North London TV star shares her fascinating success story
Image by Mehreen Baig
North London-based teacher turned presenter Mehreen Baig’s claim to fame was very unexpected for her. She had posted a blog post online which gained a lot of traction and she eventually became a part of a BAFTA Award winning show.
The 32-year-old British Pakistani, who was born in Hackney, has admitted that she never thought she would have such a huge career change, especially because of belonging to a Muslim Pakistani working class background.
The television star’s parents arrived in London 40 years ago to give their children a better upbringing. Her father was born in Karachi and brought up in Pakistan as well as India, while her mother was born in Lahore and grew up there. Both of them went to universities in Pakistan before travelling to the UK and settling down. However, this was not easy as their degrees did not get them anything substantial and they had to start all over again by themselves.
Baig is proud of being able to earn enough to take her parents to the Hajj pilgrimage, which she had always wanted to do.
Speaking of her humble upbringing, in an interview with MyLondon, she said, “They made a real effort to make sure we were aware of our culture and heritage. They really tried to keep that balance of both worlds. They would sit with me to do my homework. I had a strict upbringing in lots of ways, I wasn’t allowed boyfriends or allowed to go out partying but there was a lot of emphasis on making sure us kids had a good solid education.”
She then goes on to speak about her passion for teaching, “I was 21 when I became a teacher and my career definitely moulded what I’m like as a person today. At 21, you’re still figuring out who you are, and in those years in the classroom, I learnt to be patient, and to see human beings in a 360 way. If people behave in a bad way – if they’re being rude or negative – it usually stems from something like a personal insecurity. I learnt that on the job.”
Baig then sheds light on how her career shift after posting a blog online changed everything, “I just wanted my friends to read it, so when the BBC left a comment and asked me to work with them, I still didn’t ever think I would leave teaching completely. But then we won at the BAFTAs, and I was teaching a Year 11 masterclass the next morning with agents and commissioners calling me. It was crazy!”
“I did say no to the BBC for three months. They pitched the idea of Muslims Like Us and it sounded ‘Big Brother-y’ so I said no, but they were really persistent – which I’m so grateful for now. They came to my house to discuss what I was anxious about, and I said Muslims are never represented properly in the media. I remember my dad saying, ‘I didn’t raise you to be weak and I didn’t raise you to be stupid,’ and I agreed that evening, and the rest is history!” she added.
Baig has been open about her struggles as a British Pakistani television personality as much of the focus was put on her being a Pakistani and a Muslim. But she managed to break out of that shell by choosing more general themes to talk about.
The young woman’s heart has always been in the teaching and education profession. She also wrote a book ‘Hidden Lessons’ during lockdown which was something she had aspired to do since she was a kid.