Nadiya Hussain has achieved what most cooks could only dream of doing in a lifetime. She has won The Great British Bake Off, fronted four of her own cookery series and written six books.
And at the same time over the past few years, Nadiya, 35, has also been bringing up her three children, Musa, 14, Dawud, 13, and Maryam, 10, ably assisted by her husband Abdal.
She could be precious about juggling motherhood with a full-time career on telly but instead she remains humble, taking it all in her stride.
Smiling, she says, ‘It’s really funny because my eldest son just assumes that everyone knows what I do. But my second son says, ‘You did Bake Off years ago, right? So why are you still famous?’
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‘Someone asked my eldest what his parents did – and he didn’t know what to say. He went red, looked up at me and said, “She lives her dreams”.’
Nadiya, a the self-confessed ‘rebel child,’ plans to carry on living her dreams despite the reservations expressed by some of her male relatives.
She confesses, ‘There probably is some resentment from my wider family because I’ve gone from having no career to being very successful. I shouldn’t be shy to say I’ve been very successful.
Nadiya has detailed her upbringing in her starkly candid autobiography, Finding My Voice. (opens in new tab) It charts the her rise to stardom from her humble beginnings in Luton as one of six children to Bangladeshi immigrants, all the way to clinching The Great British Bake Off (opens in new tab) trophy in 2015.
As the daughter of religiously conservative parents, Nadiya wasn’t allowed to go to university. Instead, she started her degree through The Open University, while pregnant with Maryam.
She married Abdal when she was 20, as part of an arranged marriage, and in December 2018 the pair renewed their vows (opens in new tab) – this time on their own terms.
The autobiography, or ‘memoir’, as Nadiya refers to it, deals with a shocking incident of sexual abuse, racial bullying and even the suicidal thoughts she experienced (opens in new tab) as a result.
Nadiya says, ‘There are lots of things I wrote about that I made peace with by writing this book.
‘But I think when you carry things your whole life, they shape who you are. I’ve gone from sharing memories I’ve only shared with my husband to sharing with everyone.’
She adds, ‘This book has been therapy for me, it’s been wonderful writing it. My husband doesn’t really read books and when he read it, he said “Wow”. There were moments when he laughed, some where he cried and moments that were quite difficult.
‘I’m really open about the sexual abuse and suicide in there – it is my truth.’
But while there are traumatic memories in Nadiya’s book, she also lifts the tone by adding plenty of inspiring recipes and mouth-watering dishes sprinkled throughout.
And Nadiya credits her dad, who used to cook with grass from the family garden, for her adventurous ideas when it comes to cooking.
She laughs, ‘I definitely get my experimental streak from him because he likes to muck around with things. My mum is very much a traditional cook, so I get a bit of both from them!’
Britain’s love affair with Nadiya doesn’t stop in the kitchen. Her courage to discuss her battle with anxiety in the documentary, Nadiya: Anxiety and Me, last year sparked lots of discussion and has helped towards changing the stigma around the condition.
But her honesty, warmth and fame hasn’t always been easy for her parents.
Nadiya says, ‘My mum says “Are you done now? Are you finished? When is this over?” I’m like “Mum, it’s been over four years, I’m not on a jolly!”’
And with a giggle, she finishes, ‘Well, I kind of am because I’m having loads of fun doing it!’
Jack White is Celebrity Content Director at Future, working across Women's Lifestyle brands such as Woman&Home, Woman, Woman's Own, Women's Weekly and GoodtoKnow. When he's not interviewing your favourite stars or writing about the latest make-up/break up, you'll find Jack searching for new Gemma Collins memes, singing (badly) in the office or binge-watching crime dramas.
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