Before he settled in Dubai with his wife, Steve was a semi-professional sportsman and men’s hair stylist in a provincial town in a country larger and more densely populated than the UAE. Australia, India, the UK…take your pick.
Mildly amusing, passably intelligent, arguably good-looking, he once auditioned for a reality TV show and made the long-list before getting rejected. His mother assured him he had talent – though no one else did.
Within weeks of moving into his Marina apartment he got a job at a grooming salon where he met lots of media types he liked to chat with while trimming their locks.
Eventually one of them, an indiscriminate editor with space to fill, asked him whether he’d like to write a column for his magazine. Steve said he could barely spell his own name, but the editor said that was OK. One of his writers was a dentist’s receptionist until two months ago and look at her now, writing spa reviews and flitting from one launch party to another in a sporty little coupé the colour of her favourite nail varnish.
Steve accepts the offer and swiftly becomes the city’s authority on all things tonsorial.
Each week he writes a barely literate column on hair, which gets polished up by copy-editors who lament his inability to construct a sentence, let alone use an apostrophe correctly.
Steve has seen the way people reinvent themselves in this city and decides one day that he wants a piece of the pie. Suddenly, the column is not so much a badly paid sideline, as a springboard to small-pond celebdom.
Several months later Steve persuades the magazine editor to have a word with a producer friend at the same company, which also happens to own a TV station. As an ex-athlete (semi-pro, but who’s to know?), Steve offers to do a little sports punditry. With a bit of gentle persuasion, he gets a trial, and because any opinionated old berk can talk about sport, regardless of whether or not they’ve played it, he doesn’t come across as totally clueless. So he gets handed a permanent gig.
With the magazine column and lucrative TV slot paying the bills, Steve finally ditches his scissors for good and finds himself gracing the pages of society magazines. He wins Best Dressed Man awards for the pink cravats he has adopted as his sartorial signature.
By writing a style blog and tossing around business cards like confetti he bumps up his Twitter following to an impressive 6,000. No one is surprised, therefore, when an aftershave manufacturer asks him to be its brand ambassador. It’s a Polish brand that no one – least of all Polish people – has heard of, but it’s a start. Vilnewschzcki Pour Homme today, Versace tomorrow.
Less than two years after moving to Dubai as a lowly crimper, Steve lands a solo presenting gig on a prime-time TV show. Comfortable in front of the camera, he sees no reason why he can’t use this job as a stepping stone to even greater things: he could be the male equivalent of Kim Kardashian, or forge an acting career. He’s the man now. He looks at himself in the bathroom mirror every evening and shouts the DiCaprio line from Titanic: “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!”
Beneath Steve’s aura of confidence, however, is a thorn of self-doubt, one that manifests itself as a question: what if?
What if he ever has to leave Dubai and return to the motherland? Will he be able to seamlessly resume this stellar career in a place where nobody knows who he is and where – whisper it – mediocrity is less tolerated? Undoubtedly not. But what the heck. He can always go back to cutting hair.
is alpha.’s features writer and can be found on this page when our other columnists go on the lam, get sick or grieve over the death of a pet. Which is more often than you’d think.