Women Who Walk Ahead: Neelofa

Beauty. Brains. Brawn. A lethal combination that turns these girl bosses into women moguls.
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Dress, hat and scarf, Marc Jacobs.

Coinciding with the celebration of everything Malaysian this September, we would like to honour all the powerful women in our country with our special "Women Who Walk Ahead" series.

And first on our spotlight is the one, the only multi-talented actress, model and entrepreneur Neelofa (@neelofa).

She was already a prima donna in the making before she dipped her toe in the entrepreneurial world. Her star-making turn in Azura landed her first acting nod at the 25th Malaysian Film Festival and opened countless doors for the young starlet.

While her peers chose to coast on the high life of a celebrity, Neelofa took a road less travelled when she founded Naelofar Hijab, as she yearned for something that’s more sustainable. “Acting is good while it is good, but it’s not forever”, she said.

From Islamic wear to perfume, stationery and contact lenses – thelist is so diverse. What do all these businesses have in common?

They are all basically my personal must-haves. I used to have some trouble finding things that I like, especially hijabs.

So I told myself, “why don’t I come up with something that I love and see if the market likes it too?”, and Alhamdulillah, the products have been well-received by the market and now I get to wear things that I love every day.


What about your role as nonexecutive independent director at AirAsia?

Long story short, Tan Sri Tony (Fernandes) and I met sometime last year and we talked about the millennials’ spending power when it comes to travelling and its correlation to the digital media, which turned out to be quite a conversation. Not long after that, I was offered the role to strategise and plan the business that resonates with rising trends. And the rest is history!

"I do learn from the lessons after each controversy or backlash, so I know not to make the same mistakes in the future."

– Neelofa

(Photo: @neelofa)

Your journey is not without challenges and given your celebrity status, the scrutiny has been extremely critical even by the business world standards. Do the years being a public figure help you in dealing with controversies and backlashes?

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t really pay much attention to controversies and backlashes, but I do learn from the lessons after each controversy or backlash, so I know not to make the same mistakes in the future. I will do better next time.



With all that responsibility on your shoulders, how do you find time for yourself?

My “me-time” is always at night, with a cup of tea and a good book, sometimes a good show on Netflix! But I would wake up early to do some exercises like pilates and yoga, and then get ready to go about my day.

I also make it a habit to read the newspapers in the morning so I am aware of what’s happening in the world. Even when I’m at home, I still work.

You seem to have it all already. What else do you wish to achieve?

I am grateful for everything that I have now. If there’s an opportunity in the future, I’d like to see my business ventures expand into the property sector; and also I would love to start my own family.

Cover Photo Credits:

Photography: Chintoo 
Styling: Jeffrey Yan
Makeup: Khir Khalid
Hair: Juno Ko
Hijab Stylist: Nazerul Anaz
Styling Assistant: Joyce Fan



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