Baring her heart and soul

She learned that you don't have to hard sell your product instead give it soul and people will come to it. — Pixs courtesy of Neelofa
Beauty, brains and a drive to succeed — Pixs courtesy of Neelofa

NOOR Neelofa Mohd Noor, or better known as Neelofa, does not need any introduction.

The actress, television host and businesswoman has achieved so much from the day she won Dewi Remaja which jumpstarted her career in acting to her biggest accomplishment yet, founding Naelofar Hijab.

Topping her list of feats is joining the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list.

"I feel blessed and I am so honoured; it is a beautiful feeling. I was speechless when they said they wanted to list me. This is something I didn't see coming this quick. It is a platform and stepping stone for me to set up my career internationally, and I never thought Forbes could offer me such a platform.

"They want me to be in Manila in July as one of their panels, and they have another event in Boston which they want me at as well. These are also working opportunities for me," she said, adding that she will be speaking on breaking the era of stereotype women in Manila.

How did the 28-year-old achieve so much at such a young age? Persistence, and she didn't give up. She had her ups and downs in life and in her business, but she kept moving forward. She pushed herself to take risks and challenged herself to do something different every time.

"I would be lying if I said I never failed or nothing upsets me because there is so much I go through that people don't know. I have such big hurdles and situations to overcome. It is emotionally draining and it is not easy; sometimes I don't want to be me.

"Being in the limelight, you have to sometimes deal with negative comments and gossip – and people expect you to react positively all the time, but you are just a normal human being; you are just like everyone else. My wish and prayer is for things to be better, and I know it will be over soon," she said.

Neelofa began her acting career in 2011 and when she started, she didn't know if it was something she really wanted to do but it thrilled her to know that she could challenge herself to be different characters and to be on set with talented people.

But when asked about her plans for acting, she said she has no idea because it is hard for her to be committed to it because of her busy schedule. Instead, she said she would go with the flow and would love to try doing short films and special projects with international teams.

When she set up Naelofar Hijab in 2014, Neelofa stopped acting for three years just to focus on it but was still hosting on television. When the business was pretty much stable, she went back to acting which was just last year.

She believes when it comes to fashion, you have to spend time researching and investing in it because it changes very fast. And when it comes to producing new designs, you have to always know what the customers want at that point of time.

"For instance, Swarovski is something that I will always have, but they want something like tassels and pleats, and you want to play with that as well on the hijab. The material is also important. We came up with the cotton lycra specially for the UK market which suits their weather very much. You have to know and study the target market very well then you can cater the product accordingly," she said.

With so much on her plate, Neelofa said it is not easy juggling between acting, hosting and handling her business.

"Most celebrities when they want to have their own business, that is when they collapse. They will fail because they cannot juggle; they don't have a good team and they don't have the best support system. Many came to ask me how I do it, and I am so lucky and blessed to have my family and an amazing team working for me," she said.

When she came out with the idea for the latest Naelofar Hijab Raya 2017 campaign, she knew it will be the talk of the town and it surely did, garnering more than one million views on YouTube.

"It is personal, relatable, close to people's hearts, and love sells. I learned that you don't have to hard sell your product –you just have to give it soul and people will come to it.

"I said this to my sister, in order for people to respect the product they have to respect me first and how I mould myself as a celebrity will contribute to branding. Hence, it is important for them to invest in me to be a better icon and it will link directly to the product. If I make silly mistakes, it will jeopardise the product. I am the soul of the product, not just the face," she said.

Her dream for Naelofar Hijab is for it to be more achievable and attainable. The brand has expanded to 38 countries through its online platform, but she wants it to be more real by having physical stores all over the world.

And Neelofa has even bigger dreams, so big that she wonders if they are achievable.

"For now, by having Forbes as a platform, I want to take this and pursue my dream to become an international speaker. I want to travel the world and give talks. I want to inspire women out there; that is something very close to my heart and it is something I really want to do," she said.

cap 9pm - She learned that you don't have to hard sell your product instead give it soul and people will come to it.

cap 3pm She pushes herself to take risks and challenges herself to do something different every time.