic revolution take over. Those books were my escape from the crazy reality we were living in. I didn’t study Quaran as the government was forcing us to, instead I buried myself in those incredible poetry books. I wanted to learn my life lessons from these philosophers and great thinkers. They were my greatest teachers.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
I am a Celebrity Wardrobe Stylist and one of the most terrifying errors of my career happened when I got my first break working with a big celebrity and it happened to be my first project with this actor for a very prestigious Award ceremony. I had been working to get my client looking sharp and flawless for this event for months. Numerous fittings and trips to fashion houses and tailors later the day of the big event, after getting him ready I ran home to watch the Red Carpet arrivals while it was being aired live on TV. When he arrived and was posing on the carpet for the photographers I noticed that one side of his bowtie has collapsed. I panicked and started calling and texting anyone I know would be on the carpet and close by and no one would answer. I eventually got a hold of my client himself and told him what was happening. Surprisingly no one had noticed or had said anything. Maybe they thought it’s the new trend..His team tried to get the sleepy side of the bowtie up long enough till he got on stage to accept his award and then he took it off. However, those pictures on the carpet had already made it to most media outlets and were published everywhere and on the internet. I thought I would be for sure fired after that mishap but we all had a good laugh and from that moment on I paid extra attention to the bowtie shapes and fabrics to avoid a disaster like that. I definitely learned my lesson and now, I triple-check everything before my clients’ departure for an event.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
My hope is to help women and girls who are stuck in a similar situation like mine, with limited resources, to get out and start a new life away from abuse and violence. I would love to be able to help them to see their potential, to see there is a better life waiting for them after they leave their abusive environment and what is waiting for them on the other side is far better than their current situation. I like to encourage women to stand up for their rights, to expect better for themselves, and to stop thinking their suffering is a life sentence. I want them to know, if they speak out and ask for help, there is always someone who is willing to lend a helping hand but you have to take the first step. I would like women to see themselves as strong survivors who are capable and deserving to live their dreams and to take their control back and live life on their own terms, not as helpless victims. I like young women to see the red flags, be aware of their partner’s behavior, recognize an abuser and abusive and unhealthy environment and leave. It is not your responsibility to save an abuser, but it is your responsibility to save yourself.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
I think the most interesting part is the incident where my Mom took me to a barber and shaved all my hair off when I was 5 years old in hopes of thicker and stronger hair to grow back and how I took advantage of the situation to pretend I was a boy and work my way in an all-boys soccer team that played in the neighborhood streets every day. It was my dream to be free like these boys, to play soccer on the street, and not to be limited to staying in and playing with dolls all day. I wanted to feel the freedom the boys had, so instead of staying inside and feeling embarrassed by my bald head, I took the opportunity to make my 5-year-old dream happen.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
I have been asked to write my story and to write a book for a few years but I wanted to protect my privacy and keep my past to myself. I just wanted to be known for my styling work and not my past experiences. However, when the “ME TOO” movement happened and I saw how many brave women came forward and spoke about their own terrifying experiences, I felt a responsibility to share my own journey. In a moment of doubt, I was told by a friend, “ This is bigger than you and your image, this is a responsibility. If just one young girl is stuck in the same situation reads your story and decides to leave an abusive relationship to save herself, or have the strength to go on despite living under a tyrant government with no rights for girls and women, you have done your job”. That was it for me, I knew I had to let go of my fears and it was time to be real, vulnerable, and speak my truth. With recent events in Afghanistan and the horror women have to face each day in that country, I hope that my story can shine some light on how life is for girls and women in that part of the world.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I have two nieces, both incredible, smart, successful young women. For me, it was very important to be a good role model for them. Let them hear my story and not only learn from my mistakes but more importantly know you can change your circumstances no matter what the situation. I wanted them to recognize their privilege of being born and raised in the United States and therefore all the resources and freedom they have, to be and to do as they wish. I wanted them to see strength, independence, bravery in standing up for yourself and others, fighting for your rights, and getting back up each time you fall, is far greater than living your life in silence and trying not to rock the boat. I wanted them to see fearless and be fearless, be bold, be loud and be authentic. These days I am trying to be as transparent and real as I can be in telling my story and sharing my journey with my followers and even though I don’t know many of them personally, I know I am making an impact from the messages I receive and that’s a good enough sign for me to know I am on the right path and by me sharing my truth, speak out and stand up for what’s right I am doing my part. I not only share my triumphs, but I also dare my failures and struggles as well. That is how we connect to each other as human beings, not everything is always peachy but as long as we proceed with kindness and compassion we will come on top.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
There have to be more laws protecting women from Violence and from losing their basic rights. Although we see progress in some states, we are going backward in other states like Texas. We can’t afford to let this regression happen. We have been fighting for women’s rights for way too long to let our basic human rights be taken away from us. There have to be more strict and concrete laws in place to protect women and their rights. Also, gun violence is a big problem in this country. It’s not ok that we are losing children in schools, in theaters, innocent people getting killed at their workplaces. In domestic violence cases, nearly one in four women and one in seven men experience physical violence and firearms contribute significantly to the killing of domestic partners. Nearly one million women have been shot by their intimate partners. This is unacceptable. We have to do better and make stricter laws around gun control.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is having a social influence, The ability that an individual has in influencing and guiding people. A leader has to have the right intention and motivation. Leadership is a tremendous social responsibility. A leader has to be inspiring and motivating, take charge, and have the best interest of his or her followers. A leader sets directions and has a vision for improvement and a road map on how to get there. I don’t want to get too political but in recent years we have witnessed firsthand the perfect example of a flawed leader. Disrespecting women and disabled citizens, spreading wrong information, and misleading the public is not what a true leader does. We can all learn from some of the great leaders of all time like Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Alexander the Great, and Abraham Lincoln how to be a decent leader.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1- Persistent pays… Don’t give up, it will eventually pay off. This goes for everything in life. If I wasn’t persistent and stubborn about my goals I would have never made it here. However earlier in my life and in my career when I was younger and just starting I did give up on some important things that I wish I didn’t. I wish someone would have pushed me harder and encouraged
Me to keep going.
2-Hard times don’t last forever. Ride the wave and don’t get too down on yourself. I expect a lot and can be hard on myself sometimes, so in the past when things didn’t go the way I anticipated or expected, I wasted my time dwelling on it for days or weeks, It was difficult to picture that it would not matter in a year. I expected perfection and anything less would affect me greatly. If I knew better I wouldn’t have wasted precious time questioning everything and moved on quicker.
3-DO YOU. It doesn’t matter what others think. For every critic, there are many more supporters out there. The image you are trying so hard to protect won’t matter, the right people respond to authenticity, not perfection. Unfortunately in my younger years, I was too caught up fitting in, saying the right thing, looking a certain way, be who others wanted me to be. Living and working in Los Angeles and especially in the entertainment business puts a lot of pressure on people, especially women to fit the mold and to be a certain way. These days I feel free being exactly who I am and it’s definitely appreciated and respected more by people than trying to be who I thought I needed to be accepted and to fit in the community.
4-What’s the worse that can happen? Go for it and if it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world. Try again. I was so afraid to fail when I was younger. In anything, relationships, career and life in general. I wish I had taken more chances and knew back then what I know now, as long as you are alive, you can start again.
5-Change is not always bad. Be open to the possibilities. Your work doesn’t define you. My identity was tied to my work and my career for a very long time. I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t a celebrity stylist and if I wasn’t constantly creating and working on different projects. When the pandemic hit, we were all stripped away from our titles and like everyone else I had a lot of time reflecting, I dug deep and after my book was published and I started receiving all the kind comments, all the support, and nice messages that people were relating to my story and it was helping them cope with their own trauma, I knew my work and my title had nothing to do with who I really am. I am much more than my job, my skills, and my career and that goes for everyone.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are many great, life-changing quotes out there. I am still learning every day, how to live a better life and how to be a better person and useful to society. But one of my favorite quotes is by Rabbi Hillel “ IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF, WHO IS FOR ME? AND IF I AM ONLY FOR MYSELF, WHAT AM I? AND IF NOT NOW THEN WHEN?”
What I’ve learned from this quote is, You have to be your own advocate, your own cheerleader and at the same time look out for your fellow human beings. Help where you can help, be light when someone needs a glimmer of hope, be kind, everyone is fighting a battle of their own. That is why I decided to share my story and become an advocate for girls and women, for our right to live a fearless, purposeful life, and to help each other along the way. We all have a unique impulse for effort, that is our purpose in life, that is what I found after writing my book and digging deep into who I am and what I want my legacy to be.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
There are two amazing, strong women I would be honored to meet and have a conversation with. One is Michelle Obama, her class, grace, and strength are mesmerizing. I would love to chat with her and understand where she gets her poise and patience under the most difficult public situations. And the second one is Malala Yousafzai, this brave young soul who endured one of the most unthinkable acts of violence against her by the Taliban when she was only 15 years old inspires me every day. Instead of taking the role of a victim, this young girl has been an activist and a loud voice in the world for girls and their rights to go to school and get an education. She is a true role model and a hero.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I am most active on Instagram @naz_meknat and also my website is www.nazmeknat.com
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!