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Malala Yousafzai opens up on impact of fame on school life in Vogue cover story

The education activist Malala Yousafzai has said fame impacted her schooling in Birmingham, as she appeared on the cover of Vogue.

The Nobel Prize laureate, 23, told the magazine that attending Oxford University ‘finally’ gave her some time for herself.

Eight years ago, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman after campaigning for girls to be educated in her native Pakistan – and then quickly rose to prominence by continuing to champion the cause after leaving the country.

But now she has spoken out about fame affecting her life before university and how her time at Oxford gave her a chance to finally mix with people her age.

Malala, who features on the cover of the July issue of the British magazine, completed her philosophy, politics and economics degree last year.

Malala admitted that her fame impacted her time at school in Birmingham, where she was educated after leaving Pakistan.

‘People would ask me things like, “What was it like when you met Emma Watson, or Angelina Jolie or Obama?”’, she said.


‘And I wouldn’t know what to say. It’s awkward, because you want to leave that Malala outside the school building, you want to just be a student and a friend.’

Discussing that time studying at university, she added: ‘I was excited about literally anything. Going to McDonald’s or playing poker with my friends or going to a talk or an event.

‘I was enjoying each and every moment because I had not seen that much before.’

She added that she had ‘never really been in the company of people my own age because I was recovering from the incident, and travelling around the world, publishing a book and doing a documentary, and so many things were happening.

‘At university I finally got some time for myself.’

Malala, who is pictured all in red with a ring on the fashion magazine cover, also discussed the importance of the headscarf for her culturally.

She explained: ‘It’s a cultural symbol for us Pashtuns, so it represents where I come from.

‘And Muslim girls or Pashtun girls or Pakistani girls, when we follow our traditional dress, we’re considered to be oppressed, or voiceless, or living under patriarchy.

‘I want to tell everyone that you can have your own voice within your culture, and you can have equality in your culture.’

In 2014, she became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner in recognition of her work campaigning for girls to have a universal right to education.

British Vogue’s Editor-in-chief Edward Enninful said: ‘When it comes to people I admire, Malala Yousafzai is right at the top. At 23, the world’s most famous university graduate has already lived so many lives. Activist, author, tireless campaigner for girl’s education, daughter, sister, student and survivor.’

Explaining that the magazine spent three days getting to know ‘the young woman behind the myth’ in London this April, he continued: ‘From her post-uni wobbles to her move into TV production and her eloquent thoughts on wearing the headscarf – and even her trepidation about love and relationships – a new side to Malala, the grown-up, is revealed.

‘I hope you all love getting to know this extraordinary person as much as we did.’

See the full feature in the July issue of British Vogue, available via digital download and on newsstands from Friday.

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