A multi-award-winning chef, named one of the UK curry industry’s biggest disruptors, and hailed as one of the country’s leading female entrepreneurs, Sarah has been featured by Forbes, Financial Times and Channel 4 for her ground-breaking work in the culinary industry. She has recently found a new audience, taking to TikTok after her divorce and reaching over 700,000 people with her videos. Now, she wants to empower more people to make positive changes and leave the fear of ‘what if’ behind. This is what she says:
I go by tiktoxicinlaws on TikTok and am used to speaking out about issues. I built my reputation by challenging the inequality in the UK Asian cuisine industry, but last year, I spoke out about something more personal, and found a whole community of people who wanted to listen.
Over the past three years, I’ve been going through a divorce. For a lot of the process, we were also in lockdown, so as you can imagine, it was quite a scary and isolating time for me. I have four children and spent a lot of time keeping up appearances for their sake, but I was struggling. One night I couldn’t sleep, the court date for the divorce was coming up, and I was scrolling through TikTok feeling anxious and alone. I started to wonder how many other women were in the same situation as me, lying awake feeling alone, and on the spur of the moment I started recording and uploaded my first video.
I hadn’t really spoken about my divorce to people because in the community I grew up in, getting divorced is quite a taboo and it’s even more of a taboo for a woman to be divorced.
It’s an old-fashioned view but unfortunately still quite a common one in some British-Asian communities.
The night I posted my first video, I’d just had enough of keeping it all bottled up inside. I was fed up with feeling like I couldn’t or shouldn’t talk about what I was going through, and I didn’t want other people to feel like they couldn’t either. Even more than that, I didn’t want people to feel so afraid of getting divorced that they stay in a marriage they aren’t happy in, which I did for years.
Since that first video, I’ve spoken about all manner of things, from adjusting to being a single parent, to him getting remarried, to dealing with solicitors. And the response has been incredible – one of my videos got over 720,000 views, which is just unbelievable.
As you can imagine, my ex-husband doesn’t always like what I say online about our relationship, and in the end I had to take that video down, after he got his lawyers to threaten me with legal action over it. But I’m always honest and real, which I think is what my followers appreciate the most. For example, we’re currently discussing custody and I’m more than happy to admit online in videos that far from being the stereotypical bitter ex-wife who keeps him from his children, I want him to look after our children for a few days every week.
The response I get from my followers makes it all worth it.
Every day my inbox is swamped with people sharing their story and talking to me about what’s going on in their lives. Some of them ask for advice but a lot of them really just want someone to listen and to allow them to talk about their experiences, because they don’t feel like they can speak to friends or family. I feel really proud that I’ve created a safe space where people feel they can share these quite personal details and value the advice I might have for them.
Sometimes I get trolls but I just reply and thank them for leaving a comment and giving me a better engagement rate on the video – they seem to pipe down pretty quickly after that.
What’s most surprising is I even have husbands message me saying they think their wife is unhappy because of the way they’re behaving or tension between their wife and their family (which is something I know all too well, hence my username ‘tiktoxicinlaws’), looking for advice on how to change things. It’s a really diverse community and I’m blown away that I started it all with one video.
After seeing how quickly my TikTok community has grown, I want to expand and use experiences from both my personal and professional life, to help people have the confidence to change their situation.
I want to encourage people to take the leap, even if it’s scary. And I don’t just mean leaving an unhappy marriage. I mean in every aspect of life.
Time and time again, I’ve found that being afraid of the unknown can keep us from something brilliant.
Too often, we know we aren’t happy where we are, but it’s safer to stay than to take a risk and see what happens when we make a change. We just need someone to give us that little push, even if it’s just a stranger on TikTok. I want to be that push for people, encourage them to stop being afraid to make that change, and show them that there’s every chance your life will be better than ever.
It was scary going through divorce, and challenging the status quo of the British Indian cooking industry hasn’t always been easy either, but I know that stepping out of my comfort zone has always been the right choice. I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been having lost over 25 kilos in the past 10 months, so I’m the proof and I want to show other people that.
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