Five Muslim Americans Who Have Made Their Mark on Reality TV

Five Muslim Americans Who Have Made Their Mark on Reality TV

Reality television has become a staple in American pop culture, and it’s clear why: Audiences are drawn to the unfiltered and unscripted nature of these programs. From competitions, to dating, to family drama, reality TV has been a way for audiences to connect with people’s real-life stories in a way they cannot with scripted programs. 

More than anything, these shows have been popularized by the stars that bring them to life — and Muslim television personalities are no exception. Here is a list of Muslims that made their mark on reality tv.

1. Mohamed M. Mandi, Mohamed A. Mandi, and Anthony Duncan (“Shark Tank”)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Mad Optimist (@themadoptimist)

In May of 2020 friends and business partners Mohamed M. Mandi, Mohamed A. Mandi, and Anthony Duncan faced the Shark Tank and pitched their business, The Mad Optimist, a vegan soap and body care company. Mad Optimist products are halal, manufactured with non-GMO ingredients, and gluten-free. In their pitch, the business partners described the inspiration behind their products. Duncan explained to the Sharks, “As Muslims, who happen to be vegan, we don’t eat meat and hated the idea of cleaning ourselves with animal fat,” which is found in some traditional soaps. Mohamed A. continued by saying, “So, that’s why we created our company, The Mad Optimist – a totally unique, customizable soap and body care company.”

The pitch was successful and they caught the attention of investor Mark Cuban. After some negotiations and counter offers, Cuban and the Mad Optimist team struck a deal at $60,000 for 25% equity of the company.

2. Jennifer Shah (“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City”)

Jennifer Shah is a recurring cast member on the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, one of several shows under The Real Housewives franchise. The show follows affluent women as they navigate the drama that ensues with their relationships, friendships, and businesses. During her time on the show, Shah opened up about her journey to convert to Islam after she married her husband, Sharrieff Shah.  

3. Hassan Musselmani (“Hell’s Kitchen”)

Hassan Musselmani competed on season 15 of “Hell’s Kitchen.” Musselmani made it to week 7 in the competition before being nominated for elimination on the 7th week, ranking him at 11th place. After his time on “Hell’s Kitchen,” he went on to compete in another popular food competition show, “Chopped,” in 2017, where he was the runner-up. Musselmani now resides in Detroit and runs a private catering business called HNR Food Services.

4. Ayana Ife (“Project Runway”)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ayana Ife | Modest Fashion (@ayanaife)

In season 16 of “Project Runway,” Ayana Ife made history as the first-ever Muslim fashion designer to make it to a season finale. Ife was inspired to begin her career in fashion when she noticed the lack of options for modest clothing in most popular brands on the market. She started to make her own clothes which eventually spiraled into the creation of her own clothing lines. Since the show, she has started her own sustainable activewear brand, Ayana Active, and also designs custom bridal gowns.

5. Omar Zaheer (“Survivor”)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Omar Zaheer (@ozaheer24)

Omar Zaheer competed in season 42 of the adventure reality show “Survivor” in 2022. During his time on the show, he notably made many strategic moves that helped him to create strong alliances throughout the game. In an interview with CBS Zaher speaks to how his religion was tested in the reality show environment. “I’m also proud of maintaining my Muslim values while living in the Western world – abstaining from alcohol, pork, and premarital sex – no matter how hard it may be. Zaheer was eventually voted out on episode 23 of the show.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Fann.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.