As the gleaming black Bentley drove up to the porch of the four-storey Beig bungalow in Dubai Hills, three wonderstruck women stepped out. It was the first time they were being chauffeured in a fancy car. Even as they were trying hard to control their excitement, little did they know there was more to come.

Kenyan security guard Lucy Kiranga, Indian labour accommodation supervisor Rohini Sharma and Nepali cleaner Mohani Magar, spend most of their lives beating a daily grind at work – one day blending into the next with barely a moment for them to celebrate or revel in. But today they are going to be enjoying their moment under the arc and make-up lights as day of glamour and pampering is about to begin.

Today, these ladies are guests of Arwa Beig who has launched a beauty initiative called Arwa’s Beauty Beliefs (ABB) to honour and acknowledge women workers of different sectors. As part of Arwa’s monthly initiative, the professional make-up artist will give these women a complete makeover and loads of gifts to take away, including clothes, shoes, bags and jewellery.

Honouring mum

The seeds of this initiative were sown when Arwa’s mother Zoha Beig was diagnosed with cervical cancer three years ago. Arwa had never seen her mother feel so low. After a chemo session, she decided to perk her up with some make-up. "She had lost most of her eyebrows due to chemo and as I put on the false lashes, I could see her smile," recalls the 20-year-old. "She said she felt like her old self after a long time. That’s when I realised what the power of looking good can do to a woman’s self-esteem."

Kenyan security guard Lucy Kiranga enjoys her beauty session with Arwa
Stefan Lindeque

For Arwa, an alumni of the Glauca Rossi School of makeup in London, honing her skills for a cause during the pandemic was one way of preventing boredom from overwhelming her. She quite literally brushed up her skills by watching make-up tutorials and reading about other make-up artists.

On her 20th birthday in September, instead of throwing a lavish bash, Arwa launched ABB to celebrate her mother’s recovery from cancer and simply "to make women feel good about themselves".

Every month Arwa chooses a special sector for her initiative. In September, it was the frontline workers – to honour them for their services during Covid-19. "I felt this was a way to make them feel good about themselves and encourage them to do more," says Arwa.

Last month, she chose breast cancer survivors to mark the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A day to remember

This month, three female public service workers from the cleaning and security sector were chosen as a testimony to their tireless service in sanitising and keeping public places safe for users during the pandemic.

As the three women alight from the car, they seem totally overwhelmed by the pampering they are receiving. Arwa, their gracious hostess, takes them on a tour of her home before treating them to a five-course lunch.

Lunch and a short chat session over, the women are whisked away to the second floor where they are seated in a salon chair before Arwa begins wielding her magic with her brushes.

A luxurious and pampering facial later, Arwa does their make-up and styling, after which the women are led to two in-house stylists who help them select their clothes and jewellery.

"The whole process takes about three weeks. So after one event is over, I have to start preparations for the other one immediately," explains Arwa, as she finishes the make-up of one of the women.

Mohani Magar

The women are chosen mostly through social media, or through recommendations from her audience. The ladies are then asked to send their photos and sizes so that the stylists can select clothes and accessories for them. "We have two or three options of complete ensembles (for each person) to choose from so if they don’t like one, they can pick the other," says Arwa.

Lucy, 37, who chose a shimmering red pullover and a pair of jeans can’t stop beaming as she looks at herself in the mirror. "I wear my security uniform most of the time and it hardly makes me feel feminine. I can’t believe I can look so pretty," she says.

Busy twirling around in her long dress and fluttering her false lashes Mohani, 29, admits shyly that she feels like a princess. "I don’t think there will be another day like this for the rest of my life," she says.

As for 36-year-old Rohini, it is the first time she is experiencing parlour services. "I love to do make-up. But even for my wedding, we couldn’t afford to go to a parlour. I want to see the expression on my 13-year-old son Avinash’s face who is back in India when he sees my pictures."

By the time the make-up, styling and extended photo and video session is over, it is pretty late in the day. The women cannot stop giggling in excitement, as they twirl and preen for the photographers, enjoying every moment of their dream.

Shoot over, they are whisked away for dinner at a fancy restaurant and gifted with open return air tickets to their home countries.

"I believe looking good changes a person’s perception of how they see things and how they feel internally. Make-up definitely gives you the confidence to go out and conquer what you have set out to achieve," says Arwa.

Beautiful bonds

Arwa’s initiative has garnered the support of celebrities as well as fashion retailer Splash.

She feels it is imperative to encourage success and appreciate how much women have done for their society and their families. "I believe women should always empower other women. Something as simple as boosting each other on social media, referring good work to friends and creating a network to support women is simple and essential. A small gesture such as a smile or a simple ‘Thank you’ goes a long way in encouraging them to do whatever they do best," she says.

Rohini Sharma

One of the most touching responses she received was when a doctor (during the first event) looked at herself in the mirror and started crying. "We don’t show the mirror to these ladies till the complete makeover is done. This doctor had been working tirelessly for days and hardly had time to comb her hair. When she saw herself, she welled up and seeing her get emotional, I welled up in turn," remembers the make-up artist with a mission.

Arwa, who is also pursuing a course in business management from the Open University in London, aims on expanding this initiative by sharing stories of these women on her social media pages and reaching out to more women. She also hopes to influence youth such as herself to follow her initiative and in turn influence the society.

"The love and overwhelming response (towards ABB) has given me so much positive reinforcement and has helped me give back to society in whatever capacity I can. These projects gave me a perspective like no other and I believe such gestures can make women feel heard, appreciated and loved. It also allows me to combine my passion for beauty with my love for society.

"This is a small way to give back to a community that has given me so many benefits that now allow me to live a good and healthy life," she adds.

To know more about this initiative follow Arwa on Instagram (@arwabeig and #ArwasBeautyBelief).

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