Food and cultural influencer sets up shop in Northwest Arkansas
Try to define Anela Malik and you come up short. Influencer, food writer, entrepreneur, author, on-camera personality. Those are starters.
- But she's not someone who'd care to be defined.
- It's possible that quality is what resonates with her 100,000 or so followers on all of her online platforms.
What happened: Malik and her husband relocated to NWA from Washington, D.C., late last year as part of the Life Works Here incentive program.
- A former U.S. foreign service diplomat, she now blogs and vlogs her perspective about an eclectic mix of topics including culture, food, race, racism, politics and history.
The big picture: Incentive programs designed to attract talented people to communities have become popular in recent years. The locations tend to be in the nation's heartland and many doubled down on luring outsiders during the pandemic.
What they're saying: Malik started blogging as a creative outlet about five years ago. "I served in Jordan, which is where I founded my blog as a way to push myself to get out and explore and practice my Arabic," she told us.
- She "never expected it to turn into much of anything."
- Yes, but: The time-consuming hobby became a business in late 2020.
Worthy of your time: Some of Malik's content can be seen at Feed the Malik for free. She also has a subscription-based community group called Magic at the Margins, starting at $2 per month. Members get access to exclusive content and events.
- Many recent postings focus on food and history in Arkansas.
- Go deeper: "History & American Barbecue," "Tour Central High School in Little Rock," (subscription only), and "Exploring Black Excellence and Food in Little Rock, Arkansas & Beyond."
Yes, and: Malik is still settling in but said she likes the area. They've chosen to rent in Lowell so they're centrally located, and Life Works Here hosts gatherings so newbies can learn from one another.
- Malik doesn't need the structure though; she makes fast friends.
- Before they accepted the incentive, Malik and her husband visited NWA and the first morning here had a conversation with a couple at a coffee shop. By the end of the week, they were all having dinner.
What we're watching: Malik turned in a manuscript for a yet-to-be titled book just before Christmas. The book — about deep and lasting contributions of Black people to American cuisine — is being published by National Geographic and due out early 2023.
Of note: The Northwest Arkansas Council started Life Works Here in 2020. Those selected receive $10,000 in cash or cryptocurrency and a bike.
- So far, 75 people have relocated, or soon will, the council told us. Nearly 60,000 people have applied.
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