When Lebanese beauty mogul and TV host Joelle Mardinian defied her parents’ advice to leave hospitality management and follow her passion of being a make-up artist, she couldn’t have envisioned this: owning several high-end salons across the city, opening her own beauty clinic and being the CEO of Joelle Group, all with more than 12 million followers on Instagram.
Much like Madonna, Beyonce and Adele, she’s a one-name wonder now: just Joelle.
By way of Beirut and London, the Dubai-based entrepreneur, 42, started as an MUA behind-the-scenes, working painstaking 12-hour shifts for a major record label. But then came ‘Joelle’ on MBC1, the popular makeover programme that saw her transform her guests’ physical appearances from A to Z.
Mardinian is now a mum of three — Bailey, 19, who’s off to university, nine-year-old Ella, her only daughter, and one-year-old Nathan Mark, whom she adopted in December, 2018.
She’s also the host of ‘Beauty Match’ on MBC4 — a show where fashionistas compete to makeover a contestant under Mardinian watchful eye.
But, she isn’t satisfied yet. She wants to become the Arab Oprah — another one-name wonder — and she’s willing to fake it until she makes it.
Sitting with Gulf News tabloid on a pastel children’s bed at Bloomingdale’s Home Store in Dubai Mall last week, Mardinian launched her collaboration with 3MOMs, who are helping to renovate her daughter’s bedroom; Ella’s ideas are beyond her years, futuristic and borderline unachievable, which made 3MOMS, a global brand that brings kids’ decor visions to life, the perfect fit.
Without dropping her pearly white smile, Mardinian got real about overcoming her own insecurities, the woman who paved the way for her to wear trousers and why she talks a lot because she’s ‘super shy’.
What I like about the brand is that it’s three mums who have put in so much passion and love and dedication, and who understand children. It’s three brains in one company, one project. I connect with that, you know.
You’re here today with your daughter Ella. How have your children changed your perspective on life, beauty, fashion, furniture? They’re all at such different ages.
It’s not even about the age, it’s about the gender. When I had Ella, I had to learn again how to be a mum. When you tell [boys] to come and go, they do it. Girls are not like that. They honestly have a mind of their own from a tiny age. When Ella was still in diapers, she wanted to wear my high-heeled shoes. I even have a video of her in her nappy, literally walking in my huge Louboutin shoes — and she did it. Girls have more determination. I’m a huge women supporter.
Why is it important to support other women?
Why would you think? I’m so happy there are women in the past who got us where we are today. Imagine if we were born in the ages when women had no rights, never wore trousers and couldn’t leave the house? That would be a nightmare. Because this brain [points at her head] isn’t going to change. It doesn’t matter if we were in that era, we would still want to be free. We would still want self-respect. We would still want a lot of the things that we have today.
Right, of course.
And today, I’m so proud to see more women at work, and [to see] mums managing between both. I’m a very good mum. It’s one thing I’m super proud of and I say that with full confidence. With work, I’m trying to grow, be successful and stay on top. But with kids? I put them first. With work, I travel, I do long hours. But I tell them that it’s for them and it’s their choice. If one day they don’t want to travel anymore to Switzerland to ski or to the Maldives, I’m happy to stop. But if they understand that I’m doing this for that [to be possible], this is good parenting, when you involve your kids — doesn’t matter how young they are. I want them to see me, especially Ella, as a role model for her to be strong, independent and unbreakable.
I’m surprised to hear you say you’re trying at work, because you’ve done such an incredible job and you’ve been a pioneer, especially in Arab broadcasting.
I always look at people who are more successful and I say, ‘Wow, it’s such a high ceiling — there are so many steps to take to reach where they are.’ I look at Oprah Winfrey. She’s a billionaire. She’s richer than the queen of England. Does she really need to work? No, [but] she’s still coming up with projects — she’s now selling pizza and freezer food. She’s doing another show on stage with a live audience. Women who love success, they never stop. They keep on raising the ceiling. And I keep raising my expectations of what I want for me. I don’t feel like I’m big, because I look at people that are bigger. And then I want to reach that level.
Do you think your children would follow in your footsteps?
I just want them to follow their dreams. I was so lucky that I followed my dreams and became a make-up artist, because look where I am today. I was studying something completely different — I went to university for hospitality management and I decided, ‘You know what? This is really not for me.’ I thought it was for me, [but] it’s not. When I wanted to do make-up artistry, my parents said, ‘No way.’ But they didn’t stop me. They advised me, but they let me do what I love. And I believe, if you love what you do, you don’t count the hours. You don’t wait for that pay cheque.
What would be your goal, then? The thing that would make you say, ‘I did it’?
I used to think I didn’t need to be international, but today, the world has become much closer together because of social media. I want to be international.
Would you want to be the Arab Oprah?
Of course. I don’t want to just be the Arab Oprah. I want to raise the head of every Arab. I want to be the Arab woman who has actually done something that even the Europeans are watching. Even if it is in English, because they’re not going to learn Arabic. Look at Dubai. Is there anyone around the world doesn’t know Dubai? When I travel, people will say, ‘Oh, where are you from?’ It’s too complicated, so we reply, ‘We live in Dubai,’ and they say, ‘Oh, my God, Dubai!’ This is inspiring. They’ve built a brand for this city and for the country that has become a dream for people worldwide to visit.
We see you now, you’re super confident, you’re a representative for what you do around the world—
[Leans in conspiratorially] I’m not confident. I’m super shy. This is why I talk a lot, I think. Now, I’m not shy anymore. But I’m shy to enter rooms with people, I’m shy to go to weddings, I’m shy to enter a restaurant.
They always say, ‘Fake it till you make it.’.
I swear to God — I swear to God! — this is exactly what I say to my kids. All of us are shy. My son, who’s 18, is identical to me. I say to him, ‘Bailey, I swear to you, I am faking. I am bluffing.’ On TV, I’m talking to a camera, not an audience. One of the first times I had to present on stage, I said, ‘I will never do it [again], even for a hundred thousand dollars — never again will I put myself under that stress.’ I stressed [for] one week before stepping on that stage. But I force myself. I challenge myself. I want to admit that I’m not confident all the time. Because we need to overcome our fears and insecurities. We cannot let them beat us.