Younger siblings all around the world will surely understand the experience of having to ride on their older sibling’s reputations, as they followed in their footsteps through school. And if the discourse with teachers wasn’t “why can’t you be more like them”, then it was just a battle to prove that; no, our family name isn’t cursed.
That said, I think I may be one of the few who ended up going to the same tiny university as their older sibling, which is a whole new can of worms, Especially when it’s the exact same major…
So for my first few months at Webster, I was mostly referred to as “Nadia’s Brother.” Apparently she had left quite an impression, which is fair, seeing as she had won Geneva’s edition of Webster’s Got Talent. It also helps that she was the youngest competing rower at the 2016 Rio Olympics at the age of 18. Now she’s 22 and her repertoire of crazy cool shit hasn’t stopped ballooning.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to live up to. Nadia’s in bed with a nasty flu on the other side of the planet. So, in true younger sibling fashion, I decided to call her up and pester her a little about her very exciting life.
Nadia transferred out of Webster to go to row on the UC Berkeley team, which she says is one of her proudest moments.
“Webster was very good preparation for me, because I became very independent when I was there. It really provided me with a lot of tools to be ready for the states.” At Berkeley, she studied Film & Media. Nadia points out that in an alternative life,
“I probably would have studied environmental law because now I’m more interested in the logistical and legal side of fighting for the environment. but I still love the arts.”
These days, my darling sister is living it up in the San Francisco Bay Area as a UC Berkeley Graduate, working to save the wilderness, and teaching girls how to row a boat in the midst of a pandemic, and wildfires raging next door. I still distinctly remember how rowing took over Nadia’s life for about 10 years (and consequently our family’s,) but she embraced it. It consisted mostly of early morning trainings and late drives home from race events.
All the work paid off in the end when she found herself representing Egypt at the Olympics, and
years after the fact, the hype lives on.
“It’s more than I give myself credit for. People think I’m way cooler than I actually am. Everyone’s like “Wow you went to the Olympics” I’m like yeah I did and it’s cool but it’s not like I cured cancer. There’s still so much to be done” As I pointed out, she has done just that.
“Yeah I guess so. Sorry I’m so emo”, she jokes
“I’m working to help organizations advocate for the end of wildlife crime and environmental causes. So right now I’m working with ADMCF, an organization in Hong Kong. I work with their wildlife team, and make videos for them and highlight policies they want to change. They get pitched to governments and CITES, (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and hopefully change comes from that.”
The next day, she announced to me that one of her videos was shown to the Chinese supreme court, and now the trafficking of wildlife is going to be outlawed in Hong Kong. Sibling rivalries are never easy, are they…
Personally, I can’t recall a moment in my life where Nadia wasn’t obsessed with animals, so the trajectory she’s taken in life is pretty on-brand. This is the same girl who once bit me so hard when we were kids that I bled because she was pretending to be a lion. Typical Leo.
Along with that, she has also been working with Richard Blair, a photographer and nature advocate, digitizing his photographs from the ‘70s and running his Instagram pages, along with completing numerous other errands. She recalls:
“I spent three days a week sleeping up in Point Reyes (a national park in Northern California) two kilometers from the fire. I had to pack up cars with my boss’s stuff and drive them up and down to a downtown center where we had storage. I had to help him prepare for fire, there was ash raining on me and I was basically inhaling smoke and ash for three weeks. Almost lost my workplace, but the firefighters came through and saved the day“
It’s safe to say that along with a recent job she picked up as an assistant coach at a rowing club, Nadia needed a break. Unfortunately, the one she got hasn’t been the one she was envisioning, semi casually mentioning how I’m interviewing her on her “covid deathbed.” Although it didn’t seem like that at all when she video-called me wearing a bucket hat and basking in the sun.
“I have Covid and it really sucks so please wear a mask”
I guess nobody is truly unstoppable, but that doesn’t stop her from seeming like she is.
At this point, besting my sister in our little rivalry feels a little like trying to dig an elephant’s grave with a spoon. While my sister was sweeping wins at races and competing at the Olympics, I was busy doing absolutely nothing notable. What did I do at the age of 18? I don’t know, probably vibing or something. The only thing I have on her is that I was objectively easier to deal with for my parents. So what’s the secret to her iconic determination?
She explains: “Live smart, die old. Do what you want because you’re the only one that knows how much you want it, and regret nothing because at the time you did it it made you happiest. That’s my last quote.. I’m gonna go have risotto and sleep”