Passionista: Noor Tagouri Talks Her Clothing Line & Combatting Sex Trafficking

Written by Yusra Siddiqui and Tahira Ayub
If you’re into following inspirational Muslim women on various social media platforms, you may have heard of Noor Tagouri.  Shes’s an inspiring young Muslim woman who is well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming the first hijabi newscaster on TV. In her free time, Noor sports a seriously impressive resume (and passport!) as she travels around the world speaking, vlogging, and motivating people to, as Gandhi said, “be the change.”

As a journalist and motivational speaker, Noor is no stranger to turning her words into a powerful story.

She also uses her huge social media presence as a platform to educate, speaking out against topics ranging from racism and mental illness to Islamophobia, and inspiring others to get involved in our communities and the issues we’re collectively facing.
As if all that wasn’t impressive enough, she’s also got a clothing line.
To Noor, working with CEO Adam Khafif and his line, Lis’n Up Clothing, seemed to be the perfect next step for her; this time, she decided she wanted to use this opportunity to shed light on one of her greatest passions–combatting sex trafficking.
As is the case with all collaborations that Lis’n Up initiates, half the profits from Noor’s line will be donated to an organization called Project Futures.
In a recent interview that Noor conducted, she and Rhiahne Ralph, the event manager at Project Futures, delved into the importance of the work that the Project Futures team does for women across the globe. In the interview, Ralph stresses the importance of education as the best preventative for sex trafficking.  She also sought to motivate, stressing that although sometimes we might feel that the effort we put into our work isn’t making a difference, finding something you’re passionate about is the first step to making change.
The more research we did on Noor’s clothing collab, the more we noticed the dedication and detail that was put into everything. Not only was each item picked for a purpose, but the colors, logos, and poems were all deliberately created to continue the story; to serve as a statement and a starting point for conversations to begin.  To learn more about the designs, and the motivation behind the collaboration, we went straight to the source, and spoke with Noor and Adam.
Muslim Girl:  Globally, society has a lot of issues.  What inspired you to focus on sex trafficking?
Noor: Sex trafficking has been something that I’ve been extremely passionate about ever since Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn wrote the book Half the Sky.  I was in high school at the time, and I had no idea that this kind of issue existed.  It shocked me that it wasn’t happening just in third world countries, but in our own backyard.  I started doing research, and taking it upon myself to do whatever I could to help.  I ended up taking a class on trafficking in the criminal justice department of my university, and started working with organizations dedicated to the cause.  This has always been close to my heart, and that is why I decided to do trafficking.
MG:  Since this is both a fundraiser and a clothing line, do you believe that fashion has enough of an impact to change the world?
Noor:  I think fashion in general is a huge part of identity, and art and culture regardless. But this line in particular has a hand in making a change, because profits do go towards charity.  When we were designing the line, we really wanted to combine my passion and my work in journalism to create a conversation starter, and a story that people can literally carry on their backs.
MG:  How did you react when you got the opportunity to raise money for a cause you’re passionate about by collaborating with Lis’n up Clothing?
Noor: He [Adam] mentioned working on a collab years back, but the offer came again at the perfect time, because I just released a documentary I was working on, and was taking some time off. It took a while, and we really worked hard on this collab and its designs.

Photo credit: Lis’n Up
Photo credit: Shab & Coop Photography

MG:  After reaching this level of success, and being where you are right now with this line, and so many other opportunities, what would you tell 17-year-old you?  Would she believe that you are now repping your own clothing line, and that it raises money to help prevent sex trafficking?
Noor:  Seventeen year old me…yes, I would believe this. I started college early because I knew what I wanted to do, but if you were to ask 14-year-old me, I think I would’ve told her that whatever it is that you want to do, stay true to yourself while doing it, and focus on embracing your own identity, and not caring what others think.

Whatever you set your mind to, you can truly get it done if you believe in it.

MG:  How did you go about choosing the designs for your line? Were there other creative helping hands involved? 
Adam:  Every night, it was mostly us; the Lis’n Up team.  We would show it to our parents, and others to ask them what they think, but it was mostly Noor and I coming up with ideas, and bouncing them off the team.
MG:  Where does your continuous motivation to keep inspiring and teaching others come from?  Tell us about the hashtag #LetNoorShine.  
Noor: The most honest answer I can give to that question is that I constantly remind myself that I want to be the person that I wish I had when I was 12 to 14 years old.
Everybody goes through identity problems, confidence problems, self-love problems; I need to remind myself that I need to be the person I wish I had when I was younger, because I know it would’ve helped me a lot if I had someone who was saying what I’m saying now.

Not only am I able to share with and help other people, but it’s therapeutic for me too, because it reminds me how far being genuine and staying true to yourself can take you.  It’s an ongoing battle, but if you surround yourself with positivity and like-minded people, so much healing is done, and people become who they need to become.

Photo credit: Shab & Coop Photography

MG:  There’s a message on the back of your shirts, and it really creates a huge emotional appeal. Did you write this yourself, and was it written specifically for this line?
Noor: Yes, I wrote it myself for the line. I used to do spoken word, and I hadn’t written a poem in a while. My best poems always came about in random times, and one night I couldn’t sleep; it was 3AM and it just hit me, and we were good.

Photo credit: Lis’n Up
Photo credit: Shab & Coop Photography

MG:  One of the designs involves crossed lines on words, and you’ve previously brought up the known quote “I cross out words so you can see them more.” Can you explain your take on this quote and what it means to you?
Adam: We were looking for design ideas, but a lot were coming out too direct; they weren’t thought provoking enough, and we wanted something that made people think. The fact that the words are crossed out makes people want to read it. It’s really simple, and it makes people think, so that means we can explain it to people, and it’ll be a conversation starter.
Noor: Our design, we crossed out the word GIRL because the entire line revolves around empowering our girls. It’s made people really think about wearing it.
MG:  What is Project Futures, and what made you want to start working with them over other organizations that focus on combatting sex trafficking?
Noor: I was working with other organizations, but the reason I wanted to do Project Futures is because I did an interview with people at Project Futures, and it just came around the same time that I was deciding on doing a trip with Project Futures.  In order to do the trip, you have to raise a certain amount of money.  In shaa Allah, (God willing) if we do other collabs later on, it’ll be with other organizations.
MG:  Besides buying your amazing line, what are some other ways we can help to combat sex slavery?
Noor:  First and foremost is raising awareness in your area, and understanding that all major cities are hubs for trafficking.

It doesn’t only exist in third world countries.  It’s important to be educated on that, and to know that trafficking does not discriminate according to gender, race, and economic status.

There’s a story called “The Slave Next Door,” and it’s about a girl who’s white in Michigan, and she was in highschool being trafficked. It doesn’t discriminate; traffickers often target girls who are isolated and don’t have a lot of support. [Editor’s note:  It’s not just girls either; males can be trafficking victims too.]
There’s a huge chance that in your lifetime, you’ve come across somebody that’s actually being trafficked. In a lot of cases, women are arrested and charged for “prostitution,” so not only are women being victimized, but they’re being penalized as well.  The system is kind of set up for the people behind it to get away with it, so raising awareness locally is the best start, to make sure the girls in your area are constantly safe, and making sure we’re providing proper education for our girls. Far beyond math, science, etc, but also sex education, helping girls stand on their own feet, learning to not be so dependent on others–learning self-love and empowerment–so they don’t end up in a place of harm and danger.

MG:  Do you have any other advice for other young women who are aspiring to make a change in the world?  

Noor:  You don’t know how inspiring authenticity is. I’m not doing much besides being myself, and being unapologetic for being myself.  I’m not trying to do things for other people. It takes a lot; it takes building your self-confidence, and learning to appreciate yourself and your flaws. For you to get to that place of confidence and self-awareness, going down your path with that mentality, is how you will maximize your potential in every task or project you take on. When you’re not completely yourself, you’re going to end up taking away from everything else in your life, and missing oppurtunities, friendships, etc.

It’s the most freeing thing to let go of the shackles of society’s standards.

Once you realize that you’re just not going to give a crap about it, and do you, everything will fall into place.  Obviously, it has to align with your values and morals; I always emphasize having tawwakul or trust in God, and through that, being your most authentic self; then, anything is possible.
The Noor Effect line is only available for a few more weeks, with pop-up shop locations being revealed.  If there’s one near you, stop in for a chance to meet Noor, Adam, and the rest of the team. The next pop-up shops are slated to hit New York on Saturday, May 21st, in Brooklyn, and Sunday, May 22nd, in Long Island.  If you’re unable to attend, check out The Noor Effect online, and support this powerful initiative!
Whatever you do, don’t forget to #LetNoorShine!