Hanan Turk is a famous Egyptian actress who started off her entertainment career as a professional ballerina. In 2006 she decided to wear hijab and shocked her fans by taking a break from the spotlight for a few years. She’s been back recently in the Arab cinema and television scene and has surprised naysayers with her success as a serious actress who just happens to don a headscarf.
Hijabtrendz recently interviewed Turk to learn more about what it’s like to be a Hijabi in a field that traditionally doesn’t support women who wear hijab.
Is it hard to find acting opportunities now that you wear hijab?
When I first started to wear hijab I thought it would affect my job prospects, but it was the opposite. I actually received more offers. However, I preferred to stop acting for awhile. I didn’t know how long at the beginning, but ended up taking a break for 3 years.
During those three years I wanted to learn more about my religion and I wanted to do something different, something for children. I started a childrens magazine called Hanoon.
I also worked on myself a lot and during this period of reflection the right offer came at the right time. It was a time when people started to say “Oh she stopped acting because she wore hijab”. I worked on some television series and movies. The choice of roles is definitely harder after wearing hijab. It’s not like before, you can take any job you’re offered. Now you have to be careful to choose the right one. It’s not everyday you’ll find a role that suits a hijabi because there isn’t much script writing geared towards a hijabi character.
People thought because I started to wear hijab that I would be getting offered less money, but it was the complete opposite.
Do you think more women wearing hijab can break into the industry?
That is my message. First for people already in the industry, my friends who are actors go ahead, put on hijab. It’s not going to make you poor, it’s not going to affect your life.
When I visit schools and see students who want to be actresses or reporters and they are worried they wont get a job if they wear hijab, I tell them to go ahead and wear hijab it shouldn’t affect you. If you give up something for the sake of God, then God will replace it with something better. That is what happened to me. When I wore hijab I didn’t worry about money and in the end God gave me more.
What makes people choose you as a hijabi to act in a film instead of just taking an actress and having her wear hijab for that role?
The producers now take me and find the appropriate movie role for me, one that will suit me as a hijabi. The producer will say “I have Hanan on this project I want to find something that works for her”. God has blessed me. It’s not like before where they would have a movie and try to find an actress to fill the role.
What’s your advice for other girls who wear hijab and want to pursue a career in the entertainment industry? Is it possible?
I believe nothing is impossible. It will happen. Actually it is happening now where you see some hijabis in American movies. Look at Iranian films even. The actresses are winning prizes for their work and they all wear hijab.
Would you like to act in an American movie?
Yes if there is a role that fits me why not? That would be great.
You are known as much for your film roles as you are for your fashion. What is your advice for hijabis that want to be stylish?
There are basic rules for hijab and as long as you follow those you can do whatever you want, it all comes down to your personal taste. These days there is a lot of great stuff fashion like gypsy skirts. Just today I was visiting the mall and saw a long jacket with a scarf. I thought “this scarf could work as hijab”.
These days we have more options than in the past. It used to just be abayas and now there are special fashion lines just dedicated to women who wear hijab. I saw Dior or some designer I can’t remember who, that had really long dresses and it would be perfect for hijab.
Now hijabis are influencing the fashion world.