Once upon a time, there was an ancient monastery that was recreated into a spectacular house in the hills of Lebanon, and inside lived a mother, her son and her three beautiful daughters. Although the Wazen family’s story sounds like those found in childhood books, the women in this tale are far from damsels in distress waiting for their knights in shining armour. In fact, to sisters, Karen, 30, and twins, Jessica and Andrea, both 27, it is their mother Nada, 59, who is the real hero.
“Our mum has taught us every single thing we know. The role she played in her life on her own, being our mum whilst being herself, taught us what being a mother is,” Andrea tells Bazaar of the family’s matriarch. “I look up to her every single day and I think that I always will. She’s always set the bar so high, and we can always continue to learn from her.” Jessica echoes a similar sentiment. “She’s so talented, smart, and although she’s tiny, so strong! She has this energy; you get addicted to her. She has a way of seeing things that makes everyone around her want to be the best they can be. She likes to bring out the best in everyone.” Karen, too, cannot speak highly enough of her mother, saying, “I’ve never worried a single day in my life because I know that my mum is there and because I know that if I ever need anything, she has the answer.”
For Karen – herself a mother of three – her own mother’s commitment to the well-being, both psychological and physical, of her children, is the most inspiring thing about her. “My parents divorced when I was 12. We have a good relationship with my dad, and both of them cared so much that we wouldn’t be affected [by what happened]. My mum made sure we wouldn’t be sad, that we were strong and that we learnt from this, and we did. We became feminists because my mum was everything. She would work and also be there for us, and nothing could put her down.” Andrea agrees, adding, “Life threw this at her and she had to deal with it, and I’m sure back then it was very different. Now, there’s a lot of movement on female empowerment and women’s rights, but actually having to prove yourself 20 years ago, to pursue a career, and bring up four children on her own, especially in the Middle East, was very different.” The sisters note, however, that it’s important to appreciate that their views on love were not affected. “We all very much believe in love and marriage,” says Karen. Jessica builds on this thought, explaining, “It’s true that we are all very proud to be women and that’s from our mum, but she’s also an extremely romantic person. She loves to know stories about couples, and she feels other people’s stories like they’re her own. She makes sure we take care of our husbands and partners, and this side of her is amazing because it makes her even more of a woman. She showed us that it’s important to have someone to take care of you and for you to take care of that person.”
When it comes to what they admire most about their mum – “that would need to be a whole other story in itself,” Karen says with a laugh – the sisters’ lists of her attributes are seemingly unending, although they believe Nada does not know her own strength or talent. Andrea explains, “She taught us how to be humble. Whenever someone tells her that what she’s done is amazing, she doesn’t even know how to take it, she just laughs. She forgets what she’s been through to get here and how far she’s come.” Jessica adds, “It would be crazy to think that any of us are even close to being like our mum because she is so unique. We all want to work and be independent because she is so hard-working.”
Jessica and Andrea wear: Dresses, their own. Karen wears: Dress, Dhs19,000, Dior
Nada’s drive has clearly rubbed off on her daughters, with all three of them leading successful lives. Karen, based in Dubai, is a content creator with 292,000 followers on Instagram and counting, regularly working with top brands such as Dior and posting a vast array of screenshot-worthy images of her style, life and travel. Andrea is a shoe designer, who worked under Elie Saab, Rupert Sanderson and Christian Louboutin, before starting her eponymous brand for which she has a flagship store in Beirut. Finally, Jessica is a chef, and after spending time in London working with top Michelin-star chefs, now successfully manages catering company Saveur Plus out of Lebanon.
Interestingly, all three tell Bazaar that despite Karen being the eldest of the three sisters, it is Jessica and Andrea who take on the traits often associated with that role. “When we were younger I was like the teacher and therapist and they were my students, but that’s changed a lot as we’ve gotten older,” Karen explains. “Now I’m not the older sister at all. My sisters are very independent girls, they both worked from a very young age, whereas I was different. I went straight from being a student to married. Until recently, I didn’t really work or feel any responsibility, whereas they have always been independent. Even now, they’ll tell me ‘Karen you can’t be a baby, you have to man up and do things by yourself,’ and I’ve definitely learned to be more independent from them. They’ve shown me I can do things on my own.” Andrea touches on the same point, saying, “Jess and I are very responsible for Karen. We act like the older sisters sometimes because she’s very innocent, giving and caring and we’re more rational and logical.”
Andrea adds that Karen is the ultimate combination of her and Jessica. “We’ve always said that if you put Jess and I in a pot, the outcome would be Karen. We are both so extremist and Karen’s very much the balance in between both of us. Even physically, Jess and I are very different, and when you see Karen it makes sense that we’re sisters.” Jessica explains that the way she and Andrea were treated whilst growing up had a great impact on their individual personalities. “We were never compared and that made us like each other, and ourselves, even more.” Andrea agrees adding, “We complete each other so much.”
Read the full article in the July/August issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia - out now
Phorography: Richard Hall
Fashion Editor: Gemma Deeks