You have enjoyed a really successful career in beauty, health and wellbeing journalism. What made you decide to become a writer in this field?
After reading Mizz magazine as a young teenager, all I wanted to do was write beauty for a magazine. I went to university, finished a degree in economics (it didn’t really suit me!) and then embarked on a few years of work experience. I moved abroad for a while and when I returned, I restarted my career in beauty editorial.
What have been the key moments for you? Is there one piece in particular that you particularly feel proud of, or stands out for you as being your most memorable?
It was great to win online beauty journalist of the year (2011) at the Jasmine Awards (for fragrance journalism) as it was such a surprise. From then on, I really pushed the digital side of my career and now it’s the driving force of my work.
As well as being an award-winning journalist, you’re also now Digital Director at Layered, an online hair magazine. What led you into becoming a digital editor?
Being a digital editor has been an evolution of sorts and one that’s worked in my favour as it’s turned out to be my strongest asset. When I finished my magazine work experience, I started at Handbag.com as beauty writer – at the time magazines were launching their digital platforms so it was quite an exciting time (although no one could have guessed digital would be so big just a few years later!).
I built a wealth of digital experience as a web writer and editor across leading women’s titles online such as InStyle.com, Cosmopolitan.co.uk and Women’s Fitness. I took that knowledge and worked with beauty brands to help build their online content and advise on social media strategy, which I still do today. I’ve worked as a digital editor for a Beauty Seen PR, online editor at BeautyMART and now I’m digital director at Layered magazine where I look after the strategy and growth of the website. It’s the best job ever as it’s techy and creative.
Have you always been interested in natural skin and hair care, or is it something you discovered later on?
Yes, I’ve always been interested in natural products. I became vegetarian at 9 years old (I remember suddenly becoming very conscious of what was on our plates) and was an early adopter of animal rights and ethical movements, always trying to stop my family from eating tuna or going to the circus! As a teenager I’d hunt down animal-friendly makeup (remember Beauty Without Cruelty range?) but once I started working in the industry, of course it’s hard to avoid the mainstream. As a freelancer I have more freedom to write about smaller, niche brands and I always try to champion brands treading more carefully on the planet, on others and on us.
These days I write the beauty pages for Health & Fitness magazine where we try to feature natural, organic and ethical over non. I think it’s crucial brands take responsibility over how the source, farm and manufacture their ingredients and how people and the planet are treated in that process. I think (and hope) sustainable practices will become the norm for the mainstream within a few years’ time.
What is your favourite Odylique product and why?
Gentle Herb Shampoo is an absolute hero that everyone must try – I was so impressed with how soft and bouncy my hair felt even a few days later. I always test shampoos without conditioner and this one exceeded all expectations. The Coconut Candy Body Scrub is a must-try too – it has a gorgeously gooey texture with real coconut oil, and the scent is decadently addictive.
When you’re not writing what are your hobbies/ passions?
I try to balance a hectic life with regular practice of a very slow meditative yoga – I think it’s the only thing that keeps me sane! I also love second hand and vintage shopping, cooking and running.
I understand you were born in Iraq and came here as a small child. Have you had a chance to visit Iraq in the less troublesome times? We hear it is a truly beautiful country.
Luckily I managed to visit Iraq a couple of years ago. I was born in Baghdad but my parents left when I was one or so. I went back last year for the first time and spent Christmas in Erbil, northern Iraq (Kurdistan) where it’s relatively calm and modernised. I met family I’d never met and had a very special time as I felt so connected. The mountains in the north are very beautiful. Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Baghdad was one of the most beautiful, vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world. Maybe one day it will return to its former glory.
Does your Iraqi heritage still influence you in any way? Food or style for example?
I love Middle Eastern food and happiest when I’m eating any vegetarian/vegan mezza! I also love Arabic language and always trying to improve my reading and writing (I can only speak) so I’m constantly pestering aunties and parents to teach me something new.
What is next for you – what are your plans for the future?
More digital projects in the beauty world and more conversations about our commitment to the natural world – a conversation we must never stop having. On a personal note, I’d like to get my trainers on for a run a bit more often!