Nadiya Hussain admits she struggled with being labelled the “token Muslim” when she appeared on The Great British Bake Off, adding that she was “shocked” by the reaction her appearance on the show first generated.
The Bake Off 2015 winner is now gearing up for her second solo series on the BBC, Nadiya’s British Food Adventure, but says looking back she was surprised how quickly she was pigeonholed on the BBC1 baking show.
“I certainly didn’t enter a baking show in the hope of representing anyone,” she tells broadcaster Emma Freud in the new issue of Radio Times magazine. “Being a Muslim for me was incidental, but from the day the show was launched, I was ‘the 30-year-old Muslim’ and that became my identity.”
She says it was difficult to adjust to that “identity” being forced upon her.
“I struggled at the beginning, because I thought, ‘Am I the token Muslim?’ I’d never, in all my years, been labelled like that. I heard it constantly, ‘Oh she’s the Muslim, she’s the Muslim’. And I was so shocked by the amount of negative comments I got,” she says.
Broadcaster Emma Freud and Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain photographed for Radio Times magazine
However, Nadiya adds that she was heartened that the abuse was limited to a “minority” and that the majority of the UK welcomed her with “open arms”.
“I hear the negativity, I see it, but it doesn’t affect me because, my goodness, they’re the minority – just a few keyboard warriors who say what they want in the middle of the night. We are so much more accepting than that: I never realised Britain had such open arms.”
Read the full interview with Nadiya Hussain in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, in shops and on the Apple Newsstand from Tuesday 11 July. Nadiya’s new series, Nadiya’s British Food Adventure, begins on BBC2 at 8.30pm on Monday 17 July.