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Interview: Shahs of Sunset's Asa Soltan talks trip to Turkey and family reunion

Asa Soltan of Bravo's Shahs of Sunset
bravotv.com

Having lived on three continents by the time she was 15-years-old, it's no wonder Asa Soltan Rahmati holds art, life and love close to her heart. Through her experiences, she's overcome many adversities and is successfully living "the American dream." That is, staying true to herself while being able to make a career out of doing what she loves. Last week we journeyed with her and the cast of Shahs of Sunset to Turkey in the first half of a 2-part series that documented the reunion of Asa and family she hasn't seen since she and her parents left Iran as refugees. Though the trip to Turkey was relatively specific to Asa, it's an episode any person should be able to relate to; it's about love and family. Below, Asa shares what it was like being so close to the border of Iran and experiencing culture similar to that of which she was born into.

Part 2 of the "Return to the Homeland" episode airs this week. Be sure to catch Shahs of Sunset on Bravo, Tuesdays at 9/8c.

Aliya Faust: It was an emotional experience watching you reunite with your family and all. I can't imagine what it must've been like for you.
Asa Soltan Rahmati: I'm really passionate and I'm always in the moment. When you're on a show, it's crazy to experience something and later on see it on TV. I wasn't aware of what was happening in the moment. Me and my mom experienced it all over again just watching that episode.

You left Iran, traveled to Europe, then came to America. So I wanted to know how was it adjusting back then to such a drastic change in culture?
When I was eight, we moved from Iran to Germany. And when I was 15, we moved from Germany to America. Everything is a little bit of a culture shock, but for me it was really fun. I've always just soaked in the culture of each place. I loved it. I feel blessed to have lived this kind of life. By the time I was 15, I lived on three continents and spoke four languages. It's an eye opener. If you're a spiritual person and you believe in God, you have to know there's only one God and we're all the same. And you really understand these kinds of sentiments when you travel and you open up to new cultures. It's really important to any human being, I think, to travel because it opens up your heart and your mind.

And it's definitely a learning experience.
Completely! Oh my gosh. I remember when I first moved from Iran to Germany. I was in third grade. I went to the classroom, I spoke two words of English my dad taught us on the way walking to school. I walked in and everybody looked completely different. They were all white, blonde hair, tiny noses. I had these cheekbones, big eye brows, big hair, big eyes, big eye brows. I first thought, 'I'm so weird looking,' and then I realized that everybody looks different. I learned this lesson at a very young age, so by the time I came to America, I was already ready.

You've become very successful. How were you able to turn the upset of leaving your country around?
I think I'm the perfect example of the American dream. These terms are thrown around a little too loosely, but if you have a vision and you have a dream, and if you work really hard, you will become successful. That's what happened with me. I stuck to my dream no matter what anybody said. I didn't even notice people not believing in me or thinking I was crazy. You have to believe in your dreams and never give up. And you can make your dreams come true. My life is a sentiment to that.

So what made you decide to go to Turkey?
It was actually during my art show. I was processing all these old family pictures. I was getting more and more nostalgic and I was unwilling to accept the status quo of not being able to see my family and just talking on the phone once a year. So I started looking into it and I wanted to have my family meet me and my mom somewhere. They couldn't come here; they can't really get visas in America. It's very difficult for us to go to Iran, so Turkey is one of those places they can come to and get a visa. It was completely epic. Besides seeing my family and connecting with them, it was just amazing for [the cast] to be there together. It was such a bonding experience and we're all different but it really brought us together. It was a once in a lifetime thing, you know?

Cool. How would you compare Turkey to Iran?
I haven't been to Iran since I was eight, but the air feels the same. The food is similar. The people look similar to us. And the border… [In the next episode] you'll see where me, Raza and my mom actually go to the Iranian border. To be in a country where the next country over is Iran is incredible for us because we live 12 hours away by plane. We're so far away from our homeland. We have two homelands, Iran and America, but it just feels incredible.

How was it being so close to the border of Iran and not being able to cross it?
Once we were at the border, it wasn't even that much about why can't we go there. The anticipation of it was like, wow, why can't I go to my country? But you'll see [on the part 2 episode], once I got there, I just felt like I surrendered to the moment and it was so beautiful and magical that I feel like I just dropped off all the baggage I had about it emotionally. It was like the perfect therapy session.

Speaking of magical, tell me about the Blue Mosque. What was your initial thought walking in there. I know all of you were pretty amazed. Somebody mentioned how something in there was placed in the 1400s.
Yeah, it used to be a church. That's when it became a Mosque later on. I love visiting places with history because I feel like once we examine history, it'll bring all of us closer. The times we live in, there's so much separatism, people fighting for their religion, skin color, sexual orientation. I think it's really time to leave these things behind us. Visiting the Mosque together was really special. Besides architecturally and aesthetically, I just felt the vibe in there. The energy was really strong. You could tell for thousands of years, this place has been a sacred place. And it doesn't matter what religion. For me, a church, a synagogue, a Mosque. It's all the same energy. It's a place of worship.

Was it in there where the women had to pray in a corner?
Yep, that was there. The men had the whole mosque and the women had this corner. I got a lot of messages about that. I know that in Islam, women pray behind the men and the reason is so men don't get distracted by the beauty of the women by looking at them in front of them while they pray. I'm definitely a feminist. I think God, if you believe in God, never would differentiate between men or women. Men are beautiful. Women are beautiful. To say that women have to sit in the back so men won't get distracted sounds manmade. I do want to point out though, it's very important and critical for us to respect all religions and their customs. And the fact that I'm Muslim and a feminist and I challenge that way some things are done in the world, it doesn't mean I'm criticizing Islam. It just means I would like us to move forward and open up more.

So tell me about Diamond Water and the other things you're working on.
We've been on the market now for six weeks and there's been an overwhelming demand. At this point, if you order today, it'd be delivered in 2-3 weeks because we have so much going on. I feel so overjoyed and blessed because I've worked so hard for this. You've been with me on the journey so you see some of the steps, but it's been a daily grind for me and I'm so happy. We even have major international interest and we just got an order for our first three containers. That's like thousands of bottles going overseas. The first one was to Egypt. The demand has been so massive that we actually have to immediately expand our production and assembly line.

I didn't realize it was international.
It wasn't. Right now we sell it online at our website, realdiamondwater.com, and only shipped in the U.S. These people contacted us internationally because they want to distribute so they ordered an entire container. So we're just now transitioning into that aspect of major distribution internationally.

I'm excited for you. Congrats on everything.
Thank you. Now the real hard work starts. When you're a female entrepreneur, sometimes you have to work double as hard. But I think the rewards are triple as beautiful. When you work 9-5, you clock in and you clock out. When you're an entrepreneur, it never stops, which I love.

Follow Asa on Instagram and Twitter @asasoltan.

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