It came out of the blue even for us. But as the world tries to reconcile with the fact (we can’t wait for Fox News’ take on this) that Janet Jackson had already gotten hitched last year to a Khaleeji boy, the question on every one’s lips is: Who is Wissam Al Mana?
For us in the Gulf, especially for those in Qatar, Al Mana is already a household name. With interests in every thing from car rentals to steel and oil and gas to engineering, the company, run by Wissam and his two brothers is one of Qatar’s oldest and largest business entities.
But it’s the London-bred Wissam’s interest in fashion – his Al Mana Luxury owns the franchises of everything from Alexander McQueen, Giorgio Armani, Dior Homme and Marc Jacobs in Qatar and Saks Fifth Avenue in Dubai – that led him to a certain Miss Jackson.
The pair reportedly met at the Armani Hotel opening in Dubai in 2010 and immediately hit it off.
Wissam, 37, is nine years Janet’s junior and is rumoured to be worth $1billion. He told Harper’s Bazaar in 2010: “I think a man’s dream woman changes as he goes through different stages in his life. I’m fortunate to be dating my dream woman now.”
“I’m getting older and I feel more settled,” Jackson, who’s been married twice before, told the magazine of her relationship. “We have a deep bond, a deep connection.”
The couple, who’ve always kept a very low profile about their relationship, were forced to come clean after wild rumours began circulating about a planned $20million wedding.
In a joint statement to the Entertainment Tonight show on Monday, they said: “The rumours regarding an extravagant wedding are simply not true. Last year we were married in a quiet, private, and beautiful ceremony.
“Our wedding gifts to one another were contributions to our respective favourite children’s charities. We would appreciate that our privacy is respected and that we are allowed this time for celebration and joy.”
The same day, the couple, with co-ordinated outfits, made an appearance at the Giorgio Armani autumn-winter 2013 show at Milan Fashion Week, happily posing for pictures (the brand seems to be lucky for them). Jackson, rather conspicuously, didn’t wear a ring on her finger.
While many have pointed out what an odd couple they make, Jackson, who performed in Abu Dhabi in 2011, and her family have always been very close to the Gulf.
Her brother, the late Michael Jackson, was a regular here, especially to Bahrain, and Jermaine Jackson (now Jacksun, because he loves the sun) converted to Islam after performing here in the 80s. The Jacksons performed in Abu Dhabi last year as part of their world tour.
Despite his immense wealth, Wissam, who grew up in London where he developed a love for fashion, has always kept a low profile and rarely does interviews.
Perhaps a trait he learnt from his late father, whom he considers his role model.
“He was a very humble and down to earth man, and was known for being very honest and trustworthy,” he told Harpers Bazaar magazine. “He taught us many great values such as to treat our employees with dignity and respect.”
And while he has access to almost all the big fashion brands you can think of, when he is in the Gulf, his attire of choice is the kandoorah: “[It] is so comfortable, and I love the fact that it’s tailor made and you can choose between different fabrics. Besides, it’s part of my culture and heritage.”
In an interview with men’s fashion magazine VMAN in 2010, he said of his relationship with Jackson:
“I don’t date Janet Jackson. She is my girlfriend; there is a difference. She is a very special and talented woman who never ceases to amaze me.”