The famed Beverly Hills plastic surgeon was smuggled out of Iran as a child. An advocate for women’s empowerment, she stands firmly with Iranian women aspiring to freedom.
As a child, Sheila Nazarian escaped from Iran. She was shot dead by Iranian border guards as she was smuggled into the United States. Today, she’s an accomplished Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who starred in her own popular and Emmy-nominated Netflix series, skin decision. She has nearly a million followers on Instagram and is an advocate for female empowerment.
Dr. Sheila Nazarian was born in 1979, after the Iranian revolution. His mother, knowing things weren’t safe, flew to the United States a month before he was born so that her baby would be an American citizen. She returned to Iran, where they lived a life of micro and macro aggression against women and the Jewish people.
“Before the Revolution, Iran was very European and avant-garde,” Dr. Nazarian explained in an exclusive Aish.com interview. “Civilians in Iran had freedom. Women wore miniskirts. It was like any other European country. After the Revolution, everything changed radically. All women were forced to wear a hijab and all Jews had to hide their Judaism. No Jewish student was allowed to valedictorian in high school.
Dr Nazarian shared: “If someone asked us if we were Muslims, we would answer ‘yes’. There was no way you could advertise your Judaism. We never placed a mezuzah at our doorstep and we never lit a menorah on Chanukah. There are still many Jews there today who are outwardly Islamic, but in their basements practice Judaism.
In post-revolutionary Iran, people were beaten in schools and on the streets because they were Jewish.
In post-revolutionary Iran, people were beaten in schools and on the streets because they were Jewish. When it rained, the Jews were beaten for making the streets”najessor dirty, because the rain hit them on the ground.
It is time to leave
A few factors made Sheila’s parents decide it was time to move on. Sheila was six years old when, during the Iran-Iraq war, a bomb landed two blocks from their house. “Children, we woke up, went to the window and looked at the bombs. My parents told us it was fireworks.
His father was a chief medical officer at Shah’s Heart Hospital and he was scared every day. His father saved a lab technician’s sight, diagnosing him with a stray in his eye.
“The lab technician was working as one of the lay people who helped Khomeini come to power. He said, ‘You saved my life, I’m going to save your life. You’re on the list, you have to leave now.
“My father left for Vienna, because a visiting professor had come and he had received a letter to speak at a conference. He was able to leave, but had to leave all our passports with the government. In the meantime, we were working with HIAS to put an escape plan in place. This organization still helps asylum seekers today.
Dr. Nazarian recounted the harrowing details of his dramatic escape. “It was imperative that my father and my mother leave separately because we would have been orphaned if we had all been taken, and on top of that it provided a good cover story. My father could have said to the authorities: ‘Oh, my wife and I were in trouble, she was trying to run away…’
“I didn’t know we were escaping. My mother didn’t tell us anything. One morning we went to the bazaar and my mother told us to get in the back of a big vehicle, and we all hid under corn and burlap. We were in the fetal position at the bottom of this trunk with several other strangers. The car took us to the border. Then we got into the back of a van. We started heading towards Pakistan.
The group of refugees spent a night sleeping in the desert.
“The van’s lights were off and we only drove at night so as not to be discovered. At some point we were seen and they started shooting at us. Once the truck was discovered, they turned on their headlights and drove full speed down a ravine. The border police thought it was too dangerous and didn’t pursue us any further.
It wasn’t until we crossed the border that my mother told me we were going to America. At six years old, my first reaction was: “Oh my God! We are going to meet Michael Jackson!
“We came to Pakistan by the skin of our teeth. It wasn’t until we crossed the border that my mother told me we were going to America. At six years old, my first reaction was: “Oh my God! We’re going to meet Michael Jackson!’
“We waited for the papers, and finally arrived in Vienna and found my father at a train station. We hadn’t seen him for almost four months. He had shaved off his beard and I didn’t recognize him. than when he started talking.
The American dream
The family spent a month in Vienna waiting for permission to come to America. They were able to fly to New York together. They then moved to Los Angeles where Dr. Nazarian has lived ever since.
“We moved to Los Angeles and stayed in a two-bedroom apartment with my mom’s sister until my dad could study enough to pass the medical boards. I remember he rode his bicycle to the library to study every day.
“He knew English because at one time he worked as a concierge in Iran for an American hotel. Fortunately, he only needed to pass the jury exam because he had actually done his residency in America.
“While he was a medical student, he discovered a rare bacterium that causes pneumonia in malnourished children. The disease is called Pneumocystis Carinii, which is taught in textbooks today. This is my father’s discovery. Because of this, he did his pathology residency at the University of Pennsylvania. Fortunately, this made our transition to the United States easier.
As a child, Sheila spoke no English and was extremely thin. “My elbows were bigger than my arms and I was dark, so I was made fun of a lot. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was super smart and wasn’t shy about showing it. She yearned for acceptance but refused to change who she was just to get it.
“I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs or re-do my mustache, so I didn’t have a lot of boys interested, which is good. I remember one time, I went to CVS and I bought Nair and started rubbing the chemicals all over the place, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I wanted all the hair.
“I thrived in college. There were so many more people to choose from, and I was able to find my crew.
We left everything behind and started from scratch. This is the story of many Persian Jews here today.
Dr. Nazarian explains that seeing her parents’ sacrifice, how hard they worked and what they left behind motivated her to work hard and sacrifice herself to become the success she is today. .
“In Iran, we lived a comfortable life in a three-storey marble house. With marble floors and marble columns, in typical Persian style. We left everything behind and started from scratch. This is the story of many Persian Jews here today.
Dr. Nazarian’s mother has since died of breast cancer. In Iran, women were simply expected to raise the family, and so she was unable to pursue her own dreams.
“My mum wanted to be a math teacher and always thought it was a missed opportunity. I was given a second chance at life, so I decided to burn the candle at both ends and take advantage of this. country. Here in America you can be successful and you are not restricted by religion or gender. I have worked very hard for decades and I guess I have succeeded. I have set my eyes on a target and a “dream life” that I wanted, and I took small steps towards that every day.
Protests in Iran
Dr Nazarian has a unique insight into the latest protests in Iran, sparked by the murder of a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini by ‘modesty police’. The protests have led to violent crackdowns and the killing of at least 40 people, with human rights organizations saying the number is much higher.
“The Iranian people got it. The Revolution began under the cover of progressivism. They would say, ‘How can the Shah live in a castle, when there are homeless people on the streets?’ On paper, the Revolution looked promising. The people overthrew the Shah, and now look what they have left. They want the return of the old Iran.
Dr. Nazarian believes that if anyone can inspire diet change, it’s women.
Dr. Nazarian believes that if anyone can inspire diet change, it’s women. She believes that women have so much silent power, just waiting to be harnessed. “When women are done with something, they are done. They are not afraid and will not back down. When they want change, they get change. Whether in the family or at work or in politics.
“As women, we always look to the future for our children. We work hard and serve as role models for our children. Everything we produce is for the future of our families. Women in Iran do not want this for their children. They want to see a different future.
You can follow Dr. Sheila Nazarian on Instagram @drsheilanazarian