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From Ultra-Orthodox to Ultra-Success: Julia Haart on Her New Memoir and New Challenges

The reality TV star speaks with Katie about life in the public eye. 

If you’re a fan of Netflix reality TV, you’re probably already familiar with Julia Haart.

Haart, who left an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and went on to become a high-powered fashion CEO, is the star of My Unorthodox Life. The show chronicles Haart’s life juggling a glamorous yet demanding career while parenting four children, some of whom still feel strong ties to their ultra-Orthodox upbringing.

In her new memoir, Brazen, Haart details the long and arduous journey that led her to this moment. Beginning with her childhood in communist Russia, she describes her move to an ultra-Orthodox community in New York called Monsey and two decades in an arranged marriage, bringing readers to her escape from the community followed by an immensely successful business career.

Although she’s made peace with her decisions, Haart’s relationship with her past is complicated. “If you want to understand what my life was like, go back [about] a hundred years,” she tells Katie in the new episode of Next Question. “[As a woman], you are a second-class citizen.” Although some of Haart’s family has shunned her since she left Monsey, she doesn’t fault them for her upbringing. “My parents don’t speak to me, but this shouldn’t make anyone think badly of them,” she tells Katie. “It’s what they think God wants. What they’re taught is that the way that I live my life is the embodiment of evil.”

Now that so many of us have watched the show and gotten a taste of what Haart’s life has been like, she’s become a public figure. So, a lot of focus has been on what’s happening in her glamorous built-from-scratch life now.

Haart climbed the ranks of the fashion industry and eventually became the CEO, co-owner, and chief creative officer of Elite World Group, but you may have heard that she was recently fired from the company. (She’s also getting a divorce from her husband Silvio Scaglia Haart, whose company owns Elite World Group.)

Of the challenges she’s facing in her career right now, Haart tells Katie, “what I would say is I have tried to eradicate all of the inferiority complex feelings that I have when it comes to men. I thought, after I became creative director of La Perla and then co-owner and CEO of Elite World Group, that I would no longer be afraid of men, no longer controlled by men. I can no longer be abused by men. And then when all of this happened, I realized I’m not there yet.” She adds, “I still have that inferiority complex. I still have somewhere in my head where a man knows best. I still have a ways to go before I eradicate those feelings of male superiority. And I think what I learned is I’m going to be a work in progress for the rest of my life.”

Of course, this stems from her upbringing in the Orthodox community. “I’m going to have to every day remind myself that a man is not better than me, remind myself that you have to fight for your freedom,” she says. “I don’t know what the future will bring. And once I overcome this obstacle, I’m sure it won’t be the last one.”

She adds, “the other problem is that I walk into industries and I create change. And arbiters of change are not very popular people because they’re knocking down the status quo and taking power away from those people who had it. So I kind of make enemies wherever I go.”

To hear more of Haart’s conversation with Katie, including her explanation of many ultra-Orthodox customs, make sure to listen to the latest episode of Next Question.