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Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad On Training While Fasting For Ramadan

Hear about how the Olympic fencer and bronze medalist has created the things she wants to see in the world on the newest episode of See Something Say Something.

Posted on May 21, 2018, at 11:48 a.m. ET

Ramadan Mubarak! See Something Say Something is celebrating the month by featuring interviews with Muslims in the media spotlight.

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For the first episode, we talk to Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad about fasting while training, navigating the white world of fencing, and more.

Muhammad is widely known as the first American Muslim woman to compete for Team USA in the hijab. She has a bronze medal in team sabre from the 2016 Olympics. An excerpt: It's interesting when you grow up different from everyone else, you know? I think that you have an easier time just being yourself and existing and not having to conform. I can't really try to fit in because I'm always gonna be this black chick with a hijab, right? So it's like, whatever, I'm gonna do my own thing. So I didn't really struggle with trying to fit in with other people because it's like trying to fit a square in a circle. To them, I'm always gonna be different. So what was great about fencing for me is that when I put on my fencing mask, I look like everyone else. And it was this "ah-hah" moment for me as a kid, because I didn't have to deal with the stares anymore. Because when my fencing mask went on, you didn't see my hijab. You didn't see that I was black. You didn't see that I was a girl. All you knew was: this person can fence.
Gabriel Sanchez / BuzzFeed News

Muhammad is widely known as the first American Muslim woman to compete for Team USA in the hijab. She has a bronze medal in team sabre from the 2016 Olympics.

An excerpt: It's interesting when you grow up different from everyone else, you know? I think that you have an easier time just being yourself and existing and not having to conform. I can't really try to fit in because I'm always gonna be this black chick with a hijab, right? So it's like, whatever, I'm gonna do my own thing. So I didn't really struggle with trying to fit in with other people because it's like trying to fit a square in a circle. To them, I'm always gonna be different. So what was great about fencing for me is that when I put on my fencing mask, I look like everyone else. And it was this "ah-hah" moment for me as a kid, because I didn't have to deal with the stares anymore. Because when my fencing mask went on, you didn't see my hijab. You didn't see that I was black. You didn't see that I was a girl. All you knew was: this person can fence.

Like many Muslim professional athletes, Muhammad often fasts for Ramadan while training for or participating in very important competitions.

So, I've spent my entire life trying to balance training and Ramadan. And for me, those.... in doing those two things simultaneously — observing the fast and also training, sometimes for really really important competitions for me — there was never a moment of doubt of like, "Oh! I don't think I'm going to fast for this Ramadan."
Gabriel Sanchez / BuzzFeed News

So, I've spent my entire life trying to balance training and Ramadan. And for me, those.... in doing those two things simultaneously — observing the fast and also training, sometimes for really really important competitions for me — there was never a moment of doubt of like, "Oh! I don't think I'm going to fast for this Ramadan."

Did we mention she has an upcoming new Barbie? Incredible.

Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images

Plus, hear about how Muhammad started her ethical, modestwear line with her siblings.

Instagram: @louellashop

Another excerpt: About four years ago, my brother and I were on a phone call... I was looking for a dress to wear to an event. And I was having a hard time finding this long-sleeved dress. It's like finding a unicorn in the desert. It can be really hard. My brother's like, "why don't you make your own dresses?" ....My sisters and I came up with the designs. We bought fabric. We pitched this company idea to an investor. It literally started it from the ground up.

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