Nelufar Hedayat is a 28-year-old investigative reporter working on an upcoming series for Fusion called The Traffickers, which exposes illegal trade happening throughout the world. Geared up with a body full of hidden cameras (her own body, that is), Hedayat goes undercover to report on both the suppliers and consumers of trafficked goods, including fake pharmaceuticals, guns, endangered species and humans. Hedayat puts herself in the middle of dangerous and terrifying situations to uncover the harsh realities of this underground world.
And she's fearless in doing so. "I'm a journalist first and foremost," she tells Bustle. "I owe it to these victims and these survivors to tell their stories."
Hedayat is relaxed and composed, but also spirited and upbeat — living for the moment, and figuring it out as she goes along. Throughout the series — premiering Nov. 13 at 10 p.m. ET — Hedayat places herself into numerous risky situations, whether she's investigating child trafficking of the world's poorest kids or getting a firsthand glimpse of the bloody and brutal rhino horn trade. She tells Bustle: "I was brought on board because the series really, really wanted to make the everyday man or woman feel culpable and responsible for the atrocities being committed in our world, great or small."
This remains her objective. Hedayat describes her overall style as "immersive documentary filmmaking," in which she imparts her own emotions into her reporting. To Hedayat, it's this raw and honest approach that's the future of journalism.
In a Facebook Live video with Bustle, Hedayat describes some challenges of her covert reporting style: "You are literally the camera person, the director and the reporter — whilst having an undercover story and essentially dealing with criminals."
For most people, the thought of placing themselves in these sorts of dangerous scenarios would be crippling, but Hedayat refuses to be scared off. She credits this strength to her upbringing: Born in Afghanistan during the Soviet War, Hedayat was taught by her mother to always push forward and set her sights on high goals. Her mother, a feminist and equally fearless, imparted in Hedayat a sense of pride for who she was and where she was from.
However, showcasing pride didn't always come easy for Hedayat. Until her early twenties, as a young immigrant woman of color, she felt isolated. "I used to be very scared, I wanted to fit in, I didn't want to stand out," she says.
As she grew older however, she soon realized these insecurities were her assets. "You don't see many women like me," she says. "You don't see many women, period, on television."