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Nilufar Sherzod, Tajikistan
Miss United Nations USA 2010


"Now as Miss United Nations I have lots of community service opportunities. My goal is to share my culture and help the local community as much as I can in different areas. I am planning to visit children’s hospitals, women’s shelters, schools, and health care facilities. ... There is so much to learn from each one of them. ... 

I can only say to my fellow young Tajik people that they should never give up on their dreams no matter what happens, and they can only achieve their dreams by their hard work and dedication. ... I would like to thank those who have provided support and advice to me ... and those who have helped me achieve whatever I have achieved today. I am so lucky to have met these people. "


INTERVIEW WITH NILUFAR SHERZOD
by Laken Cannon

Tell us about your childhood, country and family
I was born and raised in Tajikistan, a beautiful country in Central Asia. I understand that some of people today don’t know about the existence of my country, and I don’t blame them for that. Tajikistan was part of the former Soviet Union for 70 years and only got its independence after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It has suffered a lot due to the Civil War that lasted for a couple of years and the economic crash, but it has slowly picked up during the last 10-15 years. It’s a tiny country with a population of 8 million people, and it is bordered by China and Afghanistan. I am originally from a mountainous area called Badakhshan (Pamir), where people find peace and harmony just from the fresh air they breathe and the fresh water they drink.

I consider myself a very fortunate person being born in a family like mine. My grandfather, Sherzod Mullo-Abdolov, was one of the most knowledgeable people in Tajikistan in the field of history, world literature, and philosophy. Being raised in my family was the best experience one can wish for, and I loved every minute of my childhood. Study was the first priority in the family, even for me, as the favorite grandchild (laughs). I was the naughtiest grandchild within the whole Mullo-Abdol family, but at the same time I was the favorite of my grandparents. I always loved having them around, even when I became an adult. I still remember my grandpa’s words when he said, "My Neshak will find her way wherever she goes." It was his blessings that kept me going today. Sadly, he is no longer among us, but I know that he is watching over me and is very proud of his Neshak.

I am the second child in a family of four. My father, Shagarf Mullo-Abdolov, is managing his private tourist company, Pamir Silk Travel, and a private firm, an education center that provides different types of courses to different communities, including foreign languages, business, finance, computers, etc. He is an extremely intelligent person, and ever since we were kids, he has made sure we got the best education and knowledge possible. Because of the nature of his job, he used to travel abroad a lot. I can still remember the excitement my sister and I had every time we knew Dad was arriving. From our house we could see his car from a distance, and we would run for quite a long distance to meet him halfway. These are unforgettable feelings and moments that will never leave our hearts. My mother, Ozoda Davlatova, was a teacher in a secondary school. I am so happy that she visited me in the States during my Miss United Nations contest and was the first person to share the excitement with me. They are the best parents in the world with big hearts, and I adore them. I sometimes wonder how my parents coped with their busy work life and still found time to spend quality time with their kids and raised us in the best possible ways.
My older sister, Shabnam Mullo-Abdolova, is a person I call a sister and a friend who helped me pass through so many challenges in my life. She has been doing humanitarian work with different international organizations in and outside of Tajikistan, and currently she is working in Sudan, Africa. My only brother, Farorun, is in Canada studying in college. Of course, he won the hearts of his three sisters. My youngest and the most beautiful sister Benazir is in her last year of high school. She is planning to study in the States for one year before she applies to college back at home. When I asked her whether or not she wanted to stay with me in Utah, she surprisingly answered me, "No, I want to live with an American family since I want to learn English and about American culture and tradition." I find that very brave, considering the fact that I was terrified when I first knew I was coming to the States (laughs).

Tell us a funny story from your childhood.
Since my childhood, I have been very much into fashion and modeling. I did quite a bit of cat walks in front of my friends with mum’s clothes and high heels since I was 5 (laughs). Of course, I got in trouble with mum every time she found out her makeup and other things were missing. Once, against mum’s will, I wanted to have a new hair style when I was only 7. The only sharp thing I found available was a razor, and I managed to cut my hair on my forehead so short that mum had to shave my hair all off. That’s how bad it looked. I refused to go to school for several days and learned my lesson not to mess with my hair since then.

What kind of relationship do you have with your direct and extended family?


I have a big family from both my parents' sides, and we are all very close to each other. We would all get together during holidays and birthday gatherings, etc. We are all supportive of each other, and even during the contest I got so many phone calls from my cousins, aunts and others wishing me good luck. I think it is important to have people around you that truly love you and support you no matter what.

How did you end up in the States and who was supporting you during this time?

I only planned to come to the States for a short period of time for studies, but during this time, different opportunities crossed my path that made me stay. I am the type of person that is always eager to learn and discover new things. With the support of my family, I decided to fly to the US. I didn’t know much about how my life would end up, but I got a bit of a background about life in the US from my sister, who had studied in the States in the past. She was always so positive about the country and its people and told me how this experience has impacted her life in a positive way. She also mentioned that the US is full of opportunities for people who wish to develop their lives. I still remember the feeling I had when I flew over the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on my birthday, the 6th of May. I didn’t know whether I was happy or sad, but I was frightened. That was the first time I had been this far from my family and friends.

I chose Utah because I learned that it’s one of the safest States in the US. Then after I discovered the beautiful nature and amazingly genuine people living in Utah, I decided to stay here and continue my studies and career. I then found an American family, which made my life more exciting and meaningful here. I met my American mom, Patti Jones, through her sister Molly Jones, who has shared her home with me for the last 2 years. My host mum and host teen sister, Hannah Oldroyd, have my heart forever. My host mum left her own job aside and spent days showing me all the ins and outs of Utah. She introduced me to people who have become so dear to me and assisted and advised me with so many things, including my career. I became part of their family and she has treated me like her own daughter. I will never forget how she has taken care of me all this time. She would even prepare my breakfast and lunch before I headed off to school! That’s how spoiled I was (laughs).

My host sister has an amazing personality. We have so much fun together, especially when she introduced me to house camping. One day I came home from work and saw a huge camping tent in the middle of the living room. It turns out that Hannah and her friends were pretending that they are in a canyon. It was so funny and thank goodness they didn’t try to make a camp fire in our living room (laughs)

How did you start your modeling career in Utah?
It was during my first year in the US. While I waiting for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport, a lady came up to me and asked me if I was interested in modeling. She happened to be a designer and needed my look for one of her shows. She contacted me after that, and I did my first photo shoot for her store in Utah, and that’s how it started.

I then took a professional course in modeling and acting. Now I am with Talent Management Group Agency (TMG). I really like and enjoy being in this industry.

How did you get enrolled in Miss United Nations, and what is your role in the Utah community as Miss United Nations?
I got to know about the pageant through my University and was one of the 10 successful contestants to represent my country. I didn’t even think for a moment that I would come even close to being selected as a 2nd runner up for the title, let alone winning the title itself! I was happy enough to have a chance to represent my country in this pageant. But I definitely was happy and full of emotions when my name was announced as the first Miss United Nations among the 2 other runner-ups from Japan and Congo.

Now as Miss United Nations I have lots of community service opportunities. My goal is to share my culture and help the local community as much as I can in different areas. I am planning to visit children’s hospitals, women’s shelters, schools, and health care facilities. I have already started meeting with different community groups, and find it fascinating. I was really happy and excited the way they welcomed me and share their experiences during the discussions and meetings. There is so much to learn from each one of them.

You had very interesting traditional clothes on during the pageant. Where did you get them from?

The white traditional dress that I danced in was designed and tailored for this contest by my aunt Niso Mullo-Abdolova. The second one is called ‘Atlas dress’. 'Atlas' is our traditional material back in Central Asia, and I asked mum to send over this material and got it designed and tailored by Nkoyo Bridal here in Utah. I wanted to have something unique, with the western and traditional flavor, which, I think, worked perfectly. Everybody loved my outfits.

Who are your favorite Tajik musicians that you like and are proud of?
Tajiks are very artistic and talented people, and, of course, we have many famous and amazing musicians with unique talent. I listen to a wide range of music, depending on my mood. For instance, I like Dushanbe Pallaev, Khurmo Shirinova Jurabek Murodov, Surayo Kosimova, Sohiba Davlatshoeva, Nobovar Chanorov, Saidikov’s family and others. I grew up listening to Daler Nazarov songs. I am very happy to see that we have many young talents growing back home. Shabnami Surayo and Jonibek Murodov are among my favorite singers. They have had several tours in the USA, Canada and Europe and are favored by people of the west.

Your favorite day in your life?
Can I talk about my favorite days this year? (laughs) There were two days, actually, the day I met my mom here in the US after almost three years and the day I became Miss United Nations.

Your worst day?

The day my grandfather passed away. He is the person I so dearly miss in my life and wish he was still with us to see the humble success I have achieved.

When are you planning to go back to Tajikistan?
I haven’t thought about that yet, since I still have so many goals that I have to achieve. Finishing my master's degree is one of them. I think whenever the time feels right, I will go back home.

Tell us a little bit about your personal life. When are you planning to get married?

I am not planning to get married in the near future. Marriage is a big responsibility and a big step in anybody’s life, and I would like to make sure that I am ready to take that step before I make any commitments.

What do you think about the young people from Tajikistan living in the states and what are your wishes to all young Tajik people around the world?
Tajiks in general are very hard working people and I am certain that where ever they are living and whatever they are doing, they will do their best to achieve their goals. I know many people who are either studying or working in the States or some are already living here for many years and call the US a second home. They are all doing very well. For example, a good friend of mine, Azamat Umarzoda, became kick boxing champion this year. We were both very happy for each others' achievements even though we couldn't attend the respective sh
ows.

I can only say to my fellow young Tajik people that they should never give up on their dreams no matter what happens, and they can only achieve their dreams by their hard work and dedication.

At the end I would like to thank those who have provided support and advice to me during these three years and those who have helped me achieve whatever I have achieved today. I am so lucky to have met these people.