Nadiya Hussain, widely known for winning the sixth season of The Great British Bake Off, is a TV Chef, Author and Television Presenter. 

Nadiya worked towards tackling childhood anxiety within her book My Monster and Me. The book itself provides the tools that parents and children need to openly discuss childhood worries and anxiety. The book tries to ensure that no child suffers alone or in silence, something that Nadiya is extremely passionate about. 

The finale of the sixth series of The Great British Bake Off was the most-watched show of 2015, (amassing over 15 million viewers). This was partly due to the popularity of Nadiya and her ability to showcase cultural diversity; especially within the Muslim community-something that hadn’t been seen before on the show.

During this time, Nadiya’s appearance helped to take a crucial step towards shifting the challenges that the British Muslim community faced such as Islamophobia, being treated as a criminal, or worse a terrorist. The implications sometimes push the British Muslim community into hiding due to fear of discrimination.

During her acceptance speech after winning the sixth season Nadiya stated: 

“I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again.”

This perfectly showcased her desire to never be categorised or stereotyped again. Nadiya had proven herself in front of millions and as she was soon to discover…it was only the start of her journey.


From the beginning

Nadiya was born and raised in Luton, Bedfordshire alongside her three sisters and two brothers. Nadiya is a second-generation British Bangladeshi, her father who is from Beanibazar was a chef and owned an Indian restaurant. Nadiya grew up eating and making her cultures’ dishes. Nadiya was following in her father’s footsteps.

When she was 14, Nadiya began wearing a hijab to cover up a bad hair- cute, caused by her father. However, during her teenage years, Nadiya was diagnosed with panic disorder and for treatment underwent cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT); CBT is a therapeutic treatment to try and change initial behaviours to certain stimulants.

During a Sport Relief film Nadiya discussed her difficulties with mental health, Nadiya herself suffers from panic attacks. During the interview she stated “I’m happy one day, then sad the next”, she wanted to fight outdated stereotypes of mental health that had been in British culture for decades. 

At the young age of 20, Nadiya married Abdal Hussain, a man she had only met once, their marriage was arranged, and the ceremony was performed in Bangladesh. Discussing her struggles she stated “It’s tough – you are pretty much marrying a complete stranger…. We had to live through the good and the bad, and have come out the other side.”

 Ironically, Nadiya was not taught to bake, her innate talent for cooking appeared later in life, shaping her into the chef we know today.  Nadiya’s basic cooking skills were taught to her during school and from then on she taught herself to cook through recipe books and watching videos on YouTube. Nadiya’s mother never baked and only used the oven as a storage space.


Determination and Resolution

A key concept that Nadiya learned was to never give up, her resilience to learn and practice is what enabled her to be the successful Muslim woman that she is today. Understanding that she was not going to be given opportunities if she did not put in the effort allowed her to become a role model for young Muslim/Non-Muslim girls across the country- inspiring people everywhere she went.

During her time on The Great British Bake Off, Nadiya was a full-time mum living with her husband (an IT Specialist) and three kids; her two sons, Musa and Dawud, as well as her daughter, Maryam in Leeds. At this time Nadiya was studying for a degree in Childhood and Youth Studies through Open University

After winning Bake Off, Nadiya and her family moved to Milton Keynes to be closer to London allowing her to pursue a career within the culinary sector. 


The Aftermath

Nadiya became a presenter of The Chronicles of Nadiya, a two part travelogue which debuted after her appearance and victory on The Great British Bake Off. 

The opportunity of the two-part food travelogue allowed Nadiya to travel to Bangladesh to retrace the foundation of her culinary roots. This included visiting her paternal grandfather’s village located in the northeast of Bangladesh, Sylhet. 

The two-part food travelogue showed Nadiya’s humble side and proved that even with a camera crew present she would not forget her roots. This perfectly illustrates that people can be successful both on and off screen, without becoming egotistical or selfish. 

The series was nominated at the 2017 National Television Awards, which supported the amazing success of that year’s Great British Bake Off.


Charity work and Becoming an Ambassador

Nadiya is an ambassador for Starlight Children’s Foundation, The foundation supports the lives of seriously ill children. The Foundation is contacted by hospital staff when children are going to have major surgery and provide them ‘distraction boxes’ to ensure they are not worrying before the surgery. Nadiya is also an ambassador for WaterAid. WaterAid’s main goal is to promote people’s rights and access to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation. 

To show her support for Armistice Day, Nadiya wore a ‘poppy headscarf’ this was to not only show support for the soldiers but to commemorate the number of Muslim soldiers who fought in the First World War. Nadiya also promoted the wearing of the poppy amongst British Muslims- something that she was very passionate about.

Nadiya has continuously proven that nothing would restrain her and nothing would alter her motivation-this can be seen in her decisions not only in her career but in supporting foundations, such as her advocacy for helping under-developed countries. 

In 2018, Nadiya became an ambassador for Swarovski, which created a campaign focusing on female empowerment; which spoke to Nadiya as part of an ethnic minority group. Female empowerment is key to ensuring a brighter future for all women, no matter their ethnicity, religion or social class. 

For Mental Health Day, Nadiya contributed a baking recipe for the YoungMinds mental health charity’s HelloYellow day.

The recipe is for Nadiya Hussain’s Lemon and Turmeric Oaties, this was part of her cookbook after her success on the Great British Bake Off.


Cultural Diversity Matters

Nadiya Hussain has shown that representing your culture and differences can lead to great success as a public figure. Showcasing the differences between cultures can lead to the acceptance of not just your own ability, culture and confidence, but it also supports thousands of young people who feel isolated and ostracized  due to their beliefs, appearance or abilities. 

Nadiya has begun a long process of breaking the mould that has been in place-the awful stereotypes that have been placed on Muslim women, preventing cultural diversity from being discussed and opening up the opportunities for those within minority ethnic communities. 

From Luton; to a bad haircut; to mental health problems; to an arranged marriage. Nadiya had every opportunity to quit and succumb to her struggles. Instead she decided to stand against judgement and discrimination. It is from that decision she overcame her struggles to be named as one of the 500 most influential people in the UK by Debrett’s in 2017, as well as this she was listed on the BBC News’ 100 Women list

Do not let setbacks define you. You can achieve anything when you set your mind to it and be confident in what you do.