One Voice: Nicole Queen
One Voice: Nicole Queen
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 better."
I was born in Houston, Tx to some very young parents. My Grandparents are devout Babtist 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 NY and after managing for 5 years began my own photography company, Zanphotography.
I had a background in Photography, Sales, Graphic Design, and Management so I wasn't too worried to do it all alone. I advertised for free using my own graphics and with the help of Myspace pages I was off! 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 through 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 was a weekly regular. I got to hang out with publicist 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 couldnt 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 5 feet in front of us...I only took about 3 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 3 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 and 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 AM and get online till the sun came up. It was so relieving to listen to other converts too...Yusuf Islam, his exact reasons for converting...the same as mine! 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 since 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 dont' really care about you. I think it's a pretty good trade, Hamidillah...
About the Project
"The Muslim world" is a phrase that lumps together a complex and diverse group of people and cultures, but one that rarely humanizes the personal and cultural expressions of Muslim identity. On Being’s First Person initiative is an attempt to better understand adherents of the faith by asking each individual to share his or her perspective of what it means to be a Muslim living in the 21st century.