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Athlete and face of Nike Pro Hijab
Q&A with Zahra Lari
The second in a series of three interviews, the Design Museum speaks to elite athlete, Zahra Lari about how Beazley Design of the Year Fashion nominee, the Nike Pro Hijab, has impacted on her career.
You are the UAE’s first figure skater and first international skater to compete with the hijab. Were you nervous about being the first to break that glass ceiling? How did you face your obstacles?
Actually when I went to my first competition I didn’t realise that I was different because I was covered. I was young and didn’t worry about it at all. After my first competition I got all the media attention and that's when it hit me that I made history. I did get a deduction because I was covered but that was only because they never saw a covered figure skater before. I had to have meetings and show them what I was wearing and now I never get any deductions for wearing the hijab.
How does the Nike Pro Hijab help you perform better in your sport, and what limitations did you face before with other traditional hijabs?
The Nike Pro Hijab is amazing! It is very breathable and I don’t get hot wearing it while training. I really like how it looks. It’s very sporty.
Do you think the Nike Pro Hijab helps to diversify what it means to be an athlete?
Definitely. I was very happy when Nike first told me the news and I also helped with choosing the materials. It will really encourage a lot of Muslim girls to be active and do what they love without the idea of being covered effect them or their performance. I get so many messages on social media of girls saying they cant wait to buy it and start doing the sport they love. It makes me very happy.
What are the current challenges you have faced as a Muslim woman in sport?
All athletes have some challenges, that's normal. For me the main thing is to keep pushing myself, ignore the negativity and just focus on my goals.
In the current political climate, do you think the Nike Pro Hijab has helped elevate sport in a marginalised community and reaffirm inclusivity, or is there still a long way to go?
I think the Nike Pro Hijab has helped to bring awareness and inclusivity to sport in general. It is wonderful to have such a great brand supporting and assisting all women in sport. It’s a great product and they have put a lot into its development, fit, material and style.
You grew up in the very hot climate of Abu Dhabi, where outdoor sports are practically impossible in the heat. What inspired you take up such a niche sport?
That’s exactly why I chose a winter sport! Alongside loving how powerful and elegant it is, I started after watching a skating movie called “Ice Princess” and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s a very unique sport here in the UAE and I love it.
Tell us about your next challenge and what you will be training for next?
I just came back from a competition in Zagreb, Croatia where I got my personal best score in the short program. My next competition will be in Innsbruck, Austria followed by FBMA Trophy and National championships, which will be held at my home rink. I’m just trying to do as many competitions as possible to gain experience, beat my personal scores and try to qualify for Four Continents and World Championships.
What’s your ultimate goal?
My ultimate goal is to go to the Winter Olympics and become the first ever UAE athlete to compete there!
Do you have any empowering advice for young girls and women who are interested in getting involved in sports?
Believe in yourself, never give up, and surround yourself with a positive and good team. There will always be someone who will criticise you and try to bring you down but you just have to ignore them and prove them wrong. Just Do It!