“Naz Meknat: Styling for the Stars and Fighting for Freedom”
An Inspiring Interview with the Multifaceted Fashion Stylist, Author, and Women’s Rights Advocate
Naz Meknat is a Los Angeles-based fashion stylist and author with over 15 years of experience in the industry. She received her degree in Fashion from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. She has worked with numerous celebrities, such as Sterling K. Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, and Jeannie Mai. Naz has also contributed to editorial photo shoots and ad campaigns featured in publications like Hollywood Reporter and Variety. In 2014, she was featured in People Magazine for her unique style and beauty.
In addition to her successful career in Fashion, Naz is also an advocate for women’s rights and actively works to bring awareness to issues of sexual and domestic violence. She volunteers with various non-profit organizations, including Women Helping Women, Live Your Dream, and Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition.
Naz’s activism and passion for women’s rights are reflected in her memoir, 7000 Miles to Freedom, released in August 2021. This powerful story of survival and resilience tells the journey of Naz’s escape from an abusive marriage in Iran and her journey to freedom in the United States.
ZH: How did your experiences growing up in Iran inspire your art and activism?
When you grow up in a country where the oppression of people is a normal practice by the government, citizens have no rights, and everything is dictated to you. You have to be invisible as a woman because expressing yourself as an artist or simply a human being has severe consequences. Once you are given freedom of speech and expression, you owe it to yourself to use that freedom, not only to make up for the years lost not living as a free human but also to give a voice to those who haven’t had the opportunity to escape a dictator regime and are still being silenced by intimidation, imprisonment, and execution.
ZH: What inspired you to become a fashion stylist and how has your career Progressed?
I was always a creative child. Growing up in Iran, I was always fascinated by film and cinema. I loved to draw, write poetry and express myself through the clothes I wore underneath the Hijab that I was forced to wear in public. Once I moved to the States, I knew I was free to pursue my dream of becoming a professional in the creative industry. I knew that I had the freedom to be who I wanted. After finding my place here, in a new country, as an immigrant, I put myself through college and studied Fashion. Once I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, I started working with a few celebrities in Los Angeles as their Fashion Consultant and Stylist and have continued to build my clientele over the years.
ZH: Can you share any memorable moments or experiences from working with celebrities as a stylist?
I have been working in this industry for a very long time, therefore there are many memorable events that have happened throughout the years. One moment that stands out and which I will never forget is the first time a major Entertainment/Fashion outlet included my client in their Best Dressed list. That is a very sweet reward for any stylist working hard and thinking outside of the box to create something more creative and unique.
ZH: What inspired you to write your book and share your story with the World?
I was inspired to write my book because I saw the lack of knowledge and understanding the Western world has about Iran and why Iranians go to such extreme measures to escape their country. A lot of the world hasn’t seen the living conditions after the revolution of 1979 and what women have to go through on a daily basis, how they have to fight for survival, and having zero rights. I wanted to show the world where they get their resilience and strength to keep going despite the injustice and brutality they face every day from the regime. I felt obligated to talk about my story and write about my journey growing up in Iran, why I had to flee Iran overnight and go through a very difficult experience to get to my family in the U.S. and safety. As a celebrity stylist, I noticed that everyone sees the glamor of the job and the life you live now without knowing the backstory and what you had to go through to get to this point, so I found it very important to shed some light on the reality of it all.
ZH: Can you share more about your book, “7000 Miles to Freedom,” and the journey that inspired it?
In my memoir 7000 Miles to Freedom, I tell the story of what it was like growing up in a country with an extremist Islamic Regime under a dictatorship, how we survived and made life bearable as teenagers in Iran, longing for a normal life, the difficulties I had to face every day as a woman and what it took for me to get to California from Tehran.
ZH: How has your personal experience with domestic violence and abuse influenced your work as an advocate for women’s rights?
I have always been an advocate for Women’s Rights and equality, but after writing my book and receiving so many messages from victims and survivors of domestic violence, as well as witnessing how many women here in America stay in toxic, abusive, and dangerous relationships, despite there being so many resources here in America, it broke my heart. I felt compelled to turn up the effort and encourage women or men who are stuck in these horrific situations to take action and take advantage of all the resources offered out there in an effort to free themselves from the prison they are in. My message to them is, “If I did it with absolutely no help, in a country where women have no rights, no organizations or hotline or protection from authorities, you could definitely do it living in this country.” As a survivor, who is also an immigrant, it was important for me to share my experience so that I can give hope to those going through a similar situation and help them get out of an abusive environment in any way I can.
ZH: How can people who are not directly affected by issues like domestic and sexual violence still be allies and advocates for those who are?
This is not just a woman’s issue. Domestic violence doesn’t only exist in poor areas or third-world countries. It doesn’t matter where in the world, your economic or educational status, age, or gender. You don’t have to be a victim or a survivor of domestic violence to care about the issue. For me, the most important thing is to protect children first from an unhealthy and toxic abusive situation. This issue is a global issue, and anyone can help by donating supplies the survivors need in shelters, answering calls for a domestic violence hotline, being a mentor, or any other way they can contribute. Also, if we know the signs, then we can help a victim. In many instances, victims of domestic abuse might be suffering in silence, whether it’s because of fear, partner intimidation, or financial dependency. If we are able to spot someone and know the signs, we can be emotional supporters at least.
ZH: What message do you hope to convey through your art and activism?
I hope to convey to the world that equal rights for women and human rights for all are not negotiable. We can all do our part, big or small, to help the cause. Women’s rights are human rights. We have a lot of work to do to achieve this goal, even here in the United States, but if everyone takes one small step and starts with what they have and where they are, it can make a tremendous impact. We need to keep talking about these issues, locally and globally, to bring awareness to the world, whether it’s the Revolution that is going on in Iran or women’s rights here in America.
ZH: How do you hope your art and activism will inspire and empower other Women?
My hope is for the victims of domestic violence to find the courage to leave in pursuit of a better life and to know they deserve to live in peace with respect and dignity. I want to help survivors to keep going, to understand that it will get better. For those who are yet to speak up about the current situation in Iran to stand up for what’s right, it’s important to raise your voice, educate your non-Iranian friends and ask them to be our allies. We need you to amplify our voices and the voices of those inside Iran, risking and losing their lives every day for freedom.
ZH: How do you think social media can be used as a tool for activism and raising awareness about important issues?
When I was growing up in Iran, there was no social media or internet, so letting the world know what was happening inside the country, what the regime was doing to its own people, our living conditions, and any political or social issue wasn’t shared with the rest of the world the way it can be today. Now we have social media, and it’s a very powerful tool to bring awareness, and talk about issues people in other parts of the world, how to be an ally and how to help. We should take advantage of these platforms and use them to empower and be the voice for the voiceless. We are all citizen journalists with our phones and social media accounts and have a duty to use social media not just for sharing pictures and fun experiences but also to bring awareness and help our fellow human beings who are suffering. We can get a lot done and have a collectively louder voice with what we post on social media. Since the recent revolution in Iran started, I’ve gotten so many messages from my non-Iranian friends and followers saying they have learned so much about the recent events in Iran by just following my accounts or other Iranian accounts that post about what is happening inside the country. By seeing the truth, they are now asking how they can help. This shows how impactful and useful social media can be.
ZH: Can you share any advice for young women who are interested in pursuing careers in the fashion industry or activism?
Being an activist or an advocate looks different for everybody. My advice is to pick an issue that is important to you and close to your heart. Make it something you are passionate about, and use your platform, however big or small, to speak up and stand up. Be the voice for those facing injustice, and use whatever resources you have to bring awareness to educate others.
For those pursuing a career in fashion, I’d say be patient, persistent, and prepared. It might seem all fun and glamorous from the outside but being in this industry requires thick skin. It’s not easy to make it, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Pay your dues and intern for someone who has experience in the industry and is a sponge. Try to learn as much as you can while interning or assisting, and don’t expect to start earning a lot of money right away. It’s a very competitive industry, but if you have a passion for it and you don’t get intimidated easily by rejection and hard work, you will succeed.
ZH: How do you think the current Iranian revolution, led by young girls and boys, will impact the future of the country?
Iran is an ancient country, and these young revolutionary men and women are the future of Iran. They have the most difficult role in this revolution, fighting against a regime they didn’t have a say about putting in power. They are well aware and knowledgeable about what exactly they want and demand from their government. I have faith that they will get Iran back and build a country based on democracy, freedom, and human rights. This young Iranian generation, who are fighting fearlessly against the murderous Islamic regime, are some of the brightest, most educated, and brave young people I have seen in my life. I have no doubt they will prevail and build a strong democratic country in the region that is going to be respected and prosperous again.
ZH: What do you hope the future holds for people in Iran?
Freedom. That is what we are fighting for. Freedom to live a life in peace, to practice whatever religion you choose, to wear what you want, to be who you are without fear of getting arrested or killed, the freedom to just be. I hope for a Free Iran where women don’t have to be silent and invisible, where children, boys, and girls, can play freely together, a country where men don’t get a death sentence for standing up for women and women can walk into a stadium to watch sporting events, a country where you are not killed simply for asking for your most basic human rights.