A leading Saudi figure and a well-known media personality in the Middle East, Muna AbuSulayman is an extraordinary role model and definitely someone to keep an eye on. As a former co-host of one of MBC’s popular social programs, Kalam Nawaem, Muna was the first Saudi woman to appear on international television. She had a great responsibility on her back especially since a lot of Saudi women consider her as their role mode and many think of her as the Saudi Arabian version of Oprah. As a Director of The AlWaleed Bin Talal charity Foundation, Muna takes an interactive role in people’s life instead of just discussing their problems. Her expertise in fields of education, international aid, development, management and media, makes her the perfect candidate to lead those roles.
She was the first woman to be appointed by the United Nations as a “Goodwill Ambassador” and was chosen as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic forum in the same year. Muna left the show in 2007 when it started getting too much for her as her frequent traveling affected her children. A major shift occurred in her life when she turned into a fashion designer, her goal is to create contemporary Islamic clothes for women. Mona discusses her journey, how she started and the struggles she faced throughout her career. As a mother of two, Mona reveals the secrets behind her success including the factors that helped her reach her goals.
Tell us a little about yourself? How did you first get started in the media world?
Everyone knows about my life, as it was an open book on my TV show. A single mother of two who loves challenges. My TV show started in 2002 and it was about social issues, and I used my experiences to help me connect with the audiences.
Kalam Nawa’em is such a successful and popular TV show, why did you decide to leave?
I loved working with Kalam Nawaem, as well as the girls on it, but after 5 years, it was time to do something different. I also wanted to relax a bit as I had traveled too much for KN, and my girls were starting to grow up and they needed me at home.
What do you miss most about being on Kalam Nawa’em?
I miss the daily breakfast with the girls; we used to help each other in personal issues. I also missed being exposed to so many different ideas and subjects, it kept me on my toes.
What would you say is your biggest achievement in your career or life till now?
My two daughters, Shahad and Serene –18 and 12 years old. Everyone tell me how polite, smart and well rounded they are. It took a lot of work, day in and day out. I am also most proud of my work with AlWaleed Foundation, as the projects we created have impacted so many lives.
How did you enter the world of fashion? And why did you feel it was important for you to do so?
I entered the world of fashion when there was a great need for decent/modest but elegant and fashionable clothes. I wanted to help women like being fashionable but still feel Middle Eastern.
Which in your opinion is the best outfit you have designed in your fashion line?
I love so many of my outfits, and you can see my pictures wearing them all over my Facebook page. I love the practical outfits that I have designed for travel, and the silk blouses for casual outings. As well as the wedding and evening dresses that feel so luxurious.
If you weren’t a celebrity fashion designer, what would you want to be?
I think the only profession I would like to be in when I am older is education. I would love to go back to teaching again when I am around 50.
Being a Saudi woman, were there any challenges socially or professionally that you faced? If so, how did you work around them?
Of course, there are many challenges from getting proper authorization and documentation, to getting the right people to work for you to funding. I am still struggling to master the business side of this.
What would you advise young women to do if they would like to pursue careers in the public media or in fashion?
First of all, try to work for someone else and learn from them. Nothing is as glamorous as it looks.
Are there any future plans that you’re working on that we should look out for?
Loads, but I can't talk about them yet…
Muna's fashion collection can be found in Jeddah at Al Sawani's three locations: Red See Mall, Al Basateen and al Faisalia. It will soon be available at Al Sawani Riyadh and Khobar.
– Khaleejesque Team
Images courtesy of Muna Abu Sulayman