Summer is fast approaching and what better way to celebrate than relaxing in the garden with one of your favourite books? In my case, it’s Deborah Rodriguez’s “Little Coffee Shop of Kabul” which I discovered two summers ago. It’s one of those books which nuzzles its way into your heart and makes such a profound impact that it stays there; resonating with many aspects in how I see the world.
So, when I got the chance to interview the author herself on behalf of Shoes by Shaherazad, I was so excited I didn’t sleep for days. Deborah’s story is one which I have told countless times to friends and family as an example of a hugely courageous woman who has achieved seemingly impossible things. It was her “Little Coffee Shop” characters who played a big part in inspiring me to design a business which is focused on empowering women. Over our own little cups of coffee, Deborah was kind enough to share some of her insights on life, women, books and heels.
SU: Deborah, you inspired me to create a brand which does good deeds for women and girls across the world through your Little Coffee Shop book. What inspired you to write about your own story?
DR: When I was teaching hairdressing to women in Afghanistan , I was so stunned to learn about the hardships and the abuse they had gone through for so many years. During Taliban time, one of my students had not left her house in eight years, and many others had been sold by their parents into a forced marriage. My heart hurt when I heard those stories. These women had no voice. I felt honoured when they courageously agreed to have their stories shared in a book, The Kabul Beauty School.
SU: How do you think women can do more to support each other and share in each other’s successes?
DR: First of all, keep the conversation going. Something I’ve learned as a hairdresser is to keep my ears open, to listen to what people have to share and pass it on to others. I’ve been able to mobilize a lot of folks that way.
SU: What is your favourite Arabic word and why?
DR: Inshallah (God willing). It makes life and what happens in life bigger than myself.
SU: What is your favourite English quote and why?
DR: Well, actually one of my favourite quotes is from Rumi, translated into English as, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure.” Sometimes the best most powerful moments come when you hit rock-bottom. I know for myself that is true.
SU: Who have been the most inspiring women in your life?
DR: My mother has always been my greatest inspiration, greatest friend, and greatest supporter. She taught me that I can do anything and achieve anything if I set my mind to it. She taught me to live life with no limitations.
SU: Hairdressing, beauty and an authentic image is obviously very dear to you. Why do you think good shoes are so important to women across the world?
DR: I have been standing on my feet for 12 hours a day for over 30 years. If your feet hurt, it’s hard to be creative, it’s hard to listen, and it’s hard to think. Nothing goes well for me when my feet hurt.
SU: What do you look for in a good pair of shoes?
DR: My mission with shoes is twofold: they cannot be ugly and they need to be comfortable. The true test for me is if I can work 10 hours standing on my feet doing hair and still feel like walking on the treadmill for an hour, then all is good. If my feet hurt after a long day of work and I can’t go for a walk, these shoes go right into the bad shoes pile in my closet.
SU: What do you remember with most affection about Afghanistan?
DR: No question, it’s the kindness of the people. They are incredibly hospitable and loving. I was welcomed into the land like I was family.
SU: What do you love about Mexico?
DR: I also love the people of Mexico, but above all it’s the lively spirit of the country that attracts me most ¾ so full of music and full of joy.
SU: What is it that motivates you in helping other people so much?
DR: I think it was the way my parents raised me. My mom and dad always took in stray people into our home, and were always helping the less fortunate.
SU: Of the four “good deeds” projects on the Shoes by Shaherazad website, which one is your favourite and why?
DR: This is a very hard question. I love all the projects. The female entrepreneur project is amazing. The thought of a poor child turning to prostitution because they need to eat or help the family makes me incredibly sad. Education is the only way we can change our world.
SU: If you had to pick a #hashtag to describe yourself, what would it be?
Interviewing Deborah has left me feeling happy, energised and inspired. I knew it when I read her books, and now I know it for sure: she is a true flamingo philosophiser – someone who always carries herself with grace, poise and elegance. To thank Deb for the impact she has had on my thinking about women empowering women I have named a pair of heels, “Dream then Do in Gold”, after her vision, her story, and most of all, her courage. A “thank you” donation has also been made to support women in Afghanistan, the home of the beautiful and empowering Little Coffee Shop from www.18hourheels.com.
Deborah Rodriguez is a hairdresser, a motivational speaker, and the author of the bestselling memoir “Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil”. She is the founder of the non-profit organisation Oasis Rescue, which aims to teach women in post conflict and disaster stricken areas the art of hairdressing. She currently lives in Mexico. Read more here: www.deborahrodriguez.com