Chanel Ayan is a whole book to be read and deciphered as her name connotes respect and command attention as the first black model in Dubal, and indeed the number in the entire Middle East.
The Kenya-born mother of one married to an American, has amazing stories of adventure to tell and she let it all loose in a recent interview.
“I left Kenya when I was 17 and moved to Brazil. Then from Brazil I went to New York with Elite Models. I modeled in New York, I did Michael Core show, I did Carmilla show, I did Moschino.
I did a lot of shows in New York. My first Vogue cover in America was 2010. Then I moved to Dubai. When I moved to Dubai 14 years ago there was no black modeling in Dubai.
I am the first black model to ever appear on magazine covers in Dubai. I have been in Vogue countless times, including Vogue Italia and Vogue US. I did shows that were covered in CNN worldwide.
I have done every brand in Dubai. I have done Prada, I’m the face of Paiget in Middle East, face of Channel. I’m the only black girl that did Vogue. I have done big brands like Apple, Van Cleef and Piaget.
It’s amazing to wear a million dollars earring and 10 million dollars chains. I was the first black to ever do all these in Middle East. I’m booked for every job that’s in town. I love doing my job, I love being a model.
I am the muse for one of the biggest designers in the world, the Amato couture. He has dressed Beyonce, Lady Gaga , Nicky Minaj, Shakira and Jlo he says am his muse. I usually dress clothes for celebrities before he sends them to USA for Oscars or anything.
Funny thing I used to fit for Nicky Minaj and we have very different bodies but they would check colours and design that will fit her. I wore same white dress that Beyonce wore in Grammys before it was sent to USA, she recalled.
When she came to Dubai, she found a new terrain not exactly on its knees ready to welcome her, she had to stand in line and paid the price.; But the price soon paid dividends with a lot of interests.
“My experience as the first black model in Dubai, was like they were not used to it because they had never had a black girl they have worked with. I did Emirate Airline campaign and Dubai Tourism Company.
They have never ever used a black person, so, they didn’t know if I was good or not but the moment I started working they realised how good I was at my job and then I just kept on working and I have kept it going for 14 years and that is how I get booked over and over again because I’m really the best.
To me, if the client likes what you do they would always use you over and over again. They always mistake me for Iman because I look exactly like Iman. I actually sent her message on Instagram and I said ‘hey, do you really think I look like you because I get this a lot?” she was like, “Oh my God, you really, really look like me”.
And after she said that we met in New York and got talking and we realised we are actually from the same tribe in Somalia. She was really friendly and we got to know my uncle knew someone that knew her. It was amazing, we shot together.
For me, now it’s really easy but for a lot of black girls, they are really having hard time working. In Dubai if they know you and you are good they keep using you, over and over again, “ she said.
Ayan has not only worked with biggest fashion labels and couture across the world, she has also had stints in movies.
She featured in Mission Impossible, shot in Dubai, featuring Tom Cruz. She also featured in the latest Fast and Furious by Vin Diesel shot in Abu Dhabi
“I get a lot of opportunities like that, meeting famous people, like hanging out with Vin Diesel, a lot of stuff like that. I think I have many pictures of famous people I have hung out with,” she noted.
She has worked with Dior, Dolce and Gabana, Chanel, Louis Vuitto, Karl Legerfield, Van Cleef and many others. She’s a staple at the Amato show every season.