I’m a woman who makes a declaration—to the world and to myself—and then I make it come true or at least I try.

I was born in Tehran, Iran, to a family that wasn’t religious. We were culturally Muslim. I wore mini-skirts. I drove. I never thought things would change. At 18, I married but I went to college. It was a great life, with a lot of money that came from oil. I knew I wanted children. In 1974, two months after graduation, my daughter was born. In 1978, the uprising in Iran started. We were all against the Shah. We thought we were cool. We even shouted, “Death to the Shah.” But eventually, my ex-husband saw what was really happening and said it was time to leave. 

In January 1979, we moved to Washington, DC. I went from a life of incredible privilege to a life where money was very tight. In 1988, after marriage counseling and years of trying, we got a divorce. It was very difficult.

I took a course about “breakthroughs”. I realized that I was playing the victim and wasn’t taking responsibility. They asked us to make a declaration of what we wanted our lives to be about. I stood up in the room and declared, “I am committed to peace in the world.” I got a law degree, specializing in international relations. While in a “Magic of Empowerment” course, I met a man. We went to lunch. I was so moved by what he was saying I started to cry. We became very good friends. The third time he asked me to marry him, I said, “Yes!” But really, as soon as Nick told me that he helps people figure out what their ideal career is, I was hooked. 

In 1990, we married. I started a non-profit organization, “Mideast 200,” to promote peace and human rights in the Middle East. I designed a peace walk. There were 16 countries including Palestine and 93 people on our first walk. 

In 1994, my daughter went to Iran. She wore a hijab. Only 15 years before, I was wearing a mini-skirts. 

I also started a “Women of Vision Conference,” that went all over the world. In 1995, I was honored as “Peacemaker of the year” by American University. 

How did I become an artist? I declared myself an artist! 

I was always good with my hands. I got an email for a juried competition, for artists from the Iranian-American community. I didn’t know why I received the email. But I was taking a course in making collages. It wasn’t an art course, but a self-development and transformational course. The teacher was an artist, and very encouraging. I entered the completion and I got in. I got into the next juried show that I entered. For me, that cemented the idea that I really was an artist. 

I started to take drawing and painting classes and I continue to do so—I became a welder. I love it! It is so empowering to be using tools that are traditionally used by men. I made a lion, titled “Africa,” out of steel. I wanted it to encourage and inspire women. It was shown in the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

This is an excerpt from a comprehensive interview.