Thursday, September 9, 2010

Eid Mubarak from Dallas, Texas

I just wanted to share with you a nice piece from the "Revealing Ramadan" series on NPR.  It's a great program and they did a story on different Muslims and what the month of Ramadan means to them. Since it is the last night of Ramadan, sadly, I thought it would be nice to share what Ramadan means to me.  I truly love Ramadan and I am always sad to see it go, but look forward to the coming year.  Even more, I look forward to Eid!  Praying with hundreds of Muslims in Downtown Dallas, you really feel like you belong to something greater than you could imagine.  I love seeing all the bright shining faces and beautiful Eid garments. All the children are so excited, with twinkling eyes and pockets full of sweets.  They look forward to receiving gifts after the prayers and a day full of fun with their families. We are all so thankful for the lives Allah has granted us and for at least this one day, there is peace throughout all Muslim hearts, despite media and political agendas.  I can't wait to see my niece and nephews when I give them their long awaited Eid gifts...sometimes I think it's harder for me to wait to give them, than for them to wait on receiving!  I will depart now, I need to make my first attempt at constructing Eid cookies, in my opinion it ranks in the tops of one of the most difficult cookies to bake, wish me luck in this venture as I'm covered in flour into the long hours of the night!  Hamidillah for lifes simple challenges and simple pleasures...

Revealing Ramadan

Read more on the show's main page.

First Person: Your Voices, Your Stories

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“I remember a friend of mine said to me, "Who is it that thinks your so glamorous and cool? What kind of people are they. They are just like you only caring about themselves and living for nothing...”

Nicole Queen

Born in 1981
tradition: Sunni Muslim faith
I was born in Houston, Texas to some very young parents. My grandparents are devout Baptist Christians who raised us close to this religion. Our parents didn't really follow any religion, so I used to ride the bus to church alone. When I got my license I drove myself there each Sunday. I stopped attending church after I graduated high school and began life as an adult. I spent some time in college and began working as a photography studio manager. I came back to Dallas from New York and, after managing for five years, began my own photography company.

I scored a few huge jobs shooting celebrity events for Ghost Bar, inside the infamous W Hotel in Dallas. Only the most beautiful and successful people partied at this place. I shot everyone from Justin Timberlake to Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson, and lots of other sports and pop stars that graced our doors.

With this job came lots of other restaurant openings, and every other main street night club had me shooting their private parties. My work then went into all the Dallas magazines, sometimes even in People and Paper City. I got to hang out with publicists from Vogue and worked with the best in the media business. It was simple and glamorous and along came with it lots of glam friends. I could walk into any party and it seemed I couldn't go anywhere at night without spotting friends.

I even had to look the part while working. I had to wear sexy clothes, loads of makeup, and "fohawk" style hair — it was popular at the time. I often found that I had fans. People actually came up and wanted to have their picture with me, on their own cameras. Later I would see it posted on Myspace or Facebook. I partied, and drank, and only cared about one person: me.

Deep down inside though, this life and the people in it started to wear down on my soul. It's a wicked life. I remember standing next to Justin Timberlake and all the flashes from the crowd going off, and we could barely see five feet in front of us. I only took about three shots of him, so I wouldn't get fired and then I slid my lens to the side. I couldn't do it more. It felt horrible all these people screaming, flashing, body guards around him, managers yelling — and this was after he had finished a three-hour concert. What kind of life was that?

I felt dirty that I was part of the reason he couldn't have a normal life. I started wondering what was so great about my life, what was I doing to better anything around me. Nothing, just shooting pictures of people partying and drinking and wow, "Here is my contribution America. I'm here to make the world a more materialistic and vain place!" Not exactly something that would make my grandmother proud.

So here it came, the overwhelming sensation of doubt about who I was and what I was doing with my life. I couldn't sleep. I began having nightmares with people screaming out to help them. I also couldn't escape the thought of the most important question that I had ever asked myself, "What will you say when you must explain your life to God?" OMG, what do you say, "Umm sorry God I am too busy drinking and hanging out with cool people to think about You or to help others."

This is definitely a defining moment in my life where I knew it was time for some changes. I talked with friends about what I was feeling. They tried so hard to help. One friend recommended that I watch a few lectures on YouTube. One of which from a guy named Yusuf Estes, a Muslim convert who used to be a Christian pastor. The best part was he was from Texas! I watched the lectures and when I got to his I heard a bearded man explain everything I was going through right to me as though he was reading my mind.

He told the story of his conversion to Islam from Christianity. Said he needed a greater purpose in life, a better reason to wake up in the morning. Oh how nice this sounded to me. To wake up without thinking, "What did I do last night, and how did I get home alive?"

I became obsessed with learning more about his religion. I would come home from shooting around 2:30 a.m. and get online till the sun came up. It was so relieving to listen to other converts too! Holy cow I found some help! Of course when studying and believing in this religion, you start to look at yourself differently. It's like you see yourself from outside your body!

I remember a friend of mine (who is now my husband) said to me, "Who is it that thinks your so glamorous and cool? What kind of people are they. They are just like you only caring about themselves and living for nothing better." Ouch, those words drove straight through me. He became my biggest supporter in my transition.

I remember one day I wanted to start going to the New Muslim classes at the local masjid and I went into my huge closet to find something suitable to wear. Ha! Good luck! This day I went crazy I think. I teared up as I thrashed through the hangers of sexy tops and tight jeans and pants — not one single thing that I could wear to a holy place. Most of the tops had to be taped on to avoid the loose fabric from exposing your chest! I began crying at myself. What kind of girl was I!

I tore through the clothes, throwing them behind me in a huge pile of slinky embarrassment. When I was done there was only a small rack of barely modest things left. I couldn't afford to replace them all so I slowly began the process of a new wardrobe. I started with looser pants, shirts with long sleeves, modest shoes instead of stilettos, and a low pony tail became my daily routine. Then it went from there, and slowly but surely God carved his way through my black heart and planted Himself deeply inside.

I said my Shahada in April of 2007 in the office of Dr. Yusuf Kavacki, the father of Elif Kavacki. My later husband Hassan was there supporting me, as well as a few new girlfriends I had made from the New Muslim classes. I have a slew of new friends now, who follow the same lifestyle as me. I didn't get rid of any of my old friends, but if your not down for meeting people at the bar, then they tend to stop calling as much, until it's just never at all. No problem for me. I am busy as I ever was and happily married with a wonderful family of in-laws not far away.

I asked Hassan if I could visit Jordan; he is from Amman and his parents and siblings live there. His family was so happy to have me. Muslims have the best sense of family and welcome guests as if they are blood. I stayed with his Mom and Dad for a month. I started wearing the hijab full-time there, it made being out in public easier for me, less men harassing you and people really respect you more. Wow, people respecting me for the way I dress and carry myself in public, that was a new and wonderful feeling.

When I came back to Dallas, I couldn't take off the scarf. I just couldn't stand the thought of going back to being just another "piece of meat" for men to glare at. I didn't want to go back to competing with women based on whose boobs look bigger, and what brand are you wearing and are you sexy enough to be my friend. No more of this life for me. I wanted to be free from those chains and wearing the hijab was the only answer for this. I wore it proud, wore it with style, and actually more men than ever in my life opened doors for me and showed me respect.

One day a man in his 40's came up to me at a store and said, "Where did you get these clothes, you look so classy and stylish. I wish my wife would start dressing this way." Why wouldn't men love this. They have a beautiful wife who shows her skin only to him and in public she covers demanding respect for herself and her religion with every public appearance she makes. I am currently working on designing new headpieces for hijab-wearing women to wear. Soon, Inshallah, I will have the first set completed.

I still do photography, but I keep it clean, you know. I don't shoot clubs or crazy parties anymore. I stick with charity functions, fundraisers, and my newly started wedding and bridal photography is going quite well. I also take part in MAS (Muslim American Society) and WCTI (Woman Converts to Islam). I speak sometimes to schools about Islam, and even to Muslim schools to the younger girls, I try to tell them to stay away from the wrong kind of life. I tell them from experience that it gets you nowhere, a vicious lonely circle where everyone is lonely and rich and it never gets any better.

I have a huge following on Myspace, thanks to the YouTube interview done on me. I use the page on Myspace to reach out to other "party girls" and show them that you can escape that life. Even if you don't wanna become a Muslim, just clean up your life and you will change forever for the best. Having God in your life is the best therapy you could ever hope for, and it's free!

I also love working with Sr. Elif Kavacki. She is a great woman and really trying to open doors for Muslim women everywhere. I am happily married, and we are hoping one day Allah will bless us with an addition to our new little family. My husband and I enjoy living in downtown and keeping each other close to our religion. We frequent trips to the masjid and enjoy nights with friends for dinner. We have picnics by the lake and watch the sunset, and attend a lot of functions with his career. This replaced all the late-night parties and people who don't really care about you. I think it's a pretty good trade, Hamidillah.



  1. Nice to read your story and congratulations for the best choice you made in your life to be a Muslim and for your happy marriage and wish you healthy children. Your efforts in Dawa is so great and fruitful because you can touch hearts.

    In my country, the UAE, wedding photography is successful business, as well as fashion design, so if need ever arise, let me know and I will be glad to help you establish a business here. Wish you and Hassan Happy Eid.

  2. asalam alaykum w rahmatAllah w barakatoh.

    I just really want to say that you are doing a really amazing job masha'Allah. I was given a link to your Youtube video through another Muslim as I was searching for what life really is and as a 17 year old non-muslim girl all that life presented to me was a very selfish and harmful lifestyle. Harming your body with drink, and going out partying all night meeting random guys, it certainly wasnt the lifestyle I fitted into, infact my friends were very aware that my values and morals were different to them - I couldnt understand why anyone would think its normal to go with any guy who showed a bit of interest, where was the respect and love?

    Unfortunately I wasnt strong enough to stand up to my friends and voice my opinions to them, but as I began learning more in Islam, i became stronger and confident in myself to stand in my opinions and beliefs Alhamdulillah.

    You were the most inspirational to me and all of it made sense and I certainly felt the same about the lifestyle I was going to end up leading along with my friends. It also felt like there were just normal everyday girls like me who are coming to Islam knowning the truth and i felt so much reassurance from that.

    I'm 19 now, I still have a lot of struggles working out how to have my Muslim identity and my English identity, and even without all the "best friends" (who i thought wanted the best for me) even though it can be lonely at times when my parents are fighting to stop me being a Muslim (well, mostly my Dad)

    but i pray that Allah softens their hearts and one of my goals in life is to keep giving them the message and showing the truth to them. At that time i will feel i have fulfilled my duty and then it is out of my hands as to whether they are Muslims or better people Allahu Alim

    My life is a million times better, i am so much confident more now i am Muslim and I dont really fear people as much as I had before, Allah is the main importance. May everyone be guided to the Straight path, and may our Ummah stay rightly guided and Allah has mercy on us all ameen.

    :) - Sophie.

  3. Salam Nicole. I enjoy watching your videos and reading your stories. I'm a revert myself and for much of my life found that too much emphasis was based on my looks and body (California native). Islam was healing for me in that it places a woman's value not on her physical appearance but on her eeman. The Quran makes this clear in it's verses. However, I do feel that the ummah of today places far too much emphasis on hijab. I think that unfortunately it's the opposite end of the spectrum and unhealthy as well. Again this is not the Quran but people who do this. Hijab has it's merit but it's not the litmus test. Look within.


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