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Eva Longoria, Mona and Huda Kattan at The Global Gift Gala. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Watching Hollywood actress Eva Longoria pout for a selfie in a glossy golden gown with beauty moguls Huda and Mona Kattan will make you wonder if they were all in a girls’ locker room, rather than a green room for interviews ahead of their red-carpet appearance at the Global Gift Gala in Abu Dhabi on December 9, hosted in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Dream Ball.

There was laughter, gossip and mutual admiration as they talked up each other’s red carpet looks for the night. If the ‘Desperate Housewives’ actress admired Huda’s racy slit on her sparkling gown, the latter returned the favour by complimenting Longoria’s poker-straight short hair.

“It’s the battle of the bling, ladies!” declared Huda as she shepherded all the glamorous women for a quick photo on her own phone. You could feel their camaraderie and sisterhood as they joined forces to raise funds for The Global Gift Foundation and Lebanese Red Cross at W Abu Dhabi - Yas Island.

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Maria Bravo, Founder of Global Gift Foundation; Sheikh Zayed Bin Suroor Al Nahyan; Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence; Eva Longoria and Hessa Bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“They are such an inspiration to me as businesswomen, as sisters, as family members… They are super philanthropic and giving. I cannot say enough great things about them. Every time we call upon them to do something, they’re like: yep, what do you need? We are here,” said actress and honorary chair Longoria in an interview with Gulf News.

Blogger-turned-beauty empress Huda let us in on a secret. She told Gulf News that her friendship with Longoria began back during her pre-famous days, when she “begged the Global Gift Gala event planners” to allow her to do Longoria’s make-up for free. They obliged and a lasting friendship was struck.

“We hit it off back then and when she came back, we became very close friends. She has inspired me so much. She’s someone who truly cares and she’s such a humanitarian. She’s so human… I have so much deep love and respect for her… She’s such a feminist,” said Huda. Her sister and business partner Mona, who recently got engaged to Dubai-based businessman Hassan Elamin, was on the same page.

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Scott Fletcher, Eva Longoria and artist Sacha Jafri. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

When asked about the impending wedding in their family, Huda was quick to point out that everybody in her family approved of Mona’s choice.

“He’s very sweet… most of Mona’s men, we haven’t really liked! She’s been empathetic and overly understanding. I feel this time she has really picked a good one. And the family loves him. I know this is an interview, but I have to say I love him, and he puts her first… She deserves it,” said Huda.

The sisters, whose beauty brand’s estimated sales are around $250 million annually according to Forbes, have cracked the code when it comes to doing business with family, which is often perceived as a bad idea.

“Working with family is the best thing and the hardest thing at the same time… We are always thinking of a strategy to be together forever. So, no one is ever thinking about leaving… But we must work on open communications, and we have therapists that helps us get through issues. It is tough but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Mona said.

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Mona and Huda Kattan. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

They recently launched their own line of perfumes — a tiny vial that Mona sprays on this journalist during the interview. They are adorable and vivacious and together they seem to be a collective force of nature.

“Huda and I were always big dreamers since we were kids. We used to watch ‘Pinky and the Brain’ together and we used to pretend to take over the world… We always had a big vision… Tonight, we are taking over in terms of changing the world,” said Mona. Her sister Huda credits her as ‘her biggest influence in her life’.

The fundraiser for children and women across the globe also saw ‘The Masked Singer Australia’ sensation Anastacia and soprano Angelica dela Riva perform.

Singer Anastacia at the Global Gift Gala
Singer Anastacia at the Global Gift Gala Image Credit: Supplied

“100 per cent of what they do goes to the charity, and it goes to the kids and women. And that makes me feel better about giving my service and making a difference,” said Anastacia.

When asked about her reality show win, the ‘I’m Outta Love’ singer claimed that it was the first win of her lifetime.

“I have never been a winner at anything! It’s crazy actually and thank you for that …. My first win came at 53, actually 54,” said Anastacia with a laugh.

But in that green room — a hotspot for media interviews prior to the red carpet — every woman was a winner.

GGF founder Maria Bravo summed it up well as she described the star-studded night as a powerful portrait of good and strong women helping each other out.

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Nour Giselle, Mona Kattan, Eva Longoria, Huda Kattan and Maria Bravo. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“It’s celebration of giving back where women help each other,” said Bravo.

Sawtouna founders Nadine Maalouf and Nadia Sehweil also gave a big shout out to all the women in that room for coming forward and throwing their combined celebrity behind such a good cause.

The true-blue feminists also spoke about how women are often expected to have it all.

“I don’t know if our goal is to have it all. The goal for any woman should be to have what you want and prioritise what’s important to you,” said Longoria. “Sometimes, we put unrealistic standard on women that they have to do it all — they have to be a mother, a businesswoman, cook at home, be a good parent... But you can be whatever you want to be… Asking women to have it all is a bit misleading.”

The Kattan sisters seemed to dance to the same tune and cautioned everyone that having it all also meant that you had to work yourself to the bone.

At the Global Gift Gala X Abu Dhabi Dream Ball these women worked hard to make the well-heeled guests loosen their purse strings for greater good.

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Eva Longoria.

Rapid fire with Eva Longoria:

This must be your first charity ball after the global pandemic and the long-winded lockdown. What are your thoughts on travelling again to pay it forward?

We hosted the global gift gala in Paris, so this is actually our second gala and the first for a long time in the UAE. I am so happy to be here and to bring back philanthropy in a big way. This is the first gala we have done in Abu Dhabi and I am honoured to be a part of it.

What are the biggest life lessons you learned over the lockdown and what would you tell your fans who are now used to the new normal where sanitizers and PCR tests are our reality?

We live in a global community and we should respect our neighbours. Everything we do affects each other from wearing a mask to getting vaccinated. We have to come together as a global community in order to move forward.

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Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

You will be meeting your beloved friends Huda, Mona, Maria Bravo et al again. What are you looking forward to the most about ‘The Global Gift Gala X Abu Dhabi Dream Ball’?

All of it! I’m so honoured to know Huda and Mona whose philanthropic spirit inspire me. They’re an inspiration to women everywhere as entrepreneurs, leaders, and voices for women. I’m in awe of the work they’ve done. I’m so excited for this gala. It is our first time having a gala in Abu Dhabi and the amazing pop sensation Anastacia is performing.

How important is philanthropy and activism in your life and do you think celebrities are doing enough for greater good?

This is a big myth. Change happens in the world one person at a time no matter what your status. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make a difference. I personally choose to use my platform because I have something to say and people to help. So I would be doing this whether or not I was famous.

You have been a regular to the UAE in the last decade and more. What are you best memories about this region and are you looking forward to eating the local shawarma or living like the locals?

I love the UAE! It holds such happy memories and it’s where I was engaged to my husband Pepe [Jose Baston] so it will eternally hold a special place in my heart. I love the local food, the shopping, but most of all the kindness and generosity of the people.

Your lockdown 2020 video where you spoke about your rapidly greying hair resonated with the world … Did you expect it to be such a big sensation and what prompted you to do it?

I’ve been grey since I was 18 years old so it’s no secret. I never expected the video to go viral because it was just me being me in my natural element.