Iranian Tala Raassi, 35, was harshly punished for her love of fashion, but she never gave up her dream
Lying on the floor of a cold, crowded, dirty prison wasn’t how I’d pictured turning 16.
It was the day that changed my life forever.
Growing up in post-revolution Iran was tough as a young girl. The government had been overthrown in 1979 and the country became completely Islamic. With that came a new set of rules.
Alcohol was banned, clubs were shut down and women had to be covered head-to-toe in public. But people did as they pleased behind closed doors. I’d see friends and family drink alcohol in their own homes, and my mum had plenty of European fashion magazines. She even had a mink coat. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, she rarely wore it, so aged eight, I’d assumed it was rubbish and cut a few inches off to make my Barbie a fur coat. Needless to say, she was furious.
As I got older, I started watching Baywatch on illegal satellite TV and I was fascinated by fashion. I was suspended three times from school for breaking the uniform code and experimenting with clothes. But I saw these ladies in dresses and heels on the TV and I didn’t understand why me doing the same made me a bad Muslim, or person.
My family didn’t mind what I wore at home, they were just frightened I’d get in trouble. I never thought I’d get caught. Besides, my friends were the same. We’d leave the house in our hijabs, then change clothes the second we got to each other’s houses.