Several years ago I met Neda Nobari and I felt an immediate kinship with her. She inspired me with her innate ability to get to the core, reach beyond the surface and truly connect to the level of humanity that is peaceful compassion. We have had many long and rich conversations ever since we met. She is a mentor, a friend, a teacher and a woman that I look up to. Our conversations are fluid and rhythmic and pulsate with our common love of humanity.

Neda is an encourager in a time that is most prevalent with critics. She encourages people to go for it, to manifest and create incredible things, and she motivates and funds their dreams to realize their goals. Her work centers on funding individuals and organizations to reach their highest most thriving selves.

“Allow yourself to dream big and see what that looks like” Neda Nobari

I have admired Neda’s work as a teenager decades before we actually met. She and her ex-husband were behind the tremendous success of the iconic clothing brand Bebe. I, like many other teens and young adults, was a patron at the Bebe stores. They decorated the many canvases of the urban and not so urban malls with hundreds of locations scattered across the United States and other countries. During her 22 years with Bebe Stores, Inc. the company went through tremendous evolution starting with three stores to becoming a company that had a market capitalization of a billion dollars. Now she is a community activist, philanthropist, a mom of two sons, and is at the helm of a namesake foundation that promotes social and environmental justice through arts and education. To say this woman is a groundbreaking powerhouse is an understatement.

Neda Nobari is of Iranian descent that was born in Tehran Iran and raised in Abadan. She emigrated to America in 1978 as a teen, and graduated San Francisco Sate University in 1984 with a Computer Science Degree she had an opportunity to join Bebe Stores, Inc. and rest is history. After she left Bebe she returned to academia and received her Masters in Liberal Arts at Dartmouth University her graduate research focused on diaspora and cultural identity of Iranian-American Women. This, lead her to create the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University. She also is celebrating the tenth year of the Neda Nobari Foundation.

Recently I was able to sit down and have another long and languid, delicious conversations with Neda. We spoke about the Art of Giving and how through giving she feels she thrives. She shared with me her latest project “West of Middle East” podcast that is an incredible exploration of Iranian Americans thriving through diaspora. We celebrated her invitation to speak at the commencement of her alma mater SFSU later this month. We shared stories and proud moments about our children. We laughed and connected and held a space of energy for one another.

I asked Neda “What is your philosophy of philanthropy?” and her response is sheer wisdom.

Neda: Funding is a window into engagement with the artists, the filmmakers, and the change makers of our time that I have the opportunity to work with. The presence of the individuals and organizations that I support gives me energy. Somehow magically when I feel that I am living a purposeful life I gain more energy no matter how much I have on my plate. Being of service has opened the doors to my soul, I experience the reciprocal relationship between giving and taking and the full cycle of energy through philanthropy. Giving is a great way for me to show my gratitude to the Universe for the blessings in my life. I give because I am here on this planet in this time for a reason and I hope to help create a catalyst for a better world. Giving is how I am leaving my footprint behind. I am a role model for my son’s I am leaving a lasting impression for them to hopefully create a life of purpose for themselves. I am conscious of not playing God through altruism but rather humbly observe the significant ripple effects of my well-intentioned actions.

Tell me about your newest project “West of Middle East” podcast.

Neda: Truly this podcast is an exploration of thriving through Diaspora. We set out to document and give a voice to some people that may otherwise not have an opportunity in sharing their experiences and journeys and what their impactful contributions have been to the west. You will have to listen to them and learn about these amazing contributions these individuals have done in the west.

The introduction to the podcast reads like this;

In Season 1 of West of Middle East, we hear from people from the Middle East diaspora who are change makers in a variety of unique ways: fighting for indigenous rights in the Amazon, advocating for LGBTQ refugee support, or making movies about Afghan rock stars and the diaspora experience. Each episode of West of Middle East provides a window into who these Middle East diaspora change makers are, and how they’re creating a positive impact in the West. We explore what it means to be a part of a diaspora with pervasive stereotypes, and how being a part of that same diaspora propels a desire for social justice.

I absolutely loved listening to these 7 podcast episodes and bonus content each a distinct experience each a different reality yet all here away from their homeland in diaspora making a difference and thriving. The episodes feature Subhi Nahas, Alia Shawkat, Maz Jobrani, Sulyman Qardash, Atossa Soltani, Yalda Modabber, Neda Nobari and bonus content by Keely Badger. I am excited to hear what Neda Nobari has planned for Season 2 of West of Middle East.

Neda, I hear you will be the featured speaker at the 116th commencement ceremony of San Francisco State University and that you will address an audience of 35,000 people.

Neda: I am honored and excited and feel that my time and experience at San Francisco State University during young adulthood and shaped the person I have become. I am so proud to have helped establish the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University.

“Loving what is to be human could be considered the key to civilization” Neda Nobari

Neda’s dedication to humanity is beautiful. Her tireless efforts to contribute to social change, justice and the arts are admirable. I look forward to seeing what this dear friend of mine dreams up next to help humanity further a conscious shift of cultural awareness.

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