FONTANA (CBSLA.com) — Zarifeh Shalabi has seen a couple of major turning points in her life in the last six months.
After the Dec. 2 San Bernardino terror attack, the Muslim teenager was too scared to go to work or even leave the house for fear of anti-Muslim backlash.
“Some people don’t like Muslims. Some people see all Muslims as all of us as terrorists even though terrorism isn’t a religion,” the 17-year-old said.
But the senior at Summit High School was able to move beyond the hate and accomplished something that was unthinkable for her only months ago.
Shalabi said if she was asked earlier in the year whether prom queen was in her future, she would have laughed. But after she made the prom court, she realized becoming queen could be a reality.
“My mom is very strict. She didn’t allow me to go to homecoming. That was my first, basically, party. I’ve never been to an event like that before. So for my first time going to something like that and winning prom queen, that was just crazy,” the teenager recalled.
But she admitted she could not have done it without the tremendous support of her friends, who nominated her and campaigned hard for her.
They all wore headscarfs to show their support and came up with the slogan: “Don’t be a baddie. Vote for the hijabi.” And their efforts paid off. Shalabi’s peers crowned her as prom queen.
“When they announced my name, I was just in total shock. I liked the top five candidates that were there. But I felt that they were more well known and liked in school. So I thought that they had a better chance than me. So for me to win was crazy,” the prom queen said.
The end is like a fairy tale. Underdog wins prom queen. A sparkling crown sits atop a shining hijab.
Shalabi hopes her prom queen win will inspire other young women to follow their dreams even if they seem out of reach.