Women’s Month might be over, but that doesn’t have to mean an end to celebrating female empowerment. Estée Lauder is among those carrying on the celebration all throughout Ramadan.
For the sake of this holy month, the American cosmetic brand launched their latest campaign, calling it ‘Reach for the Stars’, to support and celebrate Arab women, who are, in every sense of the word, shaping the future.
Aiming to shed light on a handful of pioneers who dreamt big, worked hard and went far, the campaign is giving the stage to those with a legacy in-the-making. For that reason, Estée Lauder worked hand in hand with Samira Al Khamis, one of Saudi’s first ballerinas, Nayla Al Khaja, UAE’s first film producer and director as well as Amna Al Qubaisi, the first Emirati female race-car driver, to bring their career stories and passion to life. Of course, we caught up with the inspiring women to dig a little deeper into their stories.
When it comes to part-Moroccan part-Emirati driver Amna Al Qubaisi, an introduction is hardly necessary. When asked about her beginnings in the world of racing, Al Qubaisi says to have fallen in love with the sport “ever since being a young girl when [her father] would bring his driving friends over to the house for dinner.”
“They would talk about racing and that’s when I had the interest to take part in it. It was magical!”she says.
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Although full of fond memories of her early days in the sport, the journey to becoming the UAE’s first female race-car driver at 21-years-old wasn’t without any hurdles. In fact, it was quite the opposite. “I take part in a sport where most of my male competitors are at an advantage for having more track time and experience. I continue to focus on my end goal. At the end of the day, it is up to me to focus on my passion and not let anything get in my way,” the young athlete says.
“There’s always pressure but mainly from myself. I always want to represent my country and myself in a positive way. I always have the need to get good results even though I have less experience than everyone else, it’s a constant battle. My family is my number one support and they always make me feel like I’m a winner.” she continues.
Resilience and perseverance are adamantly some of the shared characteristics that link all of the talents involved in Estée Lauder’s latest campaign. On how her adventure in the silver-screen industry has been and felt like so far, Nayla Al Khaja, the United Arab Emirates’ first film director and producer, does stress how challenging her experience in the industry has been although things are moving forward with some will and a strong ambition to break the norms.
“Starting off was difficult of course. Filmmaking within the region was very rare, though I took this opportunity to pursue and make a name for myself. Now, I see my efforts having a positive impact in the region but also on women” the pioneer says.
“The culture I grew up in, at first glance, had a preconception of women’s role in society and the vocations she can delve in, however, a lot has changed since the 80s. I grew up fighting many battles to make film a career and a lifelong passion. Every bump along the way came with its reward,” Al Khaja adds.
“It took patience and perseverance and I’m just beginning, giving up was never an option. Change is happening as more women are showing interest in the field, this is certainly a positive direction. I think by putting myself out there and sharing my experiences, I would like women to take the risk to gain more experience in the industry.
Passing this lust and vision onto younger generations is also part of Al Khaja’s ambitious plans as she hopes that “that [younger generations] will view my experiences, accomplishments, and story of how I got to where I am and will be inspired to pursue the career of their choosing. I want them to be more curious, learn every facet of the career that they want to be in, and never give up no matter what obstacles you may come across; after all, failures build character and experience.”
The idea of carving sustainable paths for the youth is also something that Samira Al Khamis is keen on doing and accomplishing. As one of Saudi Arabia’s first ballerinas, her introduction to the world of dancing was made through her peers and elders which can explain how eager the dancer is to help others.
“I grew up around dancers my whole life. I can remember so vividly watching my older sisters perform on stage when I was only a little girl just starting my dance journey. Watching them gave me a powerful sense of inspiration and it stuck with me; it gave me a unique sense of fulfillment that I couldn’t find anywhere. Now it’s my responsibility to give back to my community and the new generations by passing on the passion and knowledge of dance”
“I decided to open my own studio in order to support the dance scene in the Kingdom. This allows giving the opportunity to other artists the space to share and grow their passions. The Cultural scene in Saudi is thriving with many opportunities for Saudi artists to explore, learn and pursue their passions, which makes it easier for people like me to grow in this new era. It’s truly motivating and inspiring!”
If Ramadan has provided us with the perfect moment to reflect on ourselves and look up to those that inspire us, Estée Lauder’s latest campaign did not disappoint, proving, through their specific collection, that empowerment comes from within and for all to inspire ourselves from.