It is no secret that some of the region’s finest talent comes from Saudi Arabia. From actors and models to makeup artists, singers, and more, the Kingdom’s creative ecosystem has nurtured all those looking to represent their country on a global scale. As they share aspects of their life, including their style and work on social media, there has never been a better time to tap into their creativity and get inspired. On Saudi National Day, we round up 15 of such women to follow and keep up with.
Saudi humorist Amy Roko has carved out a creative space without ever revealing her face. While doing so, the Jeddah-born has managed with ease what others think about the most controversial piece of clothing out there: the niqab. “I’m aware of the associated stereotypical image of a woman who covers her face as someone who doesn’t talk, who is timid, submissive, muzzled even… I’m offended,” she says. “I’m not timid and I’m not quiet. I’m bold. When I wear the niqab, it’s for me. It’s not because I have to be something or someone. Somehow, I feel better and stronger when I wear it and I have decided that in this life, I’m just going to do me.”
While she admits getting into modeling “accidentally,” two-time Vogue Arabia cover star Shahad Salman’s growing career is a testament to her unwavering spirit. The Mecca-born model has not let vitiligo slow her down since stepping into the industry, and has featured in a number of campaigns and look books for local designers. “Before, I didn’t feel good about myself and I didn’t like the way I looked,” she says. “Now, I feel that I, too, can inspire other girls from the region.”
Nora Bo Awadh
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Garnering more than three million followers on Instagram, makeup artist Nora Bo Awadh has come a long way since the days of her saving up her lunch money to buy an eyeshadow palette. “I started putting makeup on my friends when we would hang out, then I worked a summer job at a local salon and started getting an amazing reputation for my work,” she shares. Her next step was launching her namesake makeup line in 2016. Since then, the brand has expanded with faux lashes, matte lipsticks, makeup sponges, and more. “I was inspired by the beauty of Saudi girls in particular,” she says, “Their eye shape and skin colors are the base of choosing all the colors of my lipsticks, and glitters.”
Nojoud AlRumaihi is one half of a burgeoning event management company, Upbeat KSA, that she founded with her husband, Abdullah Al Rasheed. The Saudi marketeer holds a degree in business management and marketing from Riyadh’s Al Yamamah University and a master’s in international marketing from London’s King’s Business School. “Understanding people’s psychology, how they behave as consumers, and how everything has an effect on communication, made me want to dive deeper into the field,” she says. Between building a successful startup, being tapped by Christian Dior to front a campaign in her home country, and press trips with Van Cleef & Arpels and Hermès, AlRumaihi is a mother to her three-year old daughter, Lulua.
Jeddah content creator Njm says her generation has a stronger voice when it comes to “advocating realness.” “You don’t need to follow specific trends and beauty standards to be cool. I believe the past generation grew up with specific beauty standards and girls struggled to meet them or felt forced to change who they were to fit in.” With millions of followers across her social media channels, she says being true to herself is a priority. “The more genuine you are, the better you are able to connect with others and your audience.”
Prior to making the big leap into fashion consulting, Saudi stylist Rawan Kattoa started her career in the corporate world. Though the Riyadh native’s roles tapped on talent acquisition, talent development, and youth impact projects when she moved to Jeddah in 2016, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was destined for something else. “Change has its fair share of resistance. However, in my case, I was grateful to discover my passion at an early age,” Kattoa says. Currently residing in Geneva, she’s certified in editorial and personal styling from the University of the Arts London.
The Saudi photographer was born in 1993 in Jeddah, where she lived most of her childhood, then moved to Riyadh where she’s based currently. In 2009 she decided to learn fashion photography on her own when she bought her first “point and shoot” digital camera. Osamah’s vision started taking shape in 2014 when she focused on diversity as a subject using film photography as her way of documentation for its raw perspective. She was selected by the Ministry of Culture as one of the speakers in the first fashion platform Fashion Futures, 2019 in Saudi Arabia. Osamah has worked with major international publications including Vogue and Vogue Arabia.
Makeup artist and blogger
With more than a million followers, the makeup artist and blogger has become a regular in the Middle Eastern beauty set. She started her beauty journey at 16 on Instagram because she wanted to reach a wider audience. “There is beauty throughout the world but, for me, the most inspiring aspect of the industry is the number of strong and successful women,” she says. Alnamlah has worked with royalty and musicians such as Nawal Al Kuwaitia and Assala Nasri, and has also featured in a number of campaigns for brands like Piaget and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Nouf Sufyani aka Cosmicat is Saudi Arabia’s first female DJ and also known for performing at the Dakar closing ceremony. Born in the 90s and proudly having lived her entire life in Saudi, Sufyani recalls growing up with pop music before shifting towards R&B and hiphop and first began DJing after graduating from dental school. “There’s no such thing as a ‘challenge,’” says Sufyani. “They are mostly little worries that live inside your head until you find a way to overcome them. For me, it was going into a very new field in my country and considering what to do regarding my job as a dentist and coming off as a bit of a social shock–or not being accepted,” she states.
Stylist to the stars, Aram Kabbani received her bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Dar Al Hekma University in 2008 before embarking on her illustrious career. As one of the first most revered stylists to hail from the Kingdom, Kabbani went on to work with Ameera Al-Taweel, Muna Abu Sulayman, and Ahmed Helmy, among other stars. She is also known to travel around the Middle East as a guest lecturer at fashion schools, speaking at panels, and has hosted events for brands including Tom Ford, Christian Dior, Lanvin, and Carolina Herrera.
“I had a message to share,” says Abeer Sinder on becoming the first black beauty vlogger in the Kingdom. “I couldn’t find anyone on social media who represented someone like me in the Arab world.” A longtime champion of self-love and feeling good in your own skin, Sinder has continually used her platform to spread positivity and also highlight crucial issues like racism by sharing her own experiences. “Telling stories has a way to empower and inspire people,” she says. ‘Vulnerability is strength and by telling a story, you can change someone’s life and, in this case, someone’s behavior. What I hope to do is to inspire little black girls to find their self-worth and love themselves from a young age, and for non-black people to be more cautious about their actions and words.”
Tamtam’s soulful voice and powerful vocals paired with her heart-touching songwriting are everything that is helping the musician put Saudi talent on the global map. The artist’s passion for music is palpable and so is her respect for her roots. “My identity absolutely influences my work,” shared the former Vogue Arabia cover star. “I believe music can heal and bring positivity and shed much-needed light on many situations.”
“I remember the first time I was told my work inspired someone,” begins Hessa Alajaji. “It made me feel like I actually touched people with art. It was humbling yet motivating at the same time.” Born and raised in Riyadh, Alajaji is part of the new generation of makeup artists. “Since it’s a relatively new industry here and growing fast, sometimes it feels like a race but in a good way,” she explains. Her Instagram feed catches your eye instantly. Models showcase clean, glossy skin, a hint of blush, and vivid colors. Experimenting with graphic eyes, she’s not afraid to think out of the box – one post features purple brows and another, yellow eyeshadow with graphic red liner.
The Saudi actor, writer, and filmmaker has graduated from Harvard University with a master’s degree in theological studies, specializing in women, gender, and Islamic studies, and also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Jeddah’s Effat University. The multi-hyphenate rose to fame in 2016, for her role in Barakah Meets Barakah, and in 2018 was named by Time magazine as a Next Generation Leader, for co-founding The Other Story Project in Saudi Arabia. Most recently, she was named Cartier’s ambassador for the Middle East region.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” says Reem Alswaidi. With a dream of opening her own beauty academy, her first step was becoming a makeup artist. At the time, a French school of hairdressing and makeup, Formul’A Academy, had just opened in Riyadh. For almost four months, Alswaidi studied everything from perfecting everyday skin to editorial makeup. Afterwards, she continued her training with some of the world’s top artists. Traveling between Europe, the US, Dubai, and Egypt, she has worked with people including Scott Barnes and Bassam Fattouh.