Women

Meet Chanel Ayan

The first Kenyan origin model from the United Arab Emirates
Reading time 4 minutes
Dress by Avaro Figlio (@avarofiglio)

By Tia Barak, Laisha magazine (@laishamag)

 

Top model Chanel Ayan, featured in this fashion editorial and starring on the back cover of this issue, is part of the collaboration between Laisha magazine and L'Officiel Arabia . Just as Yael Shelbia is a guest on their cover, Ayan is a guest on the cover of Laisha. "Before me there were no black models in the Emirates fashion industry," she says. "I paved the way for the others".

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Dress by Avaro Figlio (@avarofiglio)

Like many Dubai residents, Chanel Ayan, star of this fashion editorial, appearing on our back cover and on the L'Officiel Arabia website, wasn't born there. "I was born in Kenya, but I have been living in Dubai for 17 years and consider it home", says Ayan, a supermodel who lives in Dubai with her businessman husband and their son Taj. "The beginning was tough. There were no black models in the local fashion industry before me. I had to shatter the glass ceiling. I wasn't chosen for fashion shows and it was frustrating".

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Dress by Esme Vie (@esmevieofficial); Ring by AVē Jewelry (@ave_jewelry_official).

So what changed?

"Ultimately my unique look, my personality and stage presence did the job. When I get on the catwalk, it's not that I'm wearing a dress, I am the dress. I walked my first fashion show at a palace in Abu Dhabi. The audience was comprised of the royal family and other esteemed close associates. I remember I was on the verge of a breakdown", she recalls with a smile. "Especially when I realized they had flown in models from Paris for this event. This show opened doors to me in Dubai and neighboring countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Lebanon, India and Pakistan. Though I modeled before in New York and other places, in Dubai I made a professional leap. In the last 14 years there has hardly been a show that I didn’t participate in. I'm a regular at the Dior shows in Dubai. I was in campaigns for the biggest fashion houses and brands: Chanel, Tiffany, Roberto Cavalli, Tom Ford, Cartier, Valentino, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and more. And I am the face of Piaget (Swiss luxury watches and jewelry) at their biggest show in Dubai every year. I am pleased to see that I have paved the way for other black models who came after me".

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Dress by Avaro Figlio (@avarofiglio)

She has been modelling ever since she was 18. At first in Brazil and New York, then Dubai. In addition to the global brands, she worked with Arab designers Rami Al Ali and Yousef Al Jasmi and appeared in Italian Vogue, American Vogue and Vogue Arabia. "My mother raised my siblings and myself to be independent and to have goals. I grew up in a small village with less than 20 thousand inhabitants. I have five siblings and my mother adopted five children. We are 11 in total. Mom is a single mother who owns a restaurant and a supermarket, an empire she built with her own two hands. We grew our own food, we hung out at the river. We used to fetch water to wash our clothes. It was a wonderful childhood. As adults, we scattered around the world. All my siblings live either in Europe or the United States. We schedule a time to meet and we all return for visits in Kenya. My mother also visits me in Dubai".

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Dress by la Germaine; Earrings by AVē Jewelry (@ave_jewelry_official); Ring by AVē Jewelry (@ave_jewelry_official).

"I have lived half my life in Dubai by now. I am an integral part of the fashion industry here. This is my home. This is the safest place I have ever lived. We left the country for a few months and I forgot to lock the door. Nothing happened. I feel safe being outdoors at night. No one wants to harm you here. The people are courteous and kind and I have many local friends. It's a real change after Brazil, New York and my jaunts to South Africa. The only thing is that one must work hard because the cost of living here is expensive".

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Kaftan by Esme Vie (@esmevieofficial); Necklace by la Germaine.
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Dress by FOXYLAB NEW YORK (@foxylab_ny); Print by Diaa Allam (@diaallam).

Credits:

Production: Anna La Germaine (@anna_lagermaine_private and @pr_yoda_diaries) x
Fashion Politique (@fashionpolitique) / www.fashionpolitique.com
PR: FP PR&Media (@fp.pr) / fp-pr.com
Creative direction and styling by Anna la Germaine (@anna_lagermaine_private and
@pr_yoda_diaries)
Photography by Adam Browning-Hill (@browning_hill)
Model: Chanel Ayan (@chanelayan)
Hair&Make-up by Marianna Ivanets (@m_beauty_and_brows)
Brand Relations: Gili Biegun at joysmagazine.com (@joysworld_)
Talent Relationship: Akash Mehta (@mehta_a), Ryle Tuvierra (@thefiercewalker)
Assistant to Anna La Germaine: Ekaterina Chekhirkina (@chkhrkna)
Assistant to Adam Browning-Hill: Jaffar (@jaffar_shereey)

Laisha Magazine @laishamag@karinas11

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