If you live in the UAE, it’s pretty much guaranteed you will have heard the name Joelle Mardinian. This self-made, Dubai-based businesswoman has her fingers in so many pots, her name (and face) is everywhere. With her own salons, skin- and haircare products, hair extensions, salons, spas and even cosmetic surgery clinics, it’s no wonder she’s managed to accumulate seven million followers on Instagram and there’s no signs of the growth of her empire slowing down.

Joelle began her career as a make-up artist but quickly went into TV presenting (she’s had an eponymous makeover show on MBC for over ten years), and then realised there was a gap in the market for her own beauty salons.

She’s also been very open about her life. A mum of two, the Lebanese beauty mogul is the first to admit her struggles, including how she’s surgically enhanced her body and tried no end of beauty treatments – but in 2018, things are about to get even more transparent as she films her own reality TV show. With the cameras following her and her family 24/7, viewers will get a glimpse of what the real Joelle is like when the make-up comes off and the hair gets tied back.

She stopped by the Friday studio for a chat and photo shoot to tell us more about her world.

Dress, Dh4,800, Temperley London; Shoes, Dh499, Aldo.
Aiza Castillo-Domingo

You have so many different parts to your business – what’s your favourite part of your job?

Sleeping! [Laughs]. I’m just joking. I think it’s promoting my businesses. I love what we do and I think it is the best in the world and I want to share with people what we’re doing – particularly my hair extensions, I think they are the best and I want people to know. My hair has never had as much volume it does with my extensions and they are better than any others I’ve tried.

A lot of your promotion is done on social media. Has that made a difference to your business?

For sure. We have had to really adapt and grow to make things work on social media. I now have a whole department dedicated to it. They specifically create content for my social media channels. It has become a necessity for any business. Even if you are not directly making money from it, no one wants to been seen as though they are behind. Perhaps in the future we will be judged purely on our social media presence.

You’ve always been very honest about your own body enhancements…

Yes I have always been honest and I have tried a lot of things. The next things I want to try is threads. They are non-surgical threads that are applied under the skin on the face to lift your skin. I’m 42 now so there is going to come a point where I need to do this – I’m not ready for saggy skin just yet! I know it sounds crazy but I like to have treatments in a way I think is more natural. I am not obsessed – I think I do what’s necessary. I see a lot of women looking much older because they have had too much surgery. With my own clinics, I really want them to help women feel better about themselves rather than taking advantage of them.

What are you finding are current popular surgeries in the UAE?

Fat transfers– this involves liposuction and fat transfer into the hips or butt area and also the face. The best way to make someone who has lost a lot of fat in the face look younger is to add fat into his or her face.

What made you first decide to start a beauty brand?

I initially designed my products specifically for the Arab market as there are not many beauty ranges that are created in this region. Things are made in Europe or Asia or the US and sold here, but there are few products created here to meet the specific needs we have. Our lifestyles, hair and skin are very different from the rest of the world, so we need very different products. It took me four years to test and research my products to make them exactly right.

Dress, Dh1,725, Preen Line at The Modist.com; Earrings, Dh1,200, Loomer Jewellery at Sauce.
Aiza Castillo-Domingo

If you had to give yourself a job title today what would you be?

I would say I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve always known how to sell my talent. When I was a make-up artist people used to presume I had a salon and from that I thought why not create my own one? I’m always looking to do the next thing.

Tell us about the reality show you are filming.

This is the closest the cameras have ever got to really knowing what I’m like. For example, you will see the relationship with my parents and family. We have a very peaceful way of looking at life, we’re very OK with things that other people might find taboo and that’s what I want people to see. There are a lot of messages in my show that I want to get through to people, especially to Arab women – I want them to see how hard I work and that at the end of the day it’s just a job but you have to be professional. I would much rather be at home in my pyjamas than on shoots and going to parties, but it’s something I have to do for my brand.

And are we really going to see everything?

Yes. Obviously, I won’t have the cameras there ALL the time but I will have them there all the time when it matters. When I travel the come [with me]. I recently when to France and they came; they are here today [the crew joined her in the Gulf News office during the shoot and interview]. I have always been so transparent all of my life so I want the cameras to see things they haven’t seen yet. There have been some experiences I wasn’t sure whether to show on camera, surgeries for example, but I want viewers to see the real me, so they will see everything.

Dubai is saturated with social media ‘influencers’ – do you think that it’s something that will last, or a phase?

Shall I tell the truth? Ok. The worst thing that happened here in the region hasn’t really happened anywhere else in the world. Influencers were normal women. Then because of the economy, brands wanted to stop spending money so they went to these people on Instagram. These girls and boys had no other jobs – their income comes only from posting photos – which means they are going to take anything that comes along. At the beginning people used to believe bloggers because it was a true opinion but it has become more them posting what they get paid to post. Celebrities on the other hand have to choose brands based on what they trust and who they don’t mind putting their face to. I think too much Instagram is a mistake and I’m really happy and blessed that I didn’t go down that route. I have stayed very true to who I am. If I take on any brands, it’s because I respect that brand.

You mentioned that you base your products on the feedback you get from your clients. How do you connect with them and find out what they want?

They know what I look like and who I am they are telling me all the time! I am very reachable on social media – if someone has a bad experience with any of my products or salons they can let me know. I am the face of the brand, which helps me connect with them. My clients let me know what are their biggest issues when it comes to their beauty products and I created things to help solve these problems.

Jumpsuit, Dh8,385, Roland Mouret.
Aiza Castillo-Domingo

Who is your business inspiration?

I am always inspired by hardworking people and people who have started from scratch. I recently watched the film Joy [starring Jennifer Lawrence] – you can’t watch a movie like that and not feel like your batteries are recharged. Sometimes I’m so exhausted, I ask myself ‘why am I doing this?’ so it takes something inspiring like that to remind me. Richard Branson also inspires me, Manny Pacquiao inspires me too – what a story and a legend he is.

How do you make time to still see your kids and have a life?

For the last six years I have been taking off two and a half months in the summer. No one can contact me – no emails, and even my phone number won’t work in those two months. I go back to finding out who I truly am because I am not this person; this is a role that I take. In reality I’m much more laid-back and I like nature. If I had the choice between always being in fashion or always being in nature I would choose nature! I am taking on this role because this is the person that is making the businesses work but that’s not the person I truly am.

Where do you go when you take two months off?

We have a house in the south of France, it’s 15 minutes up in the mountains. We go there and have a lot of guests visiting us throughout the summer. My kids also love to go to the Maldives. These months are the best days of my life.

What do your kids think about what you do?

Last year my daughter had a project where each child had to say why they wanted to be a star. Ella told her nanny that she doesn’t want to be a star anymore because she wants to see her kids. I went to Ella’s bed and said to her, ‘Ella, I heard you don’t want to be a star anymore. If you want I can give up my job and spend every single day with you, but we will have to move to a smaller house, use only one car, we can’t go skiing or to the Maldives anymore and you can only have presents at Christmas or your birthday.’ And she said: ‘Ok, mummy go to work!’

What I am trying to explain is that what I think is really important is to explain to my children when they are super-young why I’m away from home so much and that it is for them. Because that is ultimately why I am doing this. If one day my kids are hurt by what I’m doing, I’ll give it up tomorrow. But right now they accept what I’m doing.

If you could only take three beauty products with you on a desert island, what would you take?

Well, they would be my own products! I would take Love Eyes, which is a hydrating cream. Sunblock – I haven’t exposed my skin to the sun in 13 years – and Blow Shine for my hair because I am always worried about my hair breaking.

What’s your skincare regime before you go to bed at night?

Cleanse every night. Because my life is so fast I produced a cleansing mousse called Wash Away, and I swear by it. When you wash your face everything comes off just like magic. I wanted it to be simple and effective.

Dress, Dh1,790, SOLACE London at The Modist.com; Shoes, Dh3,790, Christian Louboutin.
Aiza Castillo-Domingo

Are there any treatments that you would never try?

There is nothing that we do in my clinics or salons that I wouldn’t try, but I would never tattoo my lips or dye my hair black. I think people should not judge others for wanting surgery or treatments, though. I have no idea what I’m going to want in the future so I can’t rule anything out completely.

What can we expect to see from you in the next year?

We are opening clinics in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and Tunisia. And of course my reality show! I am also working on something massive but I can’t talk about it yet. It’s going to be the first in the region and is something Kim Kardashian does – that’s all I can say. It’s top secret!