Empowerment Series: Hollywood Celebrity Fashion Stylist and Author, Naz Meknat Shares her Survivorship & Triumph with AW
The human spirit is resilient. Our ability to love and overcome adversity is immeasurable. Billions of people around the world are thriving despite the pain they have endured. Whether it is a physical ailment or personal devastation, you have the choice to hold on to the positive. Fight to survive another day.
Naz Meknat is a survivor, who loved herself out of despair and came back to win, in spite of all the hardship suffered. The LA-based Celebrity Stylist works with some of the most recognized names in Hollywood, including Sterling K. Brown and Jeannie Mai. She has been featured in People and InStyle Magazines. In 2021, she wrote the memoir, 7000 Miles to Freedom to share her story of survivorship with the world.
Naz was born in Tehran, Iran. At 23, she came to the United States as a refugee. Prior to arriving in America, her journey was filled with trials and tribulations. It began as a young 13-year-old when she was arrested by the morality police in her city. As a woman, she was held hostage and abused by her then-husband but none of this has stopped her from becoming the woman she was meant to be. Instead, she was emboldened to set her own path and help others do the same by raising their voices against injustices in her country.
AW had the honor of speaking with Naz about the experiences that changed her life. This tale of triumph is sure to spark inspiration in anyone who is struggling to find their own voice or fearful of asking for help.
Sometimes, it’s easy for us to take things for granted. We were born into freedom. You come from an environment where you had to fight for every bit of your liberty. Can you share a little about your life before coming to the US? The situation in Iran is well-known, women in my country have started a revolution. The morality police played a major branch of policing after the Islamic regime of 1979. They monitor the streets, looking for any behavior that goes against their rules of religion. If you are a woman, you’re required to be covered from head to toe. Having your hair show, speaking to someone of the opposite sex, and wearing nail polish or makeup are all enough to get you in trouble. At the age of 13, I faced the barrel of a gun. I was thrown into a van and taken to jail by the morality police. The reason? Talking to a boy from the neighborhood in public.
I married my first boyfriend. Keep in mind, there are regulations that forbid a woman from having a love interest. Already having a history as a rebel with this organization, I could not risk more problems. Post-marriage, my family left the country, and I had to stay behind with my husband.
Over time, my husband developed an alcohol problem. As an alcoholic, he was extremely abusive. I was not even allowed to leave the house to go anywhere alone. I had to make a decision to escape the situation. I lived in Iran until the age of 23 when I fled, reuniting with my family in Los Angeles.
In my country, men own the women. Rights were taken away, once the Islamic regime took over. Prior to marriage, you are indebted to a father, and after marriage to a husband. In September 2022, a 22-year-old woman was arrested for having exposed hair. She was beaten to death while in the custody of the morality police. The people of Iran are fed up.
What was the turning point that forced you to do something different? I kept the abuse to myself for a long time. I did not want my dad to know. He warned me not to marry. Finally, after enough cuts and bruises, I finally came out to my sister. She spoke to our parents in California and a plan was put in place for me to escape. I was able to convince my sister-in-law to let me go out for a few hours and see my uncle. This made it possible for me to get out safely.
The moment I spoke up, everything changed! My biggest message and reason for writing the book is, “Please talk to someone. You don’t need to suffer in silence. What is waiting for you outside the situation is much better than what you are going through right now.”
Even in a free society, we can feel like we don’t have a voice. There can be fear of retaliation or judgment. We can also feel like, what we have to say does not matter. When did you begin feeling like you had something to say? When did you find your voice? I was always a fighter against injustice. As a young person, I did not understand why things were the way they were, where I lived. Women’s rights were taken away, and it did not sit well with me. I questioned the reasons why I couldn’t be myself or dress how I wanted. I did not have the ability to listen to music or read the books, I chose. At 13, while in a cold jail cell after being taken by the morality police, I realized that I had to find a way to resist, and fight back.
Once I got to the States, I began to use my voice by speaking up against domestic violence, particularly after “Me Too” and writing the book.
Surviving this type of trauma or any trauma leaves emotional scars. How did going through this ordeal change you? One of the most therapeutic things I could have done was write the book. I did not get a therapist, instead putting away the emotions. I tried to forget the ordeal. Not the best way to deal with trauma! Writing the book forced me to deal with things. During the three-year writing process, I had to sit with the pain. I really had to feel everything I had gone through.
As far as changing myself, I am more compassionate. This has started a fire in me to continue to fight for women. I am no longer afraid of speaking up anymore or being judged by others.
I believe we have something to learn from every experience, good or bad. What has been your greatest lesson? How will you use it to help other women? The biggest lesson learned is that there is always someone willing to help or someone who cares. Oftentimes, people don’t their leave situation for lack of financial independence or fear of raising their children without a father.
I am lucky, I had the help of a family but I know many others do not have the same support. However, there are resources in the US to help survivors. You will find people that want to assist. Remember, the life waiting for you outside this situation is far better than what you are living.
You broke away from the constraints holding you back from freedom. You came to the United States, obtained your degree from the “Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising” of Los Angeles, and made a successful career as a stylist. You wrote a memoir about your journey, and you’re an advocate for Women’s Rights. You are bringing awareness to sexual and domestic violence. What is next for you, Naz? Right now, I am extremely focused on my people and the revolution in Iran. Iranians’ focus has shifted and we have never been more united. We want a regime change. We are attending rallies, and reaching out to representatives to encourage change.
Also, as a Celebrity Stylist, always taking care of my clients is important, especially during awards season!
We like to end interviews with a piece of advice, quote, or mantra to help empower others. For anyone listening who may feel they don’t have the courage to get out of a toxic or dangerous situation. Can you share some words that may have helped strengthen you in a time of need? People won’t know what you are going through if you don’t say anything. Set aside any guilt or embarrassment, there is no shame in asking for help. You never know who is willing to help, so say something. Say something.
Naz Meknat fought back from the mental and physical anguish. It could have destroyed her, if she let it. Choosing resistance was a risk but it empowered her to break free from the chains of an old-world mindset. The journey of this empowered woman is an example of how we can use our voices to alter the course of our lives.
Silence is a passive killer that can diminish your worth. It can fool you into thinking that you don’t have a way out. Everyone has the right to individual happiness and freedom. Babies are born into the world with their fists held up, ready to conquer. Believe in your power to change your life because once you do, the world is yours.
AW is immensely grateful to Naz for allowing a glimpse into her painful experience. It is important to continue sharing our stories to inspire men and women who are struggling. We all have a story, you never know who it can help.
To learn more about Naz Meknat, visit Instagram@naz_meknat or nazmeknat.com
Watch the interview in its entirety on the AW Confidential YouTube channel and listen on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, and Anchor Podcasts.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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