During the day, 32-year-old Neda is a dedicated nurse practitioner in North Hollywood, California. But once she’s home at 6pm, she is a serious athlete dedicated to the art of pole. She just happens to be a Muslim woman who wears the hijab.
In just one year, Neda’s Instagram page (@hijabiluscious) gained more than 10K followers. On her page, Neda’s bio reads “Pole is for everyone.” She constantly updates her feed with photos and videos of her progress on the pole in her living room.
Muslim Girl sat down with the pole enthusiast to ask her all about how she found pole, how she handles negative opinions online, and how pole has changed her life.
Muslim Girl: How did you get started with pole?
Neda: I’m a competitive swimmer. It’s what I’ve been doing for years. I used to compete and train all the time. Then one day after training for a really intense race, I just wanted to take a break from swimming. I figured I’d try something new, so I looked at a class pass I had and saw a free trial at a pole studio. And I was just like, you know what? I want to go learn how to do some hoe shit.
I went into it thinking it was going to be a joke, or that people would have a good laugh seeing me on a pole. I was so prepared for everyone in the class to look at me weirdly. But that didn’t happen. It was a circle of all women, and everyone was just so welcoming. I didn’t feel awkward at all. It was such a body positive environment. I’ve been practicing ever since. I even had a silicone pole installed in my house.
How have you dealt with backlash from people who see pole as a contradiction to the hijab?
I started wearing the hijab when I was 21, and I got a lot of backlash for that. I started doing pole a year ago, and got backlash for that. So I just figured that a Muslim woman is going to get backlash no matter what she does. The internet can really create a hostile environment for women, Muslim women especially. Even though I respect exotic dance, I don’t feel like anything I’m doing is sexual or in contradiction with my hijab. I’m just trying to get a workout in, and do some acrobatic shit in my own home.
What have you come to love most about pole?
Pole is challenging me in a way that I had never felt before. It feels like extreme yoga. You have to have a lot of awareness of how your body moves, and pole is really helping me learn that. It’s hard, but it’s teaching me how capable my body is and that if I just listen to it and be patient with it, it can do some really incredible stuff.
The progress is really addicting, too. It’s so cool to learn how to be upside down in your own house and do splits in the air. And my Instagram lets me track my progress, so I just love being able to see how I improve.
Do you have a message for your Muslim women followers?
We associate a lot of bodily autonomy in women as it relates to relationships and sexuality. And while that’s very important, there are ways of grasping that bodily autonomy in a non-sexual way as well. So if you find something that does that for you — like pole — go for it, even if people don’t approve. But I don’t really post or do pole for a bigger message. If you like my journey, then I’m happy to share it with you. But I do this for me first.