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Happiness in the UAE: Rumana Nazim, Omaira Al Olama and Saeed Arjumand in Conversation

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Vogue Arabia’s ongoing celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee and the run-up to the Ball of Arabia was joined by Rumana Nazim, Omaira Al Olama, and Saeed Arjumand with a light-hearted discussion on happiness. Each member of the trio took a turn randomly choosing from a vase of our specially curated questions, cored around the theme of ‘happiness’. Why happiness? According to UN World Happiness Report 2017, the UAE came first in the Arab world for three consecutive years and also has a CEO of happiness and wellbeing. And what better note to celebrate the nation in?

The discussion began with the founder of The Edit, Nazim’s happiest memory in the region, which she recalled was from her childhood in the UAE. “I feel very blessed to have had such a wonderful, safe, and positive childhood,” she shared. With open arms and a warm embrace, the UAE welcomed most of Nazim’s family members coming from India 50 years ago, becoming a homeland to herself and her extended family.

Emirati entrepreneur TedTalk speaker Al Olama pitched in with her creatively visual input, associating UAE with the color yellow. “Yellow always makes me feel happy, it’s bright,” she shared. She referred to her home as a multicultural melting pot that prioritizes everybody’s need for happiness, bringing them together to create a feeling of community.

Towards the end of the conversation, the owner of Dubai’s first standalone comic book store Arjumand picks up a blue note that asks what the common misconceptions about the UAE are, and he openheartedly shared “that everything in the UAE is made of gold, everything’s expensive,”  causing a stir between the three as they spoke about their experiences of equality between Emiratis and non-Emiratis.

Honoring the UAE’s golden milestone, Vogue Arabia will soon throw a lavish red carpet charity event on December 12, in the ballroom of Raffles The Palm Dubai. The evening will expect celebrities, designers, royalty, and business icons dressed in aureate shades of gold. Find out more about the Ball of Arabia here.

Read Next: Everything You Need to Know About the Ball of Arabia’s Co-Chairs

Video: Sonia Alsowaiegh

Saudi 100 Brands Goes International with its First Exhibition in New York

Aram by Arwa Al AlAmmari, one of the Saudi 100 Brands. Vogue Arabia, June 2022. Photo: Hayat Osamah

The Fashion Commission of Saudi Arabia is taking Saudi 100 Brands global with a traveling exhibition. Launched in 2021 by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture in partnership with Vogue Arabia, Saudi 100 Brands is a larger year-long program supporting emerging designers from the country through mentorship from the fashion industry’s powerhouse experts.

From July 26 to August 7, the exhibition’s first stop in New York will see a handpicked selection of clothing and accessories from the 100 Saudi designers displayed across eight categories: ready-to-wear, modesty, conceptual, premiere, demi-couture, bridal, handbags, and jewelry. Since making its debut in Riyadh last year, the exhibition marks the first international showcase for the 100 brands, which were chosen from 1,500 designers after they were asked to create a piece embodying the Saudi heritage and culture.

“Saudi Arabia is on a growth path across all sectors, including fashion, and there are great opportunities for local entrepreneurs to build new businesses across all parts of the fashion value chain,” Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Fashion Commission, had said at the time of the launch. “A robust fashion sector benefits from local creatives, design studios, marketing and communication agencies, manufacturers, and retailers. And through programs like Saudi 100 Brands, we look forward to seeing Saudi designers take their rightful place on the global stage.”

The initiative seeks to invest manpower in the brands looking to boost their businesses via master classes, one-on-one mentorship, and workshops covering design and innovation, sales strategies, and exhibitions such as this one. Experts at hand include professionals experienced with the world’s biggest fashion houses including LVMH, Kering, Valentino, Chanel, and Bulgari, and educational centers like Central St Martins, Yale, and Parsons.

If you happen to be in the Big Apple, the ‘Saudi 100 Brands Fashion Exhibition’ is welcoming visitors with free ticketed entry at Iron23, Manhattan. For timings, and tickets, visit Saudi100brands.nyc.

Read Next: 3 Internationally Educated Saudi Designers Focusing on the Kingdom and Bursting with Creativity

Saudi Crown Prince Announces Designs of The Line in NEOM

Photo: Courtesy NEOM

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, announced the designs and plans for Saudi Arabia’s proposed smart linear city, The Line by NEOM, on Monday. The Line, which is currently under construction, is envisioning a future free of cars and roads, making for zero carbon emissions while promising an unprecedented urban lifestyle in its midst. This city has been part of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision project for quite some time now, and finally, with the Crown Prince’s final word on the designs of this defining district, the project is taking off.

From the designs revealed in the Prince’s announcement, the most notable highlights are that The Line will be only 200 meters wide, 170 kilometers long, and 500 meters above sea level. Upon completion, the city is set to accommodate 9 million residents in its quarters, all built on a footprint of 34 square kilometers, reducing infrastructure footprints and creating efficiencies that have never been seen before. What’s more, the exterior of The Line will be entirely reflective, allowing it to blend in with its surrounding nature. Within its mirror-like facade will be “extraordinary experiences and magical moments,” the Prince shared.

“The Line will be created by a team of world-renowned architects and engineers, led by NEOM, to develop this revolutionary concept for the city of the future,” Prince Mohammed Bin Salman shared recently. The royal also explained that the design will clarify the internal structure of the smart city while addressing the issues of conventional cities. As per the Prince’s statement to the Saudi Press Agency, he is aiming at finding a satisfactory middle ground between urban living and preserving our endangered nature through this visionary project.

This project was initially launched by the Prince in January 2021, where he laid out his visions and ideas of the smart city headed on its way to redefine urban living and development for what it is today. With The Line, His Highness dreams of revolutionize what cities of the future will look like. The vertically layered designs for will put the traditional style of horizontal flats up for a challenge. As per the plans, the city is set to run entirely on renewable energy, prioritizing people’s well-being over fascinating infrastructures – a norm that is currently not being followed by most conventional cities. If everything goes as planned, The Line will be preserving 95% of NEOM’s land with its extraordinary design.

Below, take a look at what the proposed model of The Line by Neom is likely to look like by 2030.

Read next: HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud Greets US President Joe Biden on His Saudi Trip

Portrait of Bravery: Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska

Cover Look: First lady Olena Zelenska photographed in Kyiv in July 2022. “We have no doubt we will prevail.”Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, October 2022

There is no script for first ladies in wartime, and so Olena Zelenska is writing her own. The wife of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a longtime comedy writer, always preferred to stay behind the scenes, while her husband, a comedian turned politician whose presidency may yet determine the fate of the free world, glowed in the limelight. But ever since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Zelenska has suddenly found herself center stage in a tragedy. When I met her on a recent rainy afternoon in Kyiv, where cafés were busy even amid frequent air-raid sirens, her luminous face and green-brown eyes seemed to capture the range of emotions coursing through Ukraine today: deep sadness, flashes of dark humor, recollections of a safer, happier past, and a steely core of national pride.

“These have been the most horrible months of my life, and the lives of every Ukrainian,” she said, speaking her country’s language through a translator. “Frankly I don’t think anyone is aware of how we have managed emotionally.” What inspires her, she told me, is her fellow Ukrainians. “We’re looking forward to victory. We have no doubt we will prevail. And this is what keeps us going.” 

I met Zelenska—surnames are gendered in Slavic languages—deep inside the presidential office compound, a heavily guarded place I had traveled long hours to reach. With Ukraine’s airspace closed to civilian flights, I took an overnight train from Poland, through landscapes that have seen some of the 20th century’s worst horrors. Once inside the compound, I passed multiple security checkpoints and a labyrinth of blacked-out corridors lined with sandbags and soldiers. Life in wartime. 

From the start, this war has been fought both on the ground and in the information space, where Zelenskyy—savvy, telegenic, down-to-earth in his famous olive-drab T-shirts—has excelled. Now, in a crucial new phase, with Ukraine battling for international support and fresh military aid, the first lady’s role is no longer minor or ornamental. After spending the first months of the war in hiding, Zelenska, who, like her husband, is 44, has emerged into public view to become a face of her nation—a woman’s face, a mother’s face, an empathetic human face. If Zelenskyy leads a nation of civilians who overnight turned into combatants, she has visibly carried their emotional toll. 

Standing Strong: Zelenska at Antonov Airport, in Hostomel, with a group of female Ukrainian soldiers

In Ukraine, tens of thousands of women have been on the front lines, including in combat, and Zelenska’s role has increasingly turned toward frontline diplomacy. She recently traveled to Washington, albeit on an unofficial, unannounced visit, and met with President Biden, first lady Dr. Jill Biden, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. There, she also addressed Congress, telling a bipartisan group of lawmakers that she was speaking as a mother and daughter, not just a first lady. She showed pictures of Ukrainian children who had been killed by Russian rockets, including a four-year-old with Down syndrome, before amping it up: “I’m asking for something I would never want to ask for: I am asking for weapons—weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land but to protect one’s home and the right to wake up alive in that home.” 

That’s a more heartfelt version of the message her husband has been making all along: that the war in Ukraine is about more than Ukraine—it is about who will uphold the values of the West and the postwar rules-based order. If Vladimir Putin can invade a sovereign country to fulfill his ambition to reunite the former Russian empire, where will he stop? 

It is not clear whether Zelenska, or her husband, will convince Ukraine’s Western allies to get even more deeply involved in a conflict that shows no sign of clear resolution and is also weighing down the global economy. The same day Zelenska addressed Congress, Russia’s foreign minister said Russia would consider expanding into further territory if Western countries gave Ukraine more long-range weaponry. Zelenskyy, meanwhile, wants to push the Russians back to the pre–February 24 borders, if not further, before considering negotiations with Russia. Ukraine insists victory is possible; Russia seems unlikely to give up any of the territory it has so far claimed. Through it all, Congress and the Biden White House have walked a delicate line: providing billions of military aid to Ukraine but reluctant to permanently antagonize Russia, get tangled up in forever wars, or send too many arms to a Ukrainian military that may not be trained to use them or to keep them     from falling into Russian hands. At the same time, major European countries, notably Germany, have been heavily dependent on Russian gas, effectively funding Russia’s war effort even as they offer Ukraine military and technical support.

Whether Zelenska’s visit to Washington yields real results, it was a reminder of the power of image-making. And images matter. Tetyana Solovey, a London-based former editor at Vogue Ukraine, says Zelenska’s emergence has been critical. “The female voices in this war need to be heard, need to be represented,” she says. Zelenska is “the first to speak about the human experience of the war.” And the first lady has helped Ukraine assert its own voice. At the start of the war, “the whole media landscape was: ‘Biden said,’ ‘Boris Johnson said,’ ‘Olaf Scholz said something.’ What the bigger players are thinking about Ukraine, what Putin wants,” she says. “Her presence in the media helps give this sense of agency to Ukraine as a country which has a right to be heard, to speak, to be considered relevant.”

In early June, in one of her first public appearances since the invasion, Zelenska paid homage to some 200 Ukrainian children killed in the war, giving a speech to a crowd that included grieving parents outside Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral, its gold domes reaching to the early summer sky. (A month later, the number had risen to 300 children, she told me.) “The whole country knows your stories, and you are not alone,” she said that day. “You should know that you are important. You were the most important people for your children. So take care of yourself for them. They would like that.” Zelenska and the parents hung bells in the trees, one for each child. “The bells stood for the voices of the innocent children, so they would ring forever and be heard forever,” she said to me. “I was in tears the whole hour I was there.” With Russian missiles falling on civilian targets, Zelenska has also started an initiative to help attend to Ukrainians suffering from trauma. She’s leading an effort to train mental-health practitioners and teach first-line responders, including teachers, pharmacists, social workers and police officers, to act as counselors. “More generally this initiative looks to improve mental health in the nation,” she said. It’s a modern response to an old-school war of aggression, a response that looks beyond simple survival to the longer-term effects.

Life Underground: “The first weeks after the war broke out we were just shocked,” she said. “After Bucha we understood it was a war intended to exterminate us all. A war of extermination.”

Being first lady is not a role Zelenska ever wanted to play. “I like being backstage—it suited me,” she told me. “Moving into the limelight was quite difficult for me.” She and Zelenskyy met in high school, started dating at university, and had a full life in the entertainment world before he won the presidency in 2019 in a landslide on an anti-corruption platform. Protective of their family life, she hadn’t wanted him to run. But like so many of her fellow Ukrainians in this war, Zelenska has risen to the occasion with grace and grit. “I’m trying to do my best,” she said. She has always been a diligent student. 

In our two conversations in Kyiv, Zelenska was forthright, dignified, elegant, a subtle promoter of Ukrainian designers. On one day she wore an ecru silk blouse with a black velvet bow tied around the neck and a black mid-calf skirt, her ash-blond hair swept up in a loose bun. The next day, it was wide-leg jeans, chunky white sneakers with yellow and blue detailing, a nod to the Ukrainian flag and a fundraising project by the brand The Coat, her hair loose on her shoulders, and a rust-colored button-down shirt. I couldn’t help but think the shirt had the same rusty hue as the burned-out Russian tanks that I saw lining roads in Irpin and Bucha, suburbs of Kyiv where Ukraine pushed back the Russians. In Bucha, the site of a now infamous mass grave, investigations are underway to determine if Russia committed war crimes. I asked Zelenska how news of Russian atrocities in Bucha had changed the game. “The first weeks after the war broke out we were just shocked,” she said. “After Bucha we understood it was a war intended to exterminate us all. A war of extermination.”

It is strange to talk about Ukrainian extermination and Ukrainian fashion in the same conversation, and yet this is the cognitive dissonance of today’s Ukraine, where designers and professionals of all kinds are mobilizing at home and abroad to support their country. That cognitive dissonance is especially true in Kyiv, where you can sip a matcha in a café and then drive an hour to Bucha to visit a mass grave. It is hard to get one’s head around it all. 

For all Zelenska’s grace under pressure, it was clear the war had taken a toll on her. She was at times anxious and on edge, as if locked in a semi-permanent state of fight-or-flight. Her eyes would fill with sadness, especially when speaking of dead children, and at times she’d stare out the window and cross her hands across her stomach, a gesture of self-protection. It’s no wonder. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Zelenskyy became target number one, and she and their children target two. This cannot be easy. “I can’t think about it too seriously, because otherwise I would become paranoid,” she said, casting a wary glance at an aide, when I asked, as gingerly as possible, how it all felt. 

When the war began early that February morning, Zelenska was at home in the presidential residence in Kyiv, with the president and their two children: Oleksandra, 18, and Kyrylo, 9. For months, the Biden administration had shared intelligence with Ukraine and Europe warning of an imminent Russian invasion. Still, no one, not even Zelenskyy, actually expected it to happen. When it did, he put on a suit, went to the office and declared martial law. As Russian tanks barreled toward Kyiv, he changed into military garb and won the undying support of Ukrainians and the admiration of the world by not fleeing the country, as one of his predecessors, the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, had when faced with the Maidan Square popular uprising in 2014. “I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelenskyy said, apparently, at the time (a line that may be apocryphal but lives on). 

On day two of the war, Zelenskyy filmed a now famous handheld video of himself and his team outside the presidential compound. His message—“We are here. We are in Kyiv. We are protecting Ukraine”—inspired Ukrainians to do the same. Since then, his daily video briefing to the nation has also helped boost morale. Before becoming president, Zelenskyy had not only been a popular comedian, a film and television star, the Ukrainian voice of Paddington Bear in the recent films, and a winner on his country’s version of Dancing With the Stars, he also cofounded one of the biggest television and film production companies in the post-Soviet sphere, Studio Kvartal 95. Zelenska worked as a writer and editor on its leading prime-time satirical comedy show and on a spinoff aimed at women. Once in office, Zelenskyy brought many television colleagues and friends into the administration. This has led to challenges—most notably accusations of institutional incompetence (he recently fired a childhood friend whom he had appointed head of Ukraine’s security services). But there is no doubt that Zelenskyy and his team have orchestrated brilliantly effective communications. The president is ready for prime time, even if the country’s institutions may not be. The hard work of reform looms for Ukraine if it aspires to join the European Union, a lengthy process. 

But while at the start of the war Zelenskyy was visible on screens across Ukraine and worldwide, imploring the United States and Europe to send weaponry and aid, Zelenska and the children had vanished from view, moving between secure locations. In those difficult days, Zelenska stayed busy, and sane, by keeping up with her official first lady duties, conducting written interviews, trying to reshape some of her initiatives for wartime. “My daily schedule didn’t have a free moment when I could just sit back and start thinking about bad things,” she said. She helped her son with online school, which was challenging because they weren’t able to be online in real time. They played board games and read. She reread George Orwell’s 1984. “It’s a horrible coincidence. It’s a picture of what is happening in Russia these days.”

Hand in Hand: Zelenska and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the presidential office compound in Kyiv.

For a while Zelenska wasn’t able to communicate with her husband, or with her parents. Before the war, she’d spoken to her mother on the phone every day. “I don’t even know how I would have survived these months if we had been apart,” she said of the children. The president has not yet been able to see the children, for security reasons. “He’s having a much harder time in this regard. He suffers. And then my kids do, too, because they can’t see each other,” she said. Like so many Ukrainian families, the first family has been separated. Some 9 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the war began, most of them women and children. Men between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to stay and encouraged to serve in territorial defense forces. An estimated 5,000 Ukrainian civilians have died, probably more, and at peaks in the fighting the administration estimated it was losing 200 soldiers a day. 

When Zelenska finally emerged into public view, appearing with first lady Jill Biden to visit a shelter for displaced people in western Ukraine on May 8, Mother’s Day, it sent a strong message: She was in the country and working for the common good. This marked a new phase of the war and of Zelenska’s role as first lady—a beacon to her citizenry and a player in Ukraine’s battle for hearts and minds. 

Before the war, she’d already become an advocate for the vulnerable, especially children with special needs, and also worked to raise awareness and fight domestic violence. She brought in a renowned Ukrainian chef to overhaul public school cafeteria nutrition, introducing more fruits and vegetables to a diet largely of meat and potatoes, and helped negotiate the introduction of Ukrainian-language audio guides at major international museums. Zelenska has continued this work, not least because millions of Ukrainians are now living abroad, especially in Europe. The schools initiative has shifted because the question is now whether children can go to school at all—Russia has been bombing schools and not all have adequate bomb shelters—or have enough to eat. In her speech to Congress, Zelenska compared Russia’s strategy in Ukraine to The Hunger Games.

That speech showed Zelenska’s style: a tough message with a soft look. Her family had long projected a youthful, future-oriented image of an independent Ukraine to the rest of the world. No longer was this a country of oligarchs and kleptocrats of the post-Soviet years. “She keeps it modern, she keeps it real,” says Julie Pelipas, a London-based Ukrainian designer who helped style the images accompanying this story. “She’s very precise with what she wears, but she gives space to experiment,” Pelipas says. “When she’s wearing a trouser suit, she’s not afraid to be looking too masculine next to the president. This is also a sign of a modern woman in Ukraine—we’re not afraid to show that we’re stronger, that we’re equal with men.” 

Not long before Zelenska’s visit to Washington, I asked President Zelenskyy about his wife, and how she was helping the cause. When I reached his office in the presidential compound in Kyiv, past a gauntlet of security, it took me a minute to realize that I’d arrived. There was an ornate parquet floor. I recognized his desk, flanked by a flag of Ukraine, from his video messages. He wore an olive sweater and pants, and sat at the head of a giant long table. Zelenskyy was slight, with a several days’ beard, and looked tired. We shook hands. I told him I was there to talk about another front in the war: the home front. “Home is also the front line,” he said in his gravely baritone, in English before switching to Ukrainian. He told me he understood why millions of Ukrainians had fled the country, but that those who remained needed to be role models, starting with his family. “I can do it for one part of our people, for a significant part,” he said. “But for women and children, my wife being here sets an example. I believe that she plays a very powerful role for Ukraine, for our families, and for our women.” 

The war has now entered a crucial, transitional phase. Large swaths of Ukraine’s east and south are under Russian occupation. Zelenskyy wants more military support for defense and to claw back territory Russia has seized since February, if not since 2014, when Russia first invaded Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine. International attention has been flagging, while inflation and gas prices are on the rise worldwide. When I asked him about this, Zelenskyy was direct. “I will be very honest and maybe not very diplomatic: Gas is nothing. COVID, even COVID is nothing when you compare it to what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said. “Just try to imagine what I’m talking about happening to your home, to your country. Would you still be thinking about gas prices or electricity prices?” The battle, he said, goes beyond Ukraine. “We are fighting for things that could happen in any country in the world,” he told me. “If the world allows this to happen, then it is not upholding its values. That’s why Ukraine needs support—significant support.”

I asked Zelenskyy how the war has affected his own family. “Like any ordinary man, I have been worried sick about them, about their safety. I didn’t want them to be put in danger,” he said. “It’s not about romance. It’s about horrors that were happening here in Kyiv’s outskirts and all those horrors that are happening now in our country, in occupied territories,” he said. “But of course I’ve been missing them. I’ve wanted to hug them so much. I’ve wanted to be able to touch them.” He’s proud of Zelenska, he said, for coping. “She has a strong personality to start with. And probably she is stronger than she thought she was. And this war—well, any war is probably bound to bring out qualities you never expected to have.”

If Zelenskyy was a bit stiff—telling me Zelenska is a great mother who takes her responsibilities as first lady very seriously—he warmed up immediately when asked about her human qualities, their shared past, what people should know about her. “Of course she is my love. But she is my greatest friend,” he said. “Olena really is my best friend. She is also a patriot and she deeply loves Ukraine. It’s true. And she is an excellent mother.”

The couple first met in high school in their hometown of Kryvyi Rih, an industrial city in southeast Ukraine. When they started dating, it wasn’t love at first sight. He was first drawn to her looks: “You look at someone’s eyes, and lips,” he explained. Then they got to talking. “That’s when you cross the distance from like to love. That’s what happened for me,” he said. (“Probably, humor was this mutual chemistry between us,” she said when I asked about their origin story.) Did Zelenskyy try out his jokes on her? He smiled. “Yes, of course. My jokes don’t always go over well with her. She is a very good editor.”

Zelenska was born Olena Kiyashko. Her mother was an engineer and manager in a construction company and her father a professor in a technical school. Both she and Zelenskyy are only children. Both were raised in Russian-speaking households and learned Ukrainian later. They were 11 when the Berlin Wall fell, and in junior high school when Ukraine gained its independence, in 1991. Aerosmith and The Beatles were her adolescent soundtrack. “We were teenagers in the last days of the Soviet Union,” she said. “The world started to open up for us.” That’s another reason why Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is such a shock. “When someone starts telling us that there are no Ukrainians and a Ukrainian is just a bad Russian, we don’t buy it,” she said. “People who were born in independent Ukraine are now in their 30s. It’s a new generation. So nobody in Ukraine can understand their pretext or reasons for invading us.” 

In the Lead: “Of course she is my love,” says President Zelenskyy. “But she is my greatest friend. Olena really is my best friend.” In this story the first lady wears Ukrainian designers such as Bettter, Six, Hvoya, The Coat, Kachorovska, and Poustovit.

At university, Zelenska graduated with a degree in architecture and Zelenskyy studied law, but soon both changed course to dedicate themselves to satirical comedy. At first she had her doubts about making a living in comedy. But the comedy troupe anchored by Zelenskyy had already won a hugely popular competition. “So there was a good foundation,” she said. The troupe would go on to win multiple times, and in 2003 Zelenskyy and friends, including Zelenska, started Kvartal 95, a production company that became one of the largest in the Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking world. They named it after the district of Kryvyi Rih where they grew up. 

Kvartal 95 produced a popular satirical program, Evening Kvartal, where Zelenskyy was a star and Zelenska a writer for years. She was often the only woman in the writers room, which she enjoyed. “For me it’s easier to deal with men than with women,” she said. Then she hedged: “The doors to the humor world for women are open as wide as they are for men. But fewer women venture in. It takes some courage to take up this path.” The show mocked the region’s politicians and mores, a more mainstream and less edgy version of Saturday Night Live. It helped make Zelenskyy a household name in Ukraine. Evening Kvartal was “a unique thing: the only theater of political satire in the former Soviet Union,” says Alexander Rodnyansky, a film and television producer who has known Zelenskyy for years and whose son is an economic adviser in his government. Rodnyansky was head of the Ukrainian television network that put the show on prime time. “He was doing a very important thing in the social and political process of the country,” he says.

In 2015, Zelenskyy raised his profile even more by starring in a television series, Servant of the People, in which he played a high school teacher who criticizes the ruling class for cronyism and corruption—and finds himself elected president of Ukraine. A few years later, Zelenskyy would—a little uncannily—make this a reality, winning the presidency by defeating Petro Poroshenko, a businessman who had been in power since the first elections after the 2014 Maidan uprising that pushed Ukraine closer to Europe and farther from Russia. Rodnyansky recalls talking to Zelenskyy just before he won. “He said, ‘It’s going to be just one term, we will try to change the country for the better, and then I’ll go and I’ll become a producer again and I’ll do the movie based on my experience and I’ll win the Oscar.’ That’s what he said to me. I was laughing.”

When Zelenskyy decided to run for office, Zelenska was upset. “I respected his choice and I understood that this was an important step for him to make. At the same time I felt that my life and the life of my family would change quite radically. The change would be long-lasting and quite complex,” she told me. “I knew there was going to be a lot of work for me, and I was right.” Zelenska’s most relaxed moments in our conversations came when she recalled the years before the war and before the presidency. Going to an Adele concert in Lisbon. Driving with friends to Kraków to see Maroon 5. Traveling to Barcelona for a weekend. Watching movies as a family. (They’ve watched Forrest Gump “millions of times,” and she loves Legends of the Fall and The Bridges of Madison County.) Like everyone in Ukraine, she wants a normal life again.

I asked her if anything had prepared her for the war. “Nothing,” she said. “We were living happy lives and we never thought this would happen. But we have hope.” The more I spoke to Zelenska, the more I felt for her, and sensed her isolation, her fear. “It’s true, I feel isolated,” she said. “I can’t freely visit what I want to. Nowadays going shopping is a dream that cannot be realized.” But she was holding it together, for her country, to meet all those expectations. “It’s a difficult task because you feel this burden of responsibility constantly.” 

Her efforts are paying off. On my last morning in Kyiv, before another long train ride back to Poland, the rain had stopped and I took a walk through Maidan Square. I stopped to ask people what they think of Zelenska. The responses were all positive. “She’s humble and she’s more contemporary and more modern,” said Antonina Siryk, who proudly told me she works in the state office that designs postage stamps, including a famous new one issued by Ukraine that says “Russian Warship, Go Fuck Yourself.” I chatted with a couple, Svitlana and Sergiy Karpov, who were living in Kyiv but hoped to return to their home in the Donbas region, now under Russian occupation. Both said they admired Zelenska. “First of all, she’s pretty,” says Sergiy, an excavator operator. “We like their family,” his wife, who works in insurance, added. “They look like they really love each other. You can feel it.” 

Back in her office, before I said goodbye to Zelenska, she gave me a book about the city of Kharkiv, which Russia had pounded with artillery. That day, Russia had also fired missiles into Vinnytsia, a city southwest of Kyiv, far from the front lines—sending the message that nowhere is safe. Zelenska was clearly shaken. With an aide’s phone she showed me an image of a dead child there. It was all so much to bear. The war machine, the media machine. She was doing a job she never signed up for and doing it well. As I left, we shook hands, and then I ventured a brief hug. She walked me to the door. I told her I hoped her family would soon be able to have dinner together again at the same table. So many separated families. So many lives lost. “I dream about that,” she said. 

Stylist: Julie Pelipas
Style assistant: Anastasiia Popadianets, Maria Hitcher
Makeup: Svetlana Rymakova
Hair: Igor Lomov
Producer: Maryna Sandugey-Shyshkina
Line producer (fixer): Maryna Shulikina, Vlad Mykhnyuk, Kasia Krychowska

Balqees Fathi’s Coolest Stage Outfit Yet Includes Shimmering Statement Pants and Diamond Sunglasses

Photo: Instagram.com/balqeesfathi

Balqees Fathi recently took the stage at the Gamers8 Festival in Riyadh in what may be her coolest performance look yet. Dressed in an edgy top and statement pants paired with plenty of accessories, the Emirati-Yemeni singer clearly got the memo about the spirited eSports event.

 

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Fathi’s outfit for the evening was styled by Cedric Haddad, and picked from French brand Alexandre Vauthier’s collections. While the leather halter neck corseted top was a bold choice on its own, her glitzy green and black striped pants took the ensemble to another level. The look also marked a sartorial switch-up for the singer, who is most often seen in breezy kaftans and extravagant gowns. To accessorize the outfit, Fathi looked to a stack of bracelets and rings with green stones from Marli New York, but the highlight of her look was a pair of futuristic sunglasses studded with diamonds across the lenses, from Jaupin. The limited edition sunnies gave off major Matrix vibes, but with a surprise element of sparkle that made them ideal for a stage performance.

The singer’s beauty look complemented her playful ensemble just as well. Fathi wore her long brown locks in defined waves in a half-up-half-down style, while her makeup matched her outfit with glittering green and black smoky eyes. Balqees seems to have loved her edgy new look so much, she wasted no time in changing her Instagram profile picture to a snapshot in the all-eyes-on-me ensemble.

Photo: Instagram.com/balqeesfathi

Running until September 8, Gamers8 will see a lineup of the region and the world’s most-loved musical stars including Nancy Ajram, Marshmello, DJ Alan Walker, DJ Snake, and Black Eyed Peas.

Read Next: Balqees Fathi Wore Two Brightly Colored Kaftans in a Single Week in Saudi Arabia

Leo Season 2022: 20 Gifts That Are Perfect For The Zodiac Sign

Meghan Markle, born on August 4, 1981. Photo: Getty

July 23- August 22 marks Leo season, a time for us all to embrace our inner leaders and take charge of our lives. If you happen to have a close friend or family member who falls under this fire sign, here’s a quick peek at everything that makes the zodiac sign so special—and a list of gifts that will make the perfect birthday presents.

Leo personality traits

The leaders of the zodiac, Leos are born with a regal streak. If you know a Leo, you’ll be quick to agree that these individuals have an innate star-like personality, and are often the trendsetters of their circles. Just like the lion in the wild, Leos have no problem basking in the sunshine and being served by others, and are often rather theatrical, passionate, and creative. Quite like Taureans, Leos have a taste for the finer things in life, and will never shy away from treating themselves to luxurious experiences like lavish meals and indulgent spa sessions. Ruled by the sun (which never goes retrograde), this zodiac sign is also known for being stable and loyal. On the downside, Leo’s jealousy, ambition and pride can sometimes come in the way of their own success—be it romantic or career-related.

Famous Leo celebrities

Given their star factor, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that some of the biggest celebrities in the world are Leos. Among those on the extensive list are global icons Jennifer Lopez (and husband Ben Affleck), Meghan Markle, Barack Obama, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Helen Mirren, and Kylie Jenner. Joining them are Somali supermodel Iman, Musicians Shawn Mendes and Whitney Houston, and model Cara Delevingne. From the Hollywood crew, you’ll also spot a large number of Leos: Friends star Lisa Kudrow, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Mila Kunis, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Lawrence.

The best birthday gifts for Leo individuals

What better way to pamper a regal Leo than with gifts that spell out ‘royalty’? A decadent Versace bathrobe will make a winning pick for this zodiac sign, as will a series of ‘Beyond Extravagance’ books, or a crown-like headpiece. Given that their symbol is the lion, most Leos have an envy-worthy mane, so a cool hairstyling product (hello, Dyson Airwrap!) will surely win you some brownie points. Pair it with a silky soft hair wrap, Gisou’s honey-infused hair perfume, a molten gold Balenciaga clip, and you’re good to go.

For Leos who love their regular self-care sessions, a great gift is 111Skin’s celebrity-loved face mask, or an LED face mask that treats every skin ailment in the book. Jewelry and clothing will always be appreciated by this style-savvy sign, so there’s no going wrong with statement-making ensembles in rich hues, animal print accessories, and jewelry in Leo’s birthstone, the cheery green peridot.

For a closer look at the best gifts for Leos, start scrolling now.

Alice + Olivia hair wrap. AED 340

Mirror, Seletti. AED 1,143

Bag, Christian Louboutin. AED 5,456

Bathrobe, Versace. AED 2,050

Hair perfume, Gisou. AED 343

Blouse, Alexander McQueen. AED 8,855

Book set, Assouline. AED 1,858

Bracelet, Gucci. AED 2,903

Dress, Common Hours. AED 13,587

Candle holder, Polspotten. AED 985

Celestial Black Diamond Lifting and Firming Mask, 111 Skin. AED 674

Dress, Dolce & Gabbana. AED 6,744

DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro, Dr Dennis Gross Skincare. AED 1,643

Earrings, Marlo Laz. AED 50,965

Dyson Airwrap. AED 2,250

Gown, Lanvin. AED 13,655

Ring, Bea Bongiasca. AED 1,920

Hair pin, Balenciaga. AED 1,031

Heels, Mach Mach. AED 3,406

Headband, Lelet NY. AED 1,263

December 7, 2021

Happiness in the UAE: Rumana Nazim, Omaira Al Olama and Saeed Arjumand in Conversation

Vogue Arabia’s ongoing celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee and the run-up to the Ball of Arabia was joined by Rumana Nazim, Omaira Al Olama, and Saeed Arjumand with a light-hearted discussion on happiness. Each member of the trio took a turn randomly choosing from a vase of our specially curated questions, cored around the theme of ‘happiness’. Why happiness? According to UN World Happiness Report 2017, the UAE came first in the Arab world for three consecutive years and also has a CEO of happiness and wellbeing. And what better note to celebrate the nation in?

The discussion began with the founder of The Edit, Nazim’s happiest memory in the region, which she recalled was from her childhood in the UAE. “I feel very blessed to have had such a wonderful, safe, and positive childhood,” she shared. With open arms and a warm embrace, the UAE welcomed most of Nazim’s family members coming from India 50 years ago, becoming a homeland to herself and her extended family.

Emirati entrepreneur TedTalk speaker Al Olama pitched in with her creatively visual input, associating UAE with the color yellow. “Yellow always makes me feel happy, it’s bright,” she shared. She referred to her home as a multicultural melting pot that prioritizes everybody’s need for happiness, bringing them together to create a feeling of community.

Towards the end of the conversation, the owner of Dubai’s first standalone comic book store Arjumand picks up a blue note that asks what the common misconceptions about the UAE are, and he openheartedly shared “that everything in the UAE is made of gold, everything’s expensive,”  causing a stir between the three as they spoke about their experiences of equality between Emiratis and non-Emiratis.

Honoring the UAE’s golden milestone, Vogue Arabia will soon throw a lavish red carpet charity event on December 12, in the ballroom of Raffles The Palm Dubai. The evening will expect celebrities, designers, royalty, and business icons dressed in aureate shades of gold. Find out more about the Ball of Arabia here.

Read Next: Everything You Need to Know About the Ball of Arabia’s Co-Chairs

Video: Sonia Alsowaiegh

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