In a world of filters, fillers and face-tuning, few people ever truly cast off the prefabricated mask of social media to reveal the bare-faced beauty of what lies beneath. With 6.5 million Instagram followers and an iconic look that centres around her deftness in creating an alluring image, Lebanese singer/actress Maya Diab is proficient in building the picture-perfect brand. But now, for the first time, and ahead of her beauty brand launch in March, she discards her mask to show the world the ‘real’ Maya. Here, she talks to Emily Baxter-Priest about judgement, strength and vulnerability.
Necklace, Dhs10,470, Vmar. Swimsuit, Dhs715, Hunza G at Boutique 1. Shirt, Dh995, Vince at Harvey Nichols - Dubai
Who is the real Maya? The one at home. It’s the only place that I let myself by the real me. And who is that? The real me is maybe sad sometimes, angry sometimes, crying sometimes, because in front of people, we always have to be happy and we always have to behave. Describe yourself in three words: I would describe myself as transparent, very emotional and very weak sometimes. Do you have a façade? I don’t think I have a façade, because what you see is Maya as well, but there is a side of me that I don’t show. My anxiety, my secrets... I keep them for at home. Are you ever truly stripped bare? Yes, with a small bunch of good friends and family. Only then can I be myself. I like it, but I need to be around people that I trust and love. Do you give everything to your fans? Yes, bar the side of me that is literally for home. My privacy, my private life, my daughter. I do everything with her in public, but the motherhood side of things is just for behind closed doors. It should be like that.
When are you most comfortable? When I’m happy. And that means when I’m with the right people, in the right place. It’s a circle – a circle of trust. What makes you uncomfortable? Bad vibes, negativity, liars. I experience that a lot in my industry – every day. Because I have this wall, I feel these vibes and I can feel when there is something weird between me and this person. But it doesn’t affect me anymore. You just have to deal with them. What side do you want to lay bare to Harper’s today? The real Maya, the naked Maya. For the first time, I wanted to show myself with barely any make-up, completely undone beauty... The real me in a new way, in your way. You have to choose the right moments when to be the ‘real’ you, when to be completely natural, and it’s because of Harper’s that I have chosen to reveal this side of me. I hope people will like it.
Dress, Dhs8,100, Zimmermann at Harvey Nichols - Dubai
What was life like growing up? I had an almost normal childhood, except that I started working very early when I was about 13 years old. I’m the eldest amongst my two sisters and brother, and at one moment in my life I felt like I was a parent to them, like I was grown up before my time. Even my parents felt this, so they entrusted my siblings to me. I felt this responsibility, but I’m happy because it gave me the strength I have today, and helped direct the clear decisions I’ve taken in life. Did the limitations help you to succeed? Yes, sure. I worked on myself and I expanded on what I wanted in my own way, and pushed harder for my dreams.
Education is... The most important thing one can have in life. It’s also the most important thing I can give my child. She has to believe she can do whatever she wants in life, but first education, education, education. The cause you lend your voice to... Education, first, for everyone, because education is the minimum right that any human being should get from its country. I’m a feminist by the way, and believe that we should stop saying ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and see ourselves as humans. Equal, and that’s it. Can women have it all? Yes. For the simple reason that a woman is a human being. Everyone can have it all. Do you have it all? Yes, I do. I’ve done most of everything I should do in life. I’m a woman, I’m a mother and that’s the most important thing to me. I have a career, I have a title and I have my own entity, and these are also very important.
What inspires you? Success and succeeding. When you achieve things, every achievement pushes you further and further. It expands your limits. Values you admire in other people? Honesty and transparency. They’re the same values I see in myself, because what I ask from people is exactly what I want to give people. Do you feel a responsibility to your fans? Yes, because the love they give is real and unconditional. They’re not part of your family, they come to you because of you. They don’t know you and they know nothing about the person you are, yet they love you. We owe them, we have to take care of them, and we have to thank them. I always have fun with them, talk to them, give them my time, and I worship them for this love they give. Advice for young girls wanting to become a singer? That it’s not simply about going into this industry with a great voice, it’s about the whole package. You have to have charisma, a light from within... Not everyone with a good voice can be a star. Find the special something that’s unique to just you.
Dress, Dhs14,650, Oscar de la Renta. Bodysuit, Dhs300, American Vintage
Definition of beauty? I see it as confidence, strength and power. But really, beauty is beauty – because your eyes see differently to what I see. You can see someone as beautiful that I don’t see as beautiful and vice versa. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you feel pressure to look a certain way? Yes, I do, and I live it every day, because you have to have your image and keep working on it. It’s not easy and it takes time. That’s why, when I go home, the mask comes off. I need to recharge... Is there such a thing as ‘too much’ make-up? Yes, for sure. I see people wearing masks most of the time. It’s too much because you rarely get to see the other side to them. When you can’t get past the mask, the make-up, I find it unattractive, vulgar.
Beauty products you live and die by? I’m addicted to Illamasqua’s highlighter, MAC foundations and black eye pencils from Saint Laurent. MD Beauty is launching next month – give us the lowdown. Well, it’s a cosmetics line related to me, Maya, because after becoming a trendsetter for lots of people, I wanted to present something related to that, and to do something entrepreneurial. First, we will release the lip collection, and then the full line. We’ve done a lot of research over the last year and a half and the products are of a very high caliber. It’s going to be unique and it’s going to sell out from the very first week. I have high ambitions. Are you for or against cosmetic surgery? I am for it. I have done my nose, but nothing else. Would I have more? Definitely. I don’t know what or when, but as the years go by, I’ll see what I need. I also have fillers. It’s just natural for Lebanese women, so it’s something I’m comfortable talking about. It should be every woman’s choice, their decision.
Personal style? My style is my style, really. I dress for myself. I suppose it’s smart casual. I’m a good buyer – I will buy anything I like and mix and match – cheap, expensive, designer or non-label... It’s all about what catches my eye. Favourite designers? I have my friend, Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran, and I love Balmain and Alexandre Vauthier. Greatest strength? Myself. Biggest weakness? My daughter. Life lesson? Don’t trust anyone. What makes you happy? I don’t know. That’s sad, isn’t it? Celebrity you’d most like to meet? Beyoncé. Favourite lyrics? The lyrics from my song, Keda Bardou or Ahebak by Hussain Al Jassmi. Singer who has most impacted your life? Fayrouz. Hardest part about fame? Fame itself. You always have to be ready for people. You’re never out living your life literally for yourself. You’re here, you have people, you have to take care of people, you have to understand that they love you, they want to be with you, they want to take pictures with you. You can’t always be this ‘no’ person. Dark side of social media? I haven’t struggled with any bullying on social media, but I also don’t listen to it. I have no ears for that. I tune out. But social media is important. If you stop social media, you end up at the end of the curve. You become irrelevant.
To read the full interview, pick up a copy of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia's February 2019 issue.
Necklace, Wald Berlin, stylist’s own. Jacket, Dhs900, Dulce by Safiya. Bodysuit, Dhs300, American Vintage. Shorts, Dhs590, Isabel Marant Etoile at Matches Fashion
Photographer: Jeremy Choh
Styling: Gemma Deeks
Hair and make-up: Manuel Losada at The Art Factory
Manicurist: Walyam Al Khanjari
Art director: Jolie Wernette-Horn
Producer: Laura Prior
Local production: Blink Productions
Photography assistant: Samir Al Maskar
Stylist’s assistants: Sabrina Al Busaidi and Aisha Al Bakry
Runners: Masum Alam and Ruman Mador
Gaffer: Mohammed Shafi Ullah
With special thanks to Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, and Extra Divers Qantab
From the February 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia.