Laila Bin Shabib and Bodour Al Hilali, founders of Beauty Pop Image Credit: Supplied

What do celebrity make-up artist Mario Dedivanovic, uber cool influencer Olivia Culpo and hairdresser to the stars Jen Atkin have in common? They’ve all been to Dubai for high-profile events organised by Bodour Al Hilali.

The Iraqi businesswoman — who founded the Belle Femme salon chain when she was just 19 — along with Laila Bin Shabib, the Emirati founder of Absolute Events, are bringing a whole new slew of influencers to the city for Beauty Pop, set to take place at Dubai Design District from April 19-21.

Al Hilali and Shabib talks to Gulf News tabloid! about why the beauty industry is thriving in the Middle East and what it takes to be your own boss.

How did the idea for Beauty Pop come about?
Bodour Al Hilali: Having been at the helm of the beauty industry in Dubai for many years, I observed a gap between fans, brands and educators. To fill this, we built a platform about three years ago of master classes with celebrity makeup artists including Makeup by Mario [Mario Dedivanovic] with his model Kim Kardashian West, which have all been a huge success. The demand for these continued to increase. We then started working on an all-round exclusive platform where women who want to be educated on beauty will find everything she is looking for — from products to classes and discussions.

Laila Bin Shabib: When Bodour and I discussed the concept, it was evident that Absolute Events would be the perfect partner to materialise the event, given our repertoire of high-profile past events. I loved the idea of having a common platform for fans, brands, influencers and celebrities, providing them with a space to come together and celebrate all things beauty.

What are your goals for the future of Beauty Pop?
Al Hilali: We are aiming for Beauty Pop to become an international beauty platform that solidifies the urban talent we have in the Middle East, giving them a stage for global exposure.

Shabib: I hope the success of its first year will lead it to becoming a regional convention in the coming years, eventually moving to international shores.

Beauty is a huge industry in the UAE today. Why do you think that is?
Al Hilali: Women in the Middle East have always been associated with beauty and mystique, and make-up in itself has become somewhat of an art form here. We like taking care of ourselves and feeling confident in our own skin. A lot of brands are tapping into the market and the wave of social media beauty bloggers and YouTubers has created a massive community of beauty and makeup fans.

Shabib: The retail value of the GCC beauty market was estimated at $9.3 billion [Dh34.1 billion] in 2017 and is expected to grow at a significant rate in the next few years. Women here are on top of what’s new and trendy in beauty and are voracious in their consumption of the newest and the best. Social media influencers adding tutorials and tips has also helped promote brands indirectly.

What is one quality about the beauty industry in the Middle East you would want to change?
Al Hilali: I would change nothing but would like to see more people like Huda Beauty building their brand from this region, going global and influencing the whole world.

Shabib: I would love to see more homegrown brands go international and through Beauty Pop we will hopefully achieve this.

What does beauty mean to you?
Al Hilali: ‘As within, so without’ is how I perceive beauty. True beauty goes beyond our reflection in the mirror and comes from inside out. There is nothing prettier than a confident woman who does not feel the need to compare herself to others to feel beautiful.

Shabib: True beauty is accepting yourself with all your flaws and striving to be the best version of yourself. Kindness, elegance and honesty are all part of the mix. That’s my definition in a nutshell.

You’re both successful businesswomen. Did you always know you wanted to be your own boss?
Al Hilali: Absolutely. Being your own boss means you have the creative freedom to make your own decisions. These decisions will not only affect your business, but your career and family as well in the long run.

Shabib: Yes, because being a business owner has far greater rewards than being an employee. You are completely in control of decision making and planning. You have no one to answer to but yourself.

If you could give your younger selves one piece of advice, what would you tell her?
Al Hilali: When people tell you that you are strong, resilient, clever, inventive and capable, believe them.

Shabib: Don’t let anyone dampen your ambition or make you think less of yourself. It is not their decision to make.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about women leaders?
Al Hilali: People often compare assertiveness to confidence and misconceive women to be weak in leader roles. Women leaders not only have confidence, but also better mindfulness and logic when taking risks.

Shabib: That we have it easy because we have established a name for ourselves. Ask any female entrepreneur, and she will tell you that it is not true in any way. We still put in a lot of hard work to achieve our goals and aspirations, constantly evolving to stay in touch with the ever-changing society and its needs.

What advice would you give young women looking to become entrepreneurs?
Al Hilali: Being an entrepreneur translates to being an innovator. Become that unstoppable force and dictate your own future. Pursue your passion and embody it in whatever way you can.

Shabib: Move outside of your comfort zone. Don’t let failure dampen your self-confidence, let it instead be a stepping stone to your success. Learn from your mistakes and try till you make it.

You’ve brought many celebrity make-up artists and hairdressers to Dubai. Who is next on your wishlist to bring here?

Al Hilali: Next on my list is celebrity hair legend and hairstylist Peter Savic who has worked with all the beauty icons since the ‘80s to date.

What to expect from Beauty Pop

“The exhibition will showcase regional and international talents, with two big make-up masterclasses with internationally renowned make-up artists Bassam Fattouh and Mary Philips, as well as a Mane Addicts hair masterclass with celebrity hairstylists Jen Atkin and Justine Marjan. Panel discussions will be conducted by Dubai’s very own Huda and Mona Kattan, celebrity hair colourist Tracey Cunningham, and celebrity skin expert Nurse Jamie, as well as a meet and greet with fashion and beauty influencer Desi Perkins,” Al Hilali said.

Brands that will be showcased at the event include Caudalie, Charlotte Tilbury, Lancome, Urban Decay, Wojooh, Jen Atkin’s Ouai and YSL.

*Tickets are available online, starting from Dh157.50 (general admission single day), with packages offering access to masterclasses, panel talks and meet and greets.