Dubai: As a vlogger and entrepreneur who runs a marketing agency, Dubai-based Camilla Iman knows what it takes to get your attention.
“I love cars and big bikes. I had an auto care shop and was also into drag racing in the Philippines at one time,” says the 41-year-old Filipina.
Listen to the rest of her story and you realise the sense of adventure, coupled with resilience, is what has seen her through a rash of challenges that have included not just job loss, homelessness and heavy debt, but also the pits of depression, despair, even an alleged attempt to commit suicide.
Iman, who first came to Dubai in 2014, says she has weathered many a storm, but no matter how bad things got, leaving the city was never an option.
She says her trials began the day she arrived, with the workplace she was supposed to join being nothing of what it was made out to be. “I was to promote a certain business and train its staff, but my prospective employer, who had taken my passport, wanted me to be a driver,” she claims.
But even her love for cars could not get Iman to agree to the role. “I refused and my life became miserable,” she recalls.
I was ready to jump ... when suddenly the prospect of an undignified, brutal death hit me. It was the turning point and that’s when I chose to live, fight, pursue my dreams and win.
Left to fend for herself in a new country, she says she tried doing some odd jobs to survive. “As luck would have it, I got a job in a luxury car workshop. I was grateful and enjoyed my work as it helped me grow professionally.”
But a year down the line, she resigned from the job due to personal reasons.
“From that moment on, it was a constant struggle to get back on my feet.” Although she entered into partnerships for a couple of businesses, none worked out. At one point, she was rendered homeless and penniless. “I had borrowed over Dh200,000 but had no means to return it.”
But a friend put her up at her place for some time and lent her money to move to another place in due course. “I still didn’t have a job and my confidence was low,” she recalls.
What followed was an attack of depression.
Iman says, “I could have run away from it all and gone back to my country. I owed money to a friend and a moneylending agency, but there was no case filed against me. So how could I betray those who had trusted me? At the same time, everything I had tried had failed. I had no money, no place to stay and felt very alone in the world. I tried asking my family for help, but in vain. I was really down. I came to a point where I wanted to end my life.”
She says she wore her “favourite dress”, put on her “favourite make-up” and made her way to the terrace of a building on April 30, 2017. “I was ready to jump. So many thoughts were running in my mind when suddenly the prospect of an undignified, brutal death hit me. And what if I wouldn’t die and go into a coma? It was the turning point for me and that’s when I chose to live, fight, pursue my dreams and win.”
With a renewed vigour, she says she walked back into her life.
Iman says she was able to recover fully with professional psychiatric help. “I started approaching my friends again and I was transparent and honest about my situation. The universe just welcomed me back.”
She says in August last year, a kind Emirati man supported her to start a business. “It’s been a dream come true and my life has completely changed. I have repaid most of my debt and have made some very treasured friends who have placed unwavering faith in me.”
Ask her what is the biggest lesson she has learnt and she promptly replies, “Never give up. There’s a silver lining in every cloud. Just be honest and things will fall into place.”