Olympian & Author Ibtihaj Muhammad Comes to Naperville

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She’s an author, fashion designer, and on top of all that she’s an Olympian. Ibtihaj Muhammad does it all and after earning a bronze medal in fencing in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, she quickly realized her story was one worth telling.

“I feel that my journey is bigger than me,” said Muhammad. “I realize what it means to be a first and how it’s opening doors for a lot of people to come in after me, and not that we have to be alike in any way in terms of ethnicity or gender or where we’re from. But it’s about kind of opening people’s mind to the possibility of change.”

It was that journey that Muhammad decided to put on a page. “Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream,” tells her story as the first Muslim woman to represent the U.S. while wearing hijab at the Olympics.

“I am pushing, I think, the expectations of what a Muslim woman looks like, what a black fencer looks like, what we can achieve, and hopefully change our mindset in the way that we see America today,” added Muhammad.

Muhammad’s friend and fellow author Luvvie Ajayi joined her as moderator of a packed house at Anderson’s Bookshop for an informal discussion and book signing.

“As a teacher I was giddy watching all the children ask her questions and getting inspired by her. Because that’s all those little people that are going to want to have their own beautiful experiences in life too,” said attendee Betty Nordengren.

And for many of her fans, Muhammad’s voice as a black Muslim female athlete has taught many important life lessons.

“That I can be myself around other people and not have to worry,” said attendee Nawal Odeh.

“Be unapologetic, that was probably my favorite bit that she kept bringing up in there,” said attendee Cecilia Marmolejo. “And just someone who’s had to overcome being comfortable in her own skin and working to get where she is, which is something worth recognizing.”

Ibtihaj Muhammad has made such a national impact, that she even has a Barbie doll modeled in her image.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.