Why cast of new docu-soap ‘Dubai Bling’ finds city the perfect place for ambitious people
The self-made millionaire cast of new Netflix series shares what they hope to achieve through the drama and more
When ten of Dubai’s most photogenic self-made millionaires make their bank balance public for a reality show set against the opulence of a city known for embracing all things bling, you can bet there will be enough melodrama to outshine the joint accounts of this uber rich menagerie of gold magnates.
Netflix’s latest UAE-based Arabic docu-soap Dubai Bling already plays into the stereotypical portrayal of a city that has grabbed global eyeballs for the speed with which it metamorphosed from a sprawling desert into a towering metropolis that embraces all things extravagant and ambitious. There’s unabashed materialism, not to mention blatant exhibitionism as the participants, each of whom have built an empire from scratch amidst the shifting sand of this desert land, appear in front of the cameras, poised, polished and possessing a verve that can only come from from knowing your bank balance is your calling card.
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“Many people became millionaires in Dubai. And I’m one of them,” a participant casually introduces herself. While another says in an equally impressive tone, “I came here with 300 dollars, now I have millions.” Now if that isn’t aspirational for zillions driven by today’s social media dictum, ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’, we don’t know what is.
Among the 10 millionaires are Kris Fade, the popular local radio presenter and entrepreneur and his partner Brianna Fade; Kuwaiti millionaire Ebraheem Al Samadi, the owner of Forever Rose Cafe; Emirati DJ Marwan Al-Awadhi, popularly known as DJ Bliss and his wife, vivacious vlogger Danya Mohammed AKA Diva Dee; social media star Farhana Bodi; the bold and beautiful Zeina Khoury – the CEO of a luxury real estate empire.
Lebanese socialite and mother of two daughters, Loujain Adadah; housewife and fashion designer Safa Siddiqui and husband Fahad as well as Saudi TV host and celebrity Lojain Omran make up the predominantly Arab group of friends who bring their high strung emotions and entertaining repartees to the fore in the series produced by Different Productions.
All in the city
A larger-than-life figure for daily commuters and radio fans, Kris Fade’s life seems to be tailor made for reality TV. “For the last 20 years I’ve been sharing my life on radio and for the last 10 years I’ve been sharing most of my life on social media, so I feel like I’m already somewhat in a reality TV show,” admits Kris.
While referring to the show as “pretty special,” he talks about the pull of reality TV for a person like him who is already a famous face in the crowd. “Someone asked me the other day why I wanted to be part of it and I said, well for two main reasons. Number one, I always love to do something new and to be able to share what I do on a bigger platform as Netflix is really cool. And secondly, in 20 years time I can look back on this and say, look kids, we were on a reality show right here in the best city in the world, Dubai.”
Kris who stars in Dubai Bling alongside his newly wedded wife Brianna admits the couple didn’t realise what they were getting into initially. “I’d be lying if I say it didn’t add pressure to our relationship at moments, but at the end of it we’ve looked back and it has definitely brought us closer together and I cannot wait for the world to be able to see what we’ve done on Dubai Bling.”
For DJ Bliss, one of the city’s foremost Emirati artists and a popular name among local music aficionados, it was a natural progression from what he loved doing the most. “I always loved the idea of filming content and was heavily invested in daily vlogging. I felt like this was gonna be the natural progression. Have a crew filming you, they do all the edits, a lot of people get to see it and I get to be myself.”
KEEPING IT REAL
While reality TV by popular definition often presents a hyper-real world which often translates into highly dramatised (read fictionalised) take on life, all the participants of Dubai Bling are unanimous in voicing that the show allowed them to present themselves as they are.
“I believe throughout the show I was true to myself and kept things real. I did not play a character, I was me. The challenge was more about finding time for being camera ready, launching a billion-dirham project, finishing my studies and spending quality time with my family all during shooting the show,” says Zeina Khoury.
She adds that while people might get distracted at first by the lavish outfits, cars and luxury lifestyle that they lead, the show will also take an inside look into the issues that they face behind closed doors. “Successful and rich people have problems, insecurities and inner struggles. Through my participation I hope to inspire young women and men to change the reality they were born into like I did through believing in themselves even when doubted by others; to work on their skills even when time is limited and dreaming big even when they don’t think it’s tangible.”
Dubai, is of course, central to the ambition and charisma of all the participants of Dubai Bling. “I grew up in America and moved to Dubai in 2010. It wasn’t easy for me in the beginning because I had to gain people’s trust for them to open doors and share opportunities with me and this has made me much stronger and more determined,” points out Ebraheem Al Samadi, the founder of Forever Rose.
“I am a truly committed person. I push myself and persevere, and do so with speed and resilience. And for that reason, I believe the UAE has been so successful because everyone is chasing success, everyone is achieving goals, and everyone is contributing to society, to the cities, and to the country. The UAE has made me more sustainable and made me understand the world better.”
“The mixture of hundreds of nationalities has also made me sensitive to different cultures, religions, and languages and I have learned so much from it. I’m so grateful and it has always been my dream to be part of this community.”
Whatever be their individual motivation, you can bet there isn’t going to be a dull moment as Dubai Bling hits our OTT screens on October 27. Dubai has for long been known as the land of bling. So what better way to capitalise on its glitz and glamour than an out and out spectacle that showcases the razzmatazz of the city through the fantastic lives of some of its most successful social personalities. Excerpts from our interview with select cast members.
How has Dubai as a city helped realise your potential?
Many years ago the US was the land of opportunity and it may still be for many but I believe that Dubai is truly the land of opportunity. It’s a city like no other and there’s a reason why so many people visit Dubai and then stay forever. I literally moved to this city 16 years ago and I told myself I’ll stay 2 years!
16 years on, I’m here and the reason is because Dubai gives you what so many other cities around the world cannot. And that is opportunity, safety, love and that cultural environment. I love this city and to be able to shoot a reality show and share my experience from living in it is just so special.
As an Emirati who defied traditional norms to follow your heart, what message do you hope to convey through your presence in Dubai Bling?
When I started in this industry it wasn’t normal and I felt like it wasn’t the “norm” but I always kept my traditions and culture in mind in whatever I did and that helped define it.
I just want to show the world my talent through this platform and represent my city. I hope people get to see what a melting pot of cultures, traditions, nationalities and ethnicities we have over here living together side by side.
What role do you believe the city of Dubai has played in your success story?
Dubai has been a wonderful environment for me to grow and flourish on a personal and professional level. In Dubai, I was given the opportunity to climb the corporate ladder purely based on hard work and merit.
In Dubai I also found love, had my wedding at the beach and had both of my children. The first home I ever bought was in Dubai. In Dubai I feel safe and happy. Dubai is the perfect place for ambitious people to achieve financial security and dream big without compromising on standards of living.
EBRAHEEM AL SAMADI
What do you hope to achieve by taking part in a reality show like Dubai Bling?
The main reason why I accepted the offer is that I hope to share inspiration. Netflix is one of the biggest platforms in the world and it is the right avenue to share my story. I believe my story is unique and inspiring because despite coming from an incredibly supportive family, I was able to build myself from scratch. I managed to navigate myself in the world and I proved those who doubted me wrong.
Many people are probably going through what I have been through, and I wish that I could inspire at least one person and make a difference in their lives.