By Marlynn Jones
Noor Tagouri, a first-generation Libyan-American and on-air journalist for Newsy, was the keynote speaker for FIU Diversity Week March 31 –April 7.
Tagouri gained national attention after launching her #letnoorshine campaign and becoming the first hijabi Muslim-American woman to be profiled in Playboy in its salute to Rules Breakers last October.
Tagouri shared with university community members gathered April 4 at Modesto A. Maidique Campus that she grew up with resentment toward the hijab. She even dyed her hair blond, and wore colored contacts in an effort to look like everyone else in her neighborhood, and especially to look like the people she saw on television. It wasn’t until Tagouri’s parents enrolled her in a private school outside of Washington, D.C., and she became a member of a diverse student body that she learned to embrace her difference.
While in college, Tagouri shadowed professional journalists. She strongly suggested FIU students find someone who has a job in their chosen profession and spend the day with them to learn what it is like to work in that job on a daily basis.
“You won’t find the day in the life of a job in your curriculum. You must experience it to understand,” Tagouri said. “Shadowing helps prevent you from graduating and starting a career in a job you don’t like because you failed to do the proper research in advance,” Tagouri added.
Tagouri considers herself a storyteller.
“If I wasn’t Muslim, I wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be misrepresented and misunderstood,” Tagouri said. “We as journalists provide an opportunity for people to tell their stories. I want to provide an opportunity for people to tell their truth, and I feel that it is important to highlight people in marginalized communities,” Tagouri added.
Recently Tagouri completed a broadcast series on women who work in predominantly male professions. She now has an interest in using her platform to combat sex trafficking.
She ended her talk by asking the audience to “live for the causes that you love most and use your skill sets to tell them.”
Inspired by Tagouri’s talk, Honors College biological sciences senior and president of the Muslim Student Association Sara Haroon shared her takeaway in the passage below:
Today I was very lucky to listen to Noor Tagouri speak to FIU students for Diversity Week. I had heard of Noor for a long time, the first hijabi journalist on TV. She is quite famous, especially among the Muslim community. When Noor came on the stage I was so taken by her personality. She was authentic and relatable. She is an American Muslim woman, just like me.
Noor spoke to us about her experiences growing up as a Muslim American – having to find out what her identity was and who she was in a country where Muslims stand out. She told us how much courage it takes to truly be yourself. She emphasized the importance of being unapologetically yourself – which is a constant internal battle– and not be swayed by a society in which you are a minority.
Noor is an inspiration. She knew what she wanted and went for it while being herself. So many people told her that wearing the hijab would prevent her from being a journalist on TV. I find it admirable how early on she started striving for this career. She looked for internships and contacted every reporter and journalist she could. She had the drive to do what she wanted. I love everything Noor stood for. She told us to use our passions and our unique talents to make a difference, to go out and try to make an impact in this world.
Listening to a Muslim woman, wearing the hijab at my public American university was truly an amazing experience that I never expected to experience.