Heritage Collection Changemaker Spotlight - Stephanie Kurlow
Posted on Jul 24, 2019
Editor’s Note: As part of our coverage of our Heritage Collection and Haute Hijab’s 10th anniversary, which includes our conversation with Melanie about HH’s origin story and an exclusive behind the scenes look at the design process for the new silks collection, we are featuring interviews with five extraordinary Muslim women making waves in their communities. Each woman chose one of our five hijabs from the collection, and this series of interviews discusses their hijab journey, their work and why one’s heritage is so important.
Scarf Selected: The Classic
At only 17 years old, Stephanie Kurlow took the world by storm when she shared her dream of becoming the world’s first hijabi ballerina online, launching a fundraising campaign to pay for a year’s tuition at a professional ballet school. Muslims around the world were captivated by the image of a fully-covered ballerina. Dancing since the age of two, Stephanie, who lives in Sydney, Australia, had all but given up on her life’s ambition after converting to Islam in 2010. She decided to continue her career after being inspired by ground-breaking athletes who also wore hijab.
We spoke with Stephanie about her dream of seeing diverse dancers in ballet companies and in the ballet world and about her love of her hijab and what it represents to her.
1. Tell us a little bit about your profession and how you developed an interest in your career.
I am currently training to become the world’s first professional hijabi ballerina! I started dancing when I was two years old, and so it’s always been such a big part of my life and something that I am really passionate about. I also do some television work and international advertising campaigns with various brands.
2. Talk to us about your hijab journey and how your hijab had an impact on your path to becoming a ballerina.
My hijab is really close to my heart. I reverted to Islam in 2010 and started wearing the hijab full time at 11 years of age. There has never been a professional ballerina who wears a hijab, so it’s been a challenge to have people become more accepting to the idea and possibility. I hope to live in a world one day where the clothes we wear are not stereotyped or ridiculed but instead accepted and welcomed.
3. Did you have a mentor or someone that helped you achieve your goals in the ballet world? If so, tell us about the impact they made on you.
My mum has definitely helped and supported me the whole way and continues to do so. She has always been there for me and has given me the best advice.
When I was 14, I was interviewed for a TV news segment, and they also interviewed David McAllister, the artistic director of the Australian Ballet. He expressed his support of diverse dancers in his ballet company and the ballet world, which really helped me to believe that what I am trying to achieve is possible.
4. What appeals to you about this specific printed silk hijab?
I really love the design and colors of the scarf. The silver and gold is beautiful with so many different outfit combinations, whether dressed down or dressed up. Also, the feel of the scarf is soft and so nice to wear!
5. We developed our exclusive Heritage Silk Hijab Line to showcase the story and history of Haute Hijab. Our own personal heritage is so important - how do you celebrate your own heritage?
My mum is from Russia, so I grew up with a strong sense of my Russian heritage. I love visiting Russia in the winter and seeing my beautiful family there. Growing up with Australian and Russian cultures has really given me the opportunity to learn about and appreciate other cultures while appreciating my own.
6. What does the hijab mean to you?
My hijab means a lot to me. It’s such a big part of my life. It’s such a beautiful and special feeling to be out there in the world wearing a symbol of my faith.
7. We love seeing powerful Muslim women in our community doing big things, which is why we chose you as one of five honorees for this campaign. Is there a message you’d like to convey to inspire women to live a big life?
I'm so happy to be part of this campaign! My message is - don’t be afraid of chasing your dreams. You can always find a reason or excuse not to, but if you find something that you love and are passionate about, then you should pursue it.
Check back on the blog for more interviews from the other wonderful women we interviewed as part of the debut of Haute Hijab’s Heritage Collection!