All hail GBBO star, queen and general lovely lady, Nadiya. (Full name: Nadiya Hussain, but she really needs no surname a la Beyoncé.) She’s adored for both her sweet cakes and sweet nature and may have just accidentally become the dream poster girl for religious and cultural tolerance in the UK. Casual.
Now as the beloved winner of the most watched TV show of the year, 14 million people tuned in to see Nadiya crowned top dog of the infamous Mel and Sue-manned tent, it feels crazy to think she’d previously worried that people wouldn’t see past her headscarf. She now says it feels “invisible…I am me, the baker.”
We all should get a little excited that the nation’s newest sweetheart just happens to be a Muslim who just happens to wear a headscarf. Women observing their faith in this way have previously been linked to a lack of self-expression and voice, Nadiya has challenged this in so many ways, not least by her witty asides to Paul Hollywood. Her sassy response to the male judge’s “Happy, Nadiya?” enquiry was truly something legendary, cue “…Happy, Paul?” and need I mention that our star baker is potentially in possession of the most expressive and engaging face of all time (Google ‘Nadiya facial expressions’ and wave goodbye to the rest of your afternoon.)
Of course it would be wrong to look at our recently crowned greatest, British baker through religion-tinted lenses but equally, given the horrors of recent images and headlines depicting a twisted extremist Islamic ideology, we’ve never been in greater need of a role model (who can make a bloody good cream horn I might add) in the public sphere. This goes for both British Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
I recently attended a talk given by the BBC’s head of Religion and Ethics, Aaqil Ahmed. He prophesied (we were probably in week 3ish of GBBO then) the effect Nadiya would have, or would have the potential to have, on community cohesion, religious literacy and cultural understanding. What’s most special about Nadiya’s new status and corresponding fan club is that it hasn’t come about by way of a politically astute documentary, but rather by a natural talent, passion and flare – happily involving no less than 95kg of butter. Her success is impeccably well timed too, I’m thinking of references to a ‘swarm’ of refugees (aka human beings) and surely there is no need to mention Theresa May’s speech.
Nadiya’s final showstopper was decorated with a sari the colours of the Union Jack. That, right there, says it all. (Oh, and the cake itself was a lemon drizzle. #keyinfo #sweettooth).
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