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How a Muslim girl falls in love with V8s.

11 July 2013

Yassmin AbdelMagied with Gail Kelly

(Felicity Briody, Gail Kelly and Yassmin Abdel-Magied at the 2012 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awards.)

I've always considered myself a rebel of sorts, even though all my friends at the Christian ecumenical high school I went to didn't see it that way. 

I wasn't allowed out at night or on the weekends to ‘hang out’ at the shopping center; I had chosen to cover my hair and my body up as part of my religious beliefs; all my social events were with my family or community.

That didn’t matter to me though. I rebelled in my own ways… and one of those rebellions has turned into a full blown, life passion.
The story starts innocently enough; it was a cool Friday night and my mother, brother and I were settling in for another VHS movie night. 
As was our tradition, we headed on over to the local video store and proceeded to each pick a movie.  My brother always picked the strange titles; I remember him thinking Shaolin Soccer looked cool. The night we watched that movie our stomachs hurt from distraught laughter.
Back to the Friday night in question...
It was an evening like any other, unremarkable to the point where I don't remember any details.  Suffice to say, however, one of us picked a movie that essentially changed my life.
It was called Catch that Kid. I look at the cover now and cringe, but at the time I just thought the two boys looked cute - and one had an afro like me!  I was sold.
The plot of the movie is irrelevant. It was a good movie, with nothing of note to remember...until right at the end, one of the characters heads out to his family's go-kart track and speeds around the circuit.
"That looks so cooool!" I remember thinking.  "I want to do THAT!"
I then proceeded to beg my mum to let me on the internet (dial up, as it was), and began researching everything I could about go-karting.  When my parents refused to fork out the hundreds and thousands of dollars I was asking for to hit it up myself, I then started researching cars.  
Somehow, between that kid's go-kart and the pages of the How Cars are Made books I borrowed from the local library, I fell in love with cars. 
My first love was the McLaren F1. The fastest production car of the time; I couldn't get enough of it. I would borrow shelves worth of books from the library, from service manuals to the history of Ferrari, drinking up the shapes, the designs, the speed, the beauty of the power...
I think my parents thought it was a strange phase I would get over, until I started taking design and technology classes at school.  They would later be pleasantly surprised when I went on to top the subjects of both graphic design and design and technology in grade 12 (I was the only girl in my design and tech class!). 
They must have realised something was up when all I would watch on the television was the Formula 1 and the V8s.  They definitely came to accept it when I chose mechanical engineering as my major, because I wanted to design cars for a living. I did initially want to be the first, female, Muslim Formula 1 driver but it didn't quite work out that way! ;)
If there is one thing I have learnt from the experience though, it's that inspiration can come from anywhere.  If we hadn't decided to stay in that night and watch movies, I might never have discovered my love for motorsport.  It makes life exciting in a way, to know that inspiration can hit at any time. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut and take life for a drive! 
Yassmin Abdel-Magied was the 2012 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence joint winner in the Young Leader category. She is the founder and President at Youth Without Borders. Have a look for her in our 100 Women of Influence alumni /100-women-of-influence-awards-alumni.aspx


  • Yassmin AbdelMagied

    Yassmin AbdelMagied 7 years ago

    Thanks so much for your comment Larke! :) I do hope the stories I share can inspire and empower others to realise they can do whatever they desire...

  • Larke Riemer

    Larke Riemer 7 years ago

    What a fabulous article Yassmin - you are living proof of how resilience and belief in yourself and sticking to your goals will help you reaise your dreams. You are an inspiration to other young women and I hope this article inspires other young women to get involved in the Women of Influence Awards. Congratulations.