Dubai: Mthayel Ali was 20 when she discovered the power of social media, though she had no clue where it would lead her. Today, nine years later, as she looks back, she knows for sure that her tryst with social media was indeed the turning point in her life.
Mthayel, now 29, was being driven in her car to the university where she was majoring in media studies. Her driver, a Pakistani, was a great story-teller. Mesmerised by his tales, Mthayel decided to post a picture of him behind the wheel. That was on May 26, 2012.
Little did she know then that her post would garner so much interest from the public. Soon after she posted that picture on social media, people were curious to know about the driver. She had more than 200 likes for that photo and had more than hundred comments. This marked the beginning of her career in social media.
“It just tied up well. I was always passionate about the media and wanted to be heard. So I took up media studies. And when I discovered social media as a platform that generated an instant response to one’s posts, I was left spellbound,” she said.
My posts are all intended to inspire women and create an example. For me, I am all about women empowerment. I do podcasts on women’s issues and struggles.
The young Emirati further said: “I have been on this path for the last ten years and it has been very rewarding. As for the future, I am still in the process of discovering what I want to do with my life.”
Plenty of opportunities to tap into
Mthayel admitted that her social media presence has presented her with myriads of opportunities. “What I am trying to do now is to make use of all the opportunities and blessings I have.”
Graduating from Dubai
Mthayel graduated in 2014 from Dubai Women’s College. She majored in Applied Media. “I did a bit of radio, video making and social media. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life,” he said.
Mthayel has an Instagram following of more than 700,000 accounts. As a social media influencer, Mthayel said her posts vary, but with the underlying message to empower women. “With time you mature. Your life experiences change. What mattered to me when I was 20 is different from what matters to me now.”
She said one of the most important responsibilities of a social media influencer is to be honest and be able to relate to people. “Social media has a massive reach and that is reason enough for one to post responsibly. Social media to me is a channel to express myself and empower women.”
It has been quite a journey so far. From the time I put my first post up, there has been just no stopping. Every year the reach gets bigger, wider.
Recalling her first post she said the Pakistani driver, whose picture she posted, was someone who had worked with her for a short period of time.
“It was a random post by a random Emirati girl and it raised the curiosity of people. This man made a huge impact in my life. Daily, he would pick me up and drop me and share his life’s struggles and stories. To me, this was as real as it could get. He touched my life and that is why I posted a picture of him. His picture is also reflective of several other Asians like him who come to the UAE in search of a better life and prosperity,” said Mthayel.
Gradually, Mthayel discovered social media users were interested in people stories.
“People went crazy when they saw this young Emirati girl sharing details of her daily life on social media. Then fashion came along. People cared about what I wore. People were interested to see what Emirati women liked to wear.”
Mthayel’s father works for the government, while her mother is an educator. She has three siblings — two elder sisters and a younger brother. “We usually keep our lives private. My mother worked all her life, so I know the importance of hard work. She is an educator and so making a positive impact on others is part of her way of life. I was influenced by this.”
One of Mthayel’s sisters is an architect with a big online presence, while the other sister also has a big presence on social media.
“We are like a family of different generations, but we have the same passion to express ourselves and turn our passion into something that people can relate to.”
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Fashion a big online presence
Fashion paved the way for online presence in an even bigger way. “It was very interesting to explore this area. Fashion to me just meant owning up to who you are and what you want to be.” She said it also meant breaking some norms.
“It was all new for my family and my society, but my parents were supportive of the idea. Back in those days, when I entered social media, it was uncommon for women to be in media. With time, it has become a way of life for me. It all became easier as I kept at what I was doing. At the end of the day, it is all about your experience. It is your ideas that you put your name on to. It is not about how many posts you put out there, but it is about you standing out as an influencer,” she added.
“I am focused on women. My posts are all intended to inspire women and create an example. For me, I am all about women empowerment. I do podcasts on women’s issues and struggles. I have my jewellery brand and it is all about helping other women. My company supports women’s creativity and their role in art.”
Mthayel says she is a simple girl. “The money I have made is hard-earned money. I don’t want to waste it. In fact, I want to do something for society. I am very practical and my fashion reflects my personality and nature,” she says.
“The biggest lesson I have learnt is that it’s not about how you do something — but why you do it. When you feed your soul, the best comes out. It gives a purpose to your life. My message to everyone is that do not give up on your dreams. Go for them. If your intentions are good, they will make a big difference,” Mthayel said.