August 31, 2020 Faith Matters

Nadiya Hussain: Why I’m scared of calling out racism

Nadiya Hussain says she has experienced more racism in the last five years than in her entire life and is “scared” to call it out.

The Great British Bake Off winner worries that her TV work will dry up if she is seen to be “complaining” about anything.

Hussain, 35, who is back on screen with BBC show Nadiya Bakes, told Radio Times magazine she had encountered “racism throughout my life…

“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.

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

“When I did this show I looked around and I thought, ‘Wow, there’s literally just me and the home economist, who’s Korean’.”

Speaking out is hard “because 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 said.

“The times that I have called it out, I’ve met with some serious negativity.”

She called for more diversity in TV and publishing but said the situation had improved, adding that “now people say to me, ‘My daughter wants to do exactly what you’re doing’, and that is a lovely thing to hear”.

Hussain recounted the time she posted a Cornish pasty recipe on social media, replacing traditional swede with apple.

“I got so much abuse… What I constantly read was, ‘What gives you the right to make a Cornish pasty?’ And that really affected me,” she said.

“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’.

“There’s definitely a sense that I should be grateful for what I do. I’ve had to learn to have a thicker skin over the last few years, but I’ve also learnt that it’s really important to voice things and not just hold back.”

Hussain says her mum still works six days a week, doing 12-hour shifts in a factory where she cleans hospital linen.

“I’m proud of what she does and the fact that she is one of the people keeping this country going,” the cookbook author and presenter said.

And the mother-of-three has not moved to a bigger house since finding fame because “I can’t see the value in constantly upgrading everything”.

Hussain recently told how she found lockdown difficult and had “struggled” to get out of bed.

She told the magazine that “lockdown caused a massive decline in my mental health” but she also has “really good days”.

“We know lots of people who have been diagnosed with Covid. We also know people who are not following the rules, so there’s this constant anxiety, which has been really tough,” she said.

“I have really big down days where it dawns on me that we could get to the end.