I love Arabia. I’ve been here so many times and you see so much happening – a lot of excitement, the culture is beautiful, the people are amazing, the food is delicious, there’s endless possibilities… it’s really incredible,” coos Alessandra Ambrosio as she arrives at our beachside shoot location in Abu Dhabi’s Zaya Nurai Island. A short boat ride into the break of dawn and we find ourselves at an incredible six-bedroom estate villa with private everything – direct ocean access with prolific views, a lush infinity pool with Jacuzzi, walk-in rain showers, outdoor terrace and elaborate gourmet meals made exactly to your liking – that teleport you directly to the Maldives.
Alessandra breezes in with long, flowing locks, flip flops and a broad, shining smile that radiates through the entire space. You can immediately tell she’s in her element.
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Earth Mother: Supermodel, philanthropist and ocean lover @alessandraambrosio is the star of our December 2019 sustainability issue. Discover how, together with Bazaar, you can help save our planet in this month’s #HarpersBazaarArabia, on sale 7 December. الأرض الأم: عارضة الأزياء ومحبة الأعمال الخيرية وعاشقة المحيطات أليساندرا أمبرسيو هي نجمتنا في عدد مجلتنا الخاص بالاستدامة لشهر ديسمبر 2019 اكتشفي كيف يمكنك أن تساعدي يداً بيد مع بازار في إنقاذ كوكبنا الأرض في عدد مجلة هاربرز بازار آريبيا لشهر ديسمبر والذي سيكون في متناول يديك في 7 ديسمبر. Editor in Chief: @salmaawwadofficial Editor: @oliviaphillipsbazaar Photographer: @yuliagorbachenko Stylist: @anna_castan
“Throughout my career, I visited so many places and spent a lot of time scuba diving in remote locations around the globe. I got to discover the beauty of underwater life – it’s such a magical world and we’re the ones that need to preserve it,” she says, gazing out towards the ocean.
But the stunning 38-year-old did not always aspire to be a mega-model, regularly cited as one of the most beautiful people in world and travelling its length and breadth with the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Christian Dior and Ralph Lauren. In fact, her plans looked quite different at a young age.
“I always cared about the ocean. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a marine biologist. As a kid, I loved to swim a lot. I always spent quality time with my family and all my vacations by the beach. Those are the happiest memories I have. And of course, I always pretended to be a mermaid… naturally,” she laughs, recalling her childhood in Brazil.
Alessandra’s giddy fascination turned into her life’s mission when she joined forces with UN’s initiative #TOGETHERBAND last summer, a global movement committed to bringing 17 goals to life – from ending poverty and hunger to building sustainable cities and preserving the beauty of life below the water, the latter being the one Alessandra immediately adopted.
“It’s about changing everyone’s mentality. Back in the day we didn’t waste so much. Now everything is trash, trash and more trash. And everything ends up in the ocean. Soon our kids are going to be swimming in a sea of plastic. They’re not going to enjoy anything that we did. That’s the message I’ve been trying to express. People need to understand that it’s not a joke, and it’s not far away, either – it’s in front of us. Animals and fish are dying. There’s a whole eco-system being destroyed because of us,” she explains gravely.
Dress, Dhs65,700, Tony Ward. Bracelets (left hand), Dhs63,875; Dhs48,000; (right hand), Dhs164,000, all MARLI New York
There’s no doubt that Alessandra’s heart beats for our oceans, her passion about the subject matter reverberating through every word she utters. “There’s a statistic that the plastic we can see on top of the ocean is only 5 per cent of it. The other 95 per cent is underwater. It makes me feel so mad. I can’t believe that nobody is doing anything about it. The government and all these big corporations need to wake up and start moving things… they need to start a change. Because we’re all waking up, the kids are waking up. Kids are aware. Corporations need to show some results and some work,” she continues.
As Alessandra settles in and walks closer towards the shore, her enthusiasm only grows. She sets foot into the water – and then something magical happens. Changing into one beautiful dress after another, she floats, dives and splashes through the waves like a mermaid that glistens with life – her playful inner child still very much preserved and her love for life entrenched into her essence.
“I believe that we shouldn’t take life for granted. We are truly blessed to be here and to be able to do things we love. We should all be doing those things. I’m very close to my family and friends and that’s what I always tell them. I even have my own hashtag… #ForeverOnVacation. It doesn’t mean that I’m always on holiday, it’s more to express that everything that I do, I do with pleasure and with love. I really enjoy it and I’m happy and feel complete,” she smiles.
Alessandra’s close family ties is a subject that sprung up frequently throughout our talk and amidst the excitement of our 10-hour shoot. Her bond with both her children and her parents are a clear driver in her life. They provide her with clarity, insight and shape her value system which continues to evolve and grow till this very day.
“I try to teach my kids the same thing also,” she says about Anja, aged 11, and Noah, seven. “In our house we don’t have plastic straws anymore, and they know why,” she explains. “They love their little metal straws, and forks that come in a bag which they carry around and take to school,’’ she proudly declares.
“I want them to have same kind of childhood that I had,” she adds. “I want them to live in a beautiful world, and see all the beautiful animals. To enjoy our planet – not have to work on fixing what we’ve been doing wrong for so many years. I don’t want them to be blamed. You see global warming. You see climate change. Everything is getting worse every year. It’s really happening. They are going to live in a horrible world, and I don’t want it for them.”
Alessandra credits her joyful childhood and freedom to follow her dreams to her mum – who coincidentally happens to have landed in Dubai with her father a day before Alessandra does, to celebrate their 40-year wedding anniversary. Just another sign of their touching family connection.
Dress, Dhs17,520, Christian Siriano
“My mum is my idol, obviously, because she has always been strong woman; holding the whole family together, going to work, providing, giving the best she could to my sister and I. She only ever showed her strengths,” she says with visible emotion. “And I took that from her, for sure. Knowing that now she’s here, enjoying life, and able to see beautiful Dubai is so wonderful.” She continues, “My mum has always been a great example to me of how to keep family together. Even when I decided to be a model and travel the world, she let me follow my dreams. She’s always laughing, she’s always nice to everyone, and she’s always full of energy. And that’s the kind of person I always wanted to be.”
But what of her new dream? Lately, Alessandra has been focused on creating its building blocks – ones that she says fell into place naturally and, true to form, is absolutely in love with.
“I launched my brand with my sister and my best friend in April this year, so it’s been a few months now. I’ve had a license before, and that was great for me to learn how to create a brand and to put it together. But this is the first time I got to do it with my sister and my best friend. Now we’re doing something incredible because I want it to be meaningful.”
Named Gal Floripa after her “soul sisters”, Gisele Cória and Aline Ambrosio, the swimwear label carries a powerful message of cultivating women’s bonds and aligning with Mother Nature. “The women from the island of Floripa, where we lived in Brazil and grew up, are making those bikinis. We’re looking to support the community and highlight the beauty of Florianópolis by using things from the Amazon. All the beads and details are very local,” she says.
Between her charity work, her brand, her career and her kids, there’s no doubt that Alessandra has a lot on her plate – so it’s no wonder that she’s always on the go. But despite her very active schedule, she always makes it a point to come visit this region twice a year. “I like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, plus the Maldives are nearby. Every time I come, I know I will have a great time and now I have close friends here too. I feel it’s a young region that’s just developing now. Definitely an amazing destination for us Brazilians to enjoy – very exotic and gorgeous. Just look at where we are… we’re surrounded by clear, blue water and it’s perfect for this story. It couldn’t be a better location. It’s a great place to explore with a lot of possibilities.”
This is exactly why Alessandra is very keen on sharing her message with the Arab world. The opportunities that she sees here can set global standards and pave the way to a brighter future as we enter a new year.
Dress, POA, Schiaparelli Haute Couture. Opposite page: Earrings, Dhs50,735, MARLI New York
“Sustainability is our future. It’s important for us to think about all the different methods of getting things done. Especially when we’re talking about fashion – sustainability is a crucial topic for the industry to tackle. In fact, every industry can and should address these issues,” she says strongly. “I notice things now that wouldn’t have bothered me before. I see all these plastic bottles filled with water, and I get sad. Back in the day I wouldn’t have thought about it, but now I know it’s not the way forward. We can choose glass bottles, or we can bring our own aluminium bottles to places and just keep filling them up. If everyone does a little bit, we can go a long way together. So if we start protecting the planet by wasting less and using all the resources that we already have, we don’t need to destroy it. We need to be more conscious of it, so that we can leave a better planet behind for our kids to enjoy.”
Alessandra already has several achievements to her so-far stratospheric career, but helping make the planet a better place may yet turn out to be her greatest one.
Watch as we deep dive into a seascape of beauty with Alessandra Ambrosio...
Photography by YULIA GORBACHENKO
Creative Direction by SALMA AWWAD
Styling by ANNA CASTAN
Make-up: Luca Cianciolo at Close Up Milano using Pat McGrath Labs. Hair: Dominick Herrera at Great Bowery. Manicurist: Mel Shengaris. Photography Assistants: Lea Winkler, Fiel (local). Digital Tech: Juan Pablo Herrera. Set Designer: Lauren Haslam. Videographer: Vladimir Zelenskii. Fashion Assistants: Tabitha Glaysher, Anna Smolenko and Zach Nouri. Producer: Laura Prior. Production Assistant: Brian Timmer. Editorial Assistant: Anastasia Krylasova.
With special thanks to Zaya Nurai Island