Kenyan-born model stealing the show in ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’

Real Housewives of Dubai

Cast members of the ‘Real Housewives of Dubai’ (from left) Dr Sara Al Madani, Caroline Brooks, Caroline Stanbury, Chanel Ayan, Lesa Milan and Nina Ali. PHOTO | POOL

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Ayan was appointed head of runway and casting for Miss Universe 2021 competition for UAE.
  • Ayan is also the first black supermodel to be featured in a Dubai magazine.

Kenyan-born model Chanel Ayan is the first Kenyan to be featured in the Real Housewives franchise as the Dubai version of the series that premiered on June 1. 

Ayan is also the first black supermodel to be featured in a Dubai magazine. She has Somali and Ethiopian roots. 

She grew up in Malaba on the border of Kenya and Uganda with her parents and five siblings. Her father was an alcoholic so her mother took care of them. 

Her hard work and success, however, is fuelled by a traumatising childhood that she hopes to heal from. In one of the show’s episodes, Ayan revealed that her father physically abused her and her sister until they decided to run away at a very young age.

She revealed that she was once tied to a tree in the rain and that her father wanted to marry her off at the age of 14. 

“Forgiving my father is the hardest thing I could do. It is not an easy situation for me to forgive someone like that,” Ayan told fellow cast member Sara Madani. 

She added that she has not spoken to her father for 26 years. 

Her modelling career started at the age of 17 in Brazil, where she met her husband Luca Salves, a fellow model and artist. 

After their wedding, the couple moved to the US before finally settling in the United Arab Emirates. They have a 17-year-old son, Taj, who has followed in his parents’ footsteps by starting his own career in modelling; recently posing for Vogue Arabia.

“My husband makes me feel safe. My father never made me feel that way,” says Ayan.

After moving to Dubai 18 years ago, she grew her career; appearing in campaigns for several international luxury brands such as Chanel, Prada, Tiffany, Cartier, Dior, Moschino, Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana. She is also the face of Piaget, a Swiss luxury watch brand. 

She has also been featured in magazines such as Forbes, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Italian Vogue, American Vogue, and Vogue Arabia. 

“I am the muse for one of the biggest designers in the world — the Amato couture. He has dressed Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. I usually try out clothes for celebrities before he sends them to the US for Oscars or any other event.”

“Funny thing, I used to fit for Nicki Minaj even though we have very different bodies but they would check colours and designs that would suit her. I wore the same white dress that Beyonce wore at the Grammys before it was sent to the US. She quipped with pleasure,” Ayan said in an interview with Punch. 

Apart from modelling, Ayan is also an entrepreneur. She started a makeup brand called Ayan beauty in partnership with celebrity makeup artist Toni Malt. 

She also runs a talent agency. “Many big brands come to me to get models because I have a modelling agency,” she said in the third episode of the show, which was the first time she was asked to find a plus-size for a fashion show. 

She was also appointed as the head of runway and casting for Miss Universe 2021 competition for the United Arab Emirates.

Ayan stays true to her East African roots by teaching her son childhood games. She also recently presented her best friend Lesa Milan with a live goat at a thanksgiving dinner, which was received with mixed emotions by other cast members.

“In our culture, goats are so important. You were there for me so much a few nights ago when I was in a bad place,” Ayan explained. 

The supermodel is known for being quite the drama queen, stirring the pot whenever she is around. She is already at loggerheads with Caroline Stanburg, one of the cast members, for not inviting her to her bachelorette party. 

She has also had an altercation with another member, Caroline Brooks over a comment she made about her not receiving an invitation to the mentioned bachelorette party, claiming that she was not important enough to be included. Ayan later attempted to mend their friendship by gifting her with a pot full of lemons.

Despite this, she is the life of the show. She never frets to say what is on her mind and she shows up dressed for the runway to every event. 

“I am the first person from my village or from my generation to do something really big like this. So I feel so proud,” Ayan said during the first episode of the show.

The Real Housewives of Dubai boasts of the luxurious day-to-day lives of six successful women who call the city of gold their home. 

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