When Nadiya Hussain won The Great British Bake Off, in the words of the Radio Times, “She became a household name when she reduced Mary Berry – and millions of viewers – to tears.” The crux of her speech, to which you can listen on YouTube, was that no longer would she set boundaries around what she could accomplish.

This reflected a new attitude towards her mental health issues which she opened about further as she appeared more and more in interviews. “Suffering with mental health and suffering racism is quite isolating,” she explained to the Radio Times, “and to be able to share that is therapy for me as much as it is for other people.”

What was touching for so many people about Hussain’s victory was, as Merry Berry described in a bit quoted by Metro, that during the course of the competition a baker who was very nervous and self-restricted but determined managed to overcome her anxiety and shine.

Nadiya Hussain followed her victory in the Great British Baking Show to present a documentary about her therapy titled Nadiya: Anxiety and Me. Talking with the BBC, Hussain explained that a driving force behind its creation was her feeling that the silence surrounding mental illnesses proves one of the biggest hurdles for people who suffer from them. So, by sharing, she healed her own breaks as well as widened the dialogue that surrounds the topic.

Later, the BBC reported that her open depiction of what it is like to suffer anxiety received praise from the general viewership. “In a world where nearly nine in 10 people with mental health problems say stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives, honesty like Nadiya’s feels like something we all need,” a HuffPost review stated. This sharing has continued even during the times of the pandemic, as the BBC also reported. She has told her followers about her struggles to get out of bed and that it is ok “to be kind to ourselves” and not strive for productivity all of the time.

So the emotions that connected millions of people to Hussain after her Bake Off victory have continued beyond the series finale. 

Nadiya Hussain became a household name after winning season six of The Great British Baking Show. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll remember watching this shy, nervous young woman, wearing a traditional hijab, gradually find her confidence and voice. Hussain broke boundaries and became a role model by defying prejudices, per The New York Times. 

What viewers didn’t know was that while Hussain was baking delicious mille-feuille and cheesecakes, she was internally battling debilitating anxiety, racist attacks, and PTSD. But Nadiya Hussain is nothing if not incredibly perseverant. She has gone on to become the most famous and successful GBBS winner to date, thanks to her many television appearances and prolific output of cookbooks, children’s books, and novels. But behind the effervescent personality, Hussain is more complex, empowering, and cheeky than you might believe. Keep reading to learn about the untold truth of Nadiya Hussain’s struggles and triumphs.

To date, Nadiya Hussain has been the most successful winner of The Great British Baking Show. She’s never released her earnings, but it’s estimated to be $5 million (per The Cinemaholic). After winning in 2015, she immediately hopped on the PR wagon by appearing on comedian Michael McIntyre’s Big Christmas Show. She then signed contracts with the BBC to host food and travel programs, The Chronicles of Nadiya, which followed her around her native Bangladesh as she shared recipes that shaped her love for cooking, according to Kajal. The two-part show was enormously popular, per The Sun, and was particularly enlightening when she guided viewers in the customs of a traditional Muslim wedding. 

After a stint as a judge with Mary Berry on Junior Bake Off, she had her first cooking show, Nadiya’s British Food Adventure that also had a tie-in cookbook — her second in a year. In the show, she travels throughout the U.K. and samples regional cuisine. Although the show was dubbed by The Guardian as formulaic, it cemented Hussain’s reputation as “darling of the nation.” She regularly contributed articles and recipes to BBC Good Food, The Times Magazine, The Guardian, and The Telegraph. In addition to her frequent television appearances, she’s written four children’s books, five cookbooks, three novels, and a memoir. She also has a homeware collection — Make Life Colorful — and a new 2020 Netflix series, proving without a doubt that Hussain is the most prolific of the GBBS winners.

In April 2016 — a few months after winning GBBS  — Nadiya Hussain was invited to bake the birthday cake for Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebration. Hussain was justifiably nervous, as reported by ITV. “Every time I tried to ignore the fact I was doing it for the Queen, my husband would very conveniently remind me — ‘Hey, hey, you’re slacking. It’s for the Queen. Get up, you can’t be lying down.'” At the ceremony  — a huge media event  — she presented to the Queen a three-tier, orange drizzle cake, brightly decorated in gold, purple, and lavender fondant. 

The Queen wasn’t sure where to cut. “Does it cut?” Hussain assured her it did, although she revealed later in an interview she was thinking: “Oh, God, it better cut,” according to The Daily Mail. Queen Elizabeth was reportedly referring to an event the previous year when her knife got stuck in a fruitcake. With the cake cut, Prince Philip approached Hussain, and the Queen introduced her. As reported by News 24, the Prince replied: “Yes, I know who she is, but what flavor is the cake?” 

Not everyone was impressed by Hussain’s creation. “Hideous” and “circus-like” were some of the unflattering tweets she received. Hussain brushed off the criticism: “If I cared about every little thing people say or that kind of negativity,” as told by The Mirror, “I don’t think I would be able to leave my house.” The Queen apparently loved the cake and took the top tier back to Buckingham Palace.

Although you wouldn’t know it from her bubbly personality, Hussain was going through some dark times as the 2015 series began to shoot (via You Magazine). In the first five episodes of season six, Hussain wore a black hijab — the traditional head and neck covering worn by Muslim women. As reported by The Guardian, she was nervous that GBBS viewers would think that “perhaps people would look at me, a Muslim in a headscarf, and wonder if I could bake.” 

Hussain’s facial expressions and witty quips won her many admirers. But when Hussain was declared the winner, The Sun’s columnist Ally Ross claimed that she had won only because of the BBC’s political correctness and that her success was “ideological warfare” on Great Britain, according to Huffington Post UK. Another journalist from The Daily Mail complained that finalist Flora Shedden was booted off because she was too middle-class. “Perhaps if she’d made a chocolate mosque, she’d have stood a better chance,” they offensively remarked.

Hussain was also receiving threats on social media and had to request police protection for her family (per Closer). She was worried she had unintentionally put her children in danger, but her husband, Abdal, assured her “They’re such a minority, and it doesn’t matter,” per HeatWorld. Prime Minister David Cameron made it publicly known that he and his wife had favored Hussain to win, and as reported by The Times, PR guru Mark Borkowski declared “She represents an image of a modern Muslim woman.”