Loved by many not only as a media personality but also as one of the most influential women in the region and we had the pleasure to chitchat with Muna Abu Sulayman. There’s so much she had to share, so don’t miss it…
First of all, can you please talk to us about yourself and how it all started?
I think my curiosity leads me to explore different careers and challenges, so though I am an English literature student, every time there is an opportunity that seems very intriguing, I jump on to it. I don’t quit what I’m doing; I just simply try it out, and see if I like it and if I am good at it. If I am, then after a year or so of juggling, I quit my old job and go to the next one, but I have to love what I do.
Having studied and lived abroad, how did this influence you?
Living in Saudi Arabia, studying in Malaysia and the US and travelling the world with my parents greatly opened up my mind to possibilities, to transformations, to seeing things through others’ eyes. The world is simply so fascinating, so different, yet the same. Also, I think because I had to move schools a lot, it helped in learning to be flexible, to adapt quickly, and to always try new things. You simply could not survive if you stayed in your shell.
What are some of the challenges you had to face?
I enjoy challenges, but there were some that were tougher than others, especially when you are a teenager. I think wearing hijab in the US, when no one wore it at the time, was tough, as the kids in my school made fun of me and ostracized me for a long time. Having to make new friends, and leave old ones, was also emotionally hard for a 10 year old and through out my teenage years.
Also, going from one industry or sector to another was also difficult, as you have to learn a new culture, new terminologies, new performance measures very quickly so moving from the slow pace of academia to media, to philanthropy, to fashion to consultancy has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.
People loved you on the show, how would you describe your experience in Kalam Nawaem?
Amazing! I loved the show, my colleagues, and we remain friends to this day. Media is the way of the world right now, and to have had the ability to master it was a great learning experience for me.
What was your favorite thing about being a television personality?
That no matter where I go, people feel that they know me. I am a part of their lives. It is the same thing with teaching, every time I meet one of my former students, I am so grateful to have been a part of her positive life.
Funniest moment on the show?
There are too many; we always enter laughing because Farah and Fawzia say the most amazing jokes. But inside the show, there are too many to tell, but in general I guess the funniest one, is when you realize that you know more than the expert guest on the subject he is talking about.
Most fun guest?
I loved having Nishan on, and the Saudi stand up comedian. Nishan always seemed a bit stuck up for me, but when I met him in real life, he was such a gentleman, and he has great depth of knowledge in the Arabic language which makes him very eloquent.
You are also very involved in many noble causes; can you talk to us about the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation?
I was the head of the foundation for 8 years, and then left in December 2011. It was one of the most beneficial experiences in my life, as I learned many skills quickly as it was sink or swim. But it is also where I found my first real passion, how to help people make the best use of their donations and maximize the help that is given. Nothing gives me more pleasure than this.
How would you describe your style in a few words?
It is practical and elegant. Comfort is very important to me in my daily life. I like to be able to live my life, not have my life revolve around my clothes.
Who do you consider a fashion icon?
How did the idea of being a designer come to you?
I wanted nice elegant clothes that fit my body, my heritage, and me and did not find high quality clothes, so I decided to make them.
Talk to us more about your brand...
I wanted people to fall in love with the way clothes fit them. You know how you have the "go to" piece that you know you look good in, it fits you and you are comfortable wearing it? This is what I wanted to create, "go to" clothes.
What are three things you can't travel without?
Kindle, my beige/taupe "goes with everything" scarf, and phone. The scarf saved me a million times when I forgot a matching scarf for an outfit.
Who are some of your favorite designers in the region that you see making it big?
There are so many up and coming designers! Many great designers are now coming out of Saudi, Qatar and GCC countries that simply were not known without the proliferation of social media and having access to larger markets.
Being one of the most influential and loved women in the region, what advice would you give to all the women out there?
Continuous education is the most important thing in life. Never Stop Learning. Also, never lie to yourself; it will ruin your life by forcing you into making the wrong decisions. And finally, not all that glitters is gold; always do your homework!