Persians in America love to point to famous people and say, “Did you know they’re Persian?” So it was no surprise to find a wedding photo of Britney Spears and her famous-enough Persian husband Sam Asghari on the cover of Tehran, the most widely distributed Persian magazine in the U.S. More surprising, however, was the cover line: “Once you go Persian, there’s no other version.”
The line isn’t exactly original. Besides the fact that I could practically hear a cousin of mine uttering this exact same sentence — most likely one who wears too much cologne and whose mom still does his laundry — Reza from Shahs of Sunset posted the same group of words on his Instagram account earlier this year:
Nonetheless, Shahbod Noori, the founder of Tehran, tells me he came up with it himself, adding that he was obviously inspired by the better-known idiom “once you go Black you never go back.” “I just made a Persian version,” he explains.
Aside from the obvious, what was Noori trying to say with his now-viral cover line? “This can be two-sided,” he says. “Either you can be so happy with a Persian husband, or you could be very unhappy. If they’re good, they’re seriously good; if they’re bad, they’re seriously bad.”
Noori, who started his publishing company in 1989 with The Original Bazaar Weekly, the first free classified listings for Iranians in Southern California, tells me the purpose of the magazine has always been to celebrate unique individuals in the Persian community — e.g., the latest husband of one of the biggest pop stars in the world.
Mainly, though, Noori is more interested in featuring activists, musicians and doctors on the cover of Tehran. (Asghari is a model and actor who was born in Tehran before moving to the U.S. with his family when he was 13.) To that end, a recent issue featured Sophia Kianni, an Iranian-American environmentalist and founder of Climate Cardinals, an international nonprofit working to translate climate information into more than 100 languages. (Due to some of this political content, Tehran has been banned in Iran since 2007.)
The idea has always been, Noori says, to expose his readership, which is primarily composed of older Persians (the magazine is completely in Farsi), to different people and events they might not come across in their daily lives. “Many of them aren’t as tapped into the media,” he explains.
Because for them most of all, “Once you go Persian, there’s no other version.”