Noor Tagouri is on fire. At the young age of 21, this successful journalist and motivational speaker has already been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network and given a TED Talk.
In 2012, she launched a viral #letnoorshine campaign encouraging herself and others to fearlessly pursue their passion. Nearing almost 200K social media followers, Noor’s work has gained international attention and she is widely known for wanting to become the first hijabi anchorwoman on American television. But, what are her thoughts on this matter?
The Muslim Observer sat down with Noor to get the inside scoop about her profession, plans for the future and love of firebending.
What inspired you to be a journalist?
I have always wanted to be a journalist because of my passion for storytelling and asking questions from when I was like 8-years-old. I always, always, always had this fiery passion for telling stories and asking questions. When I [thought] how can I continue doing this, I realized that journalism is the career path.
What do you like most about your profession as a journalist and motivational speaker?
I love connecting with people and being able to share different perspectives of peoples lives. I think when you’re in this profession and you meet people from all different backgrounds, you really learn that you cannot judge anyone by just what you see. Everybody has a story and everybody can be inspired by each other’s story.
Also, it’s a field where you go to work and never know what the day is going to be like because there is a different story every single day. No two days are the same, so you’re always on your toes, you’re always excited. It makes me really, really, really love it.
What do you like least?
Sometimes the hours you have to work and sometimes the negative people you have to come across… I’ve worked shifts that are from 1 AM to 9 AM. I’m not really a big fan of that but if you’re doing journalism you have to be willing to work any hour all the time, it’s what it entails.
How has hijab influenced your career?
I would say it allows me to bring a perspective of whatever newsroom I go into. I’m a general assignment reporter for a television station so I do whatever regular story that is going on in the local community but I’m able to give a cultural perspective…I think the hijab allows you to be that ‘go-to’ person when need be when it comes to reporting stories with a different perspective.
How was your experience on the Oprah Winfrey Network and giving a TED Talk?
Those were two of my just WOW moments. Those were dreams come true. The Oprah thing was something I was so excited about…I can’t even explain. I was watching the “Who Am I?” series anyway and I looked up some of the people on there and to be on there myself was absolutely an honor and TED Talks, I’ve always said it’s been my dream to give a TED Talk. So when I was invited for that it was something that was just on another level. It was a really crazy experience. I’ve never been so nervous about speaking in front of a crowd because it’s something people expect to be super inspired by. It was such an incredible moment and experience and I’m so grateful for it.
Has life changed after those experiences?
Yeah, in the sense that those experiences have been growth points. I have different growth points and opportunities that have come along where I’m growing as a person and opportunities kind of stem from it. Whenever you get these big opportunities, more opportunities come, or more contacts come, or you network more. It’s been really, really great.
How would you describe your endeavor to become the first hijabi anchorwoman on American television?
So, I always try to steer clear of just saying ‘the first hijabi anchorwoman on commercial television.’ That isn’t the pure motivation behind it. It’s just the fact that it hasn’t happened so I’m like, if it hasn’t happened, then I’m gonna make it happen.
Describe in one word your experience in trying to make that dream come true?
Driven. Since I was a young teenager and decided to wear hijab and chose this career path with it, I’ve been extremely driven and it’s been flourishing.
Who would you say is your biggest supporter?
My family, of course.
Do you live with your family in D.C.?
What has been the hardest challenge you’ve ever had to overcome?
Right now the hardest challenge is balancing between traveling and speaking and making sure that I’m working …I’m always so busy. That’s been the biggest one.
If there was one thing that you could go back and change, what would it be?
I honestly wouldn’t change anything. I know that sounds really cliché I guess but I honestly wouldn’t change anything. I know everything happened for a reason and I’m grateful for every experience.
What’s been your craziest reporting experience?
There’s two memorable ones I’ve had. One was a while ago and one was recently.
One was when I was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee reporting the mosque controversy and the opponents to the mosque were there and they ended up harassing me a lot and I got it all on camera. That was one crazy experience.
The other one was a really positive experience and it was about the recent Baltimore riots. I was covering the story …and all of the news trucks were out where the city hall was. No one was actually in the streets anymore.
[After finishing] we went back to the car and this guy walked past us and he was smiling really big and I said ‘What’s going on?’. He said, ‘Just go down a couple of blocks and you’ll see one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.’ And so we walked down and this was about two days after what had just happened. Everybody was out of there houses dancing and wearing shirts that said ‘We Bleed Baltimore.’
There was a Michael Jackson impersonator that had music blasting. He was dancing and he was making everyone else dance and sing and one of the guys that I interviewed said ‘I don’t know if something good must have just happened because we’re all out and we all feel good.’ The next day was when the district attorney pressed charges on the officers. On top of that there were no other news outlets out there except for Voice of America so it was really, really, really cool seeing that side.
Who are your heroes in terms of your career?
Two people that I always mention are Oprah and Lisa Ling.
What do you have in store for the future?
I used to be able to answer this question very easily but now I’m very hesitant to just because I really don’t know. I want to continue telling stories and whatever medium that ends up being in then that’s what it will be in. But I have no idea how my path is going to be created. Ideally I’d like to continue capturing cultures and sub-cultures and still be able to travel and find more personal stories and more features that I can use to highlight what people are going through, living like and how they are so everyone can learn to understand each other a little bit better.
Why would you consider yourself a FireBender?
[Laughs] Any of my friends that watches Avatar considers me a FireBender because of my personality. I’m very fiery, very passionate and I don’t want to sound like I’m using it in a negative connotation but I get heated. Not on a bad way, but when I get very passionate about something I put 100% in it. And, I don’t know, I really like fire, I have a fascination of it.
If there is one thing you could tell the world, what would it be?
That everything you want is just outside your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to push yourself and do great things.