Angella Nazarian Interview

Angella Nazarian

“The most impressive women are not striving for balance, but for fullness in their lives. They pack their lives with things that are really meaningful. They concentrate on their strengths; they know what their talents are, so they aren’t so bothered by their weaknesses.”

ANGELLA NAZARIAN is the author of one of my favorite books Pioneers of the Possible and much like the women she featured in Pioneers, Angella has an inspiring life story of her own.

As a young girl, Angella and her family moved to the U.S. to escape the political turmoil in her native Iran. After coming to America and overcoming the unique challenges of being an immigrant, Angella not only adapted, but thrived graduating Summa Cum Laude from UCLA and Cal State. She wrote about her life’s journey in the New York Times best-selling memoir Life as a Visitor and continues to inspire people around the world as a leading expert and speaker on women’s issues. Angella is also a regular contributor to Maria Shriver’s Open Field Network, the Huffington Post and More magazine.

Needless to say, I was honored to interview Angella about her life’s work, Pioneers of the Possible and why it’s always important to be authentic and real.

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Growing up in Iran, could you envision the life that you have now?
I don’t think I could have ever imagined as a child, what my life would be today. When I was 11 years old, I came to Los Angeles for what would supposed to be a two week trip, but because of the political turmoil back in Iran, I never went back to my home country. I couldn’t have guessed that I would spend my teenage years and adult life in the United States, but that has been one of the most fortunate accidents for me. Here in the States I’ve had the opportunity to thrive and grow as a woman. Sometimes, when I’m at a book event, or speaking at conferences, I pinch myself, and wonder how far that little girl from Iran has come.

What’s your first memory of coming to America?
It’s interesting that details of certain events leave an imprint in our mind. I remember arriving at LAX on a cold winter night. My two brothers who were studying in the States had come to pick us up, and they immediately took us to this futuristic restaurant that is located up high at the center of the airport. I could see the incredible Los Angeles skyline. I ordered a salad, and what I remember is a choice for my salad dressing was 1000 island dressing. That was my first encounter with American culture – and how some words cannot be easily translated into anything meaningful. I still think about that evening every time I take a flight out of LAX.

As a young person learning the ways of America, what was your toughest challenge?
For me I think the challenge was to make sure I was honoring my authentic self, which was being immersed into two very different cultures. At home we kept our Persian traditions, our language and our ways. At school, I had my American friends, dressed in American fashions and spoke English. My true identity is Persian-American, and in my younger years, I had the task of blending my two worlds together for the first time.

What inspired you to write Pioneers of the Possible?
A few years ago I started reading the biographies of women whose lives inspired me. I wanted to know what makes women from all over the world, with different backgrounds, working in different fields feel successful in life. It was during my research that the idea came to profile these extraordinary women in a book that would speak to their motivations and secrets to success.

In writing Pioneers, what were you most surprised to learn?
Admitting any possibility seems to be the key to women who are true visionaries. Think of Estee Lauder, Frida Kahlo, Anais Nin, or Martha Graham – none of them were perfect, in fact they all had their flaws, but their flaws or shortcomings weren’t allowed to become obstacles to their dreams. Anais Nin once so eloquently put it when she said, “Life shrinks and expands according to one’s courage.” I found this common thread runs through the lives of all successful pioneers.

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Name one unforgettable place you’ve travelled too.
Africa. One of the most unforgettable trips that I’ve made with my family was going on a safari in Africa. We stayed in “moving tents” (the tents are erected a week at a time according to the migration patterns of the animals). That first night sleeping in the tents, you feel the pulse of the wilderness. You hear the animals moving around outside: lions roaring, hedgehogs moving around, the insects are buzzing all around. I stayed up the first night completely enrapt by my surroundings.

Name a place you’d like to see before you die.
There’s so many, Yolanda. Why one? Here’s a short list: Buttan, Burma, Patagonia, and tracking silver back gorillas in Rwanda.

Angella, how do you create balance in your life?
I believe that “balance” is a modern day myth. I think it is much better to strive for “fullness”. Following our passions and pursuing what truly makes us happy revitalizes us, and give us energy for the journey. Trying to be good at things that we aren’t naturally good at wears us down. Studies on successful leaders show that it is better to focus and build a life around our strengths, and to allow the tasks that we are not good at to be done by someone else who has a talent and passion for it.

One word…
Believe.  As you take steps in the direction of your dreams, you will find your future unfolding before you.

What advice do you have for younger women?
Listen to what your needs are. Build a community around yourself that validates you.

You’ve already written your memoir Life as a Visitor, can you share your greatest life lesson?
I’ve learned that there is nothing more attractive than being authentic and real.

*For more inspiration, please visit

Interviewed April 2013 by Yolanda, editor of Zavvi Rodaine.
Photos courtesy of Angella Nazarian and Brian Morris
© Zavvi 2013. No part of this interview may be used or reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the Editor of Zavvi

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