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Seekers Of Designer Fame

Seekers Of Designer Fame

October 08, 2012

The colourful inhabitants of the page 3 world in Dubai.

One of the best aspects about being a journalist is the opportunity to meet people and know them intimately. From high-flying celebrities to your regular aam aadmi and aam aurat, through the course of an interview, you get to see life in its varied shades. And at the end of an interaction, you may be inspired, irritated or exasperated but never bored! This is especially true of the page 3 world in Dubai which, in my opinion, houses some of the most amusing, amazing and interesting people worth NOT writing about. Of course, it’s another matter that they are written about extensively because it doesn’t count what you, as a journalist, feel about their worth – these men and women strongly believe in buying their two minutes of local fame with their hard-earned dirhams. 

Now, I have nothing against people who love publicity or those who are willing to spend a fortune on building an ‘image’ through lifestyle magazines. It’s their money and they have every right to spend it on making themselves famous. However, what I don’t understand is the obsession with publicity among people who have little or nothing to claim to fame.

And Dubai, interestingly, seems full of people who are too full of themselves. Working in one of the leading Bollywood and lifestyle magazines of the region, I have come across some hilarious and often bizarre requests by desperate housewives, bored industrialists, preening socialites and wannabes whose aim in life is to appear on our glamorous pages in all their photo-shopped glory. Indeed if Madhur Bhandarkar ever decides to make ‘Page 3 II’, all he needs to do is to make a trip to Dubai and meet some of the rich members of the Indian community here.

Recently a gentleman in his mid-40s approached the magazine I work for, with a humble request – he wanted to be featured on the cover along with a two to three page spread inside with an extensive interview featuring him, his wife, kids and fleet of luxury cars. He was Mr Nobody – a small-time industrialist who had made his money and now wanted the world to know about his wealth. No amount of explaining that the cover could only feature A-list Bollywood celebrities cut ice with him – he was willing to shell out $12,000 dollars to see his mug on the pages. The marketing team was hooked (they have targets to meet each month and such an offer is nothing short of a bonanza) and when sales says yes, the editorial can’t say no! The result is that he will soon be sharing cover space with top Bollywood celebrities along with an interview on his ambitions, aspirations and principles in a future issue!

Yet another party-loving businessman who owns a massive home furnishings company has a strange penchant – he wants every party he attends to be covered in every magazine. If a party he was present at doesn’t make it to the magazine, he dutifully sends a CD containing his smiling pictures and has his lackeys hound you until, out of sheer irritation and exasperation, you oblige him by printing a few images.

I have often wondered what makes the Indian elites in Dubai so hungry for publicity – much more than the page 3 inhabitants of Mumbai. Perhaps it’s got a lot to do with the wannabe culture prevalent here. The party crowd is just a handful compared to Mumbai or Delhi. Their bashes, while glamorous to the extreme, often ‘import’ celebrities – minor and major - from Bollywood to add the oomph factor. But frankly, while the elite here have the means to travel the world and acquire the most expensive possessions, they lack the class, stature and intellectual leanings of some of the achievers back home. They want to emulate them but can’t obviously hope to reach their level. The easiest way to make up for the lack of these qualities, therefore, is to buy media space and dictate the way they want to position themselves. (This is not to say, there aren’t bright, genuine and self-effacing people here – the real high-fliers rarely make it to the party pages but that’s another story. This piece is about the desperados who take self-promotion to another level!)

Of course, when it comes to seeking publicity the women beat the men hollow. One of the most amusing characters I have come across is this lady who once marched into the office demanding that she be made a celebrity. Incidentally she is the sister of a small-time Bollywood actor who had acted-produced-written a movie called ‘Azaan’ and her reasoning was – everybody knew her brother, nobody knew her despite she being the head of the family business. The entire conversation was peppered with how many crores she was worth and hence she deserved to be famous. Did we give her coverage? Of course we did!

Another woman, a jewellery designer, once took me out for lunch, ranted about how shallow the people she partied with were, how difficult it was to make real friends and so on. Finally a member of the page 3 crowd who wasn’t like the rest of them, I thought. But all illusions were shattered when she called a few days later with a heart-felt request – could I cover her exhibition and ensure that her picture was as big, if not more, than that of the main sponsor?

Then there was this lady whose sole pitch was that she could get us an ‘exclusive’ interview with none other than Suniel Shetty (ha ha), the brand ambassador for her ‘charity’ exhibition in return for free ads! She was part of the exhibition brigade of Dubai’s ‘ladies who lunch’ – women who love organizing and attending designer exhibitions as much as they love flaunting their Birkins.

However, no one can come even close to this socialite, the wife of a business magnate, who has positioned herself as the ultimate woman of substance in this city. Few events are held without her benign sponsorship and in return she often gets awarded for her contribution to women’s empowerment. Guess what’s the most fascinating aspect of her life? She has a chimpanzee named Gucci and another pet name Chanel. Her farmhouse has over a 100 exotic animals each of which is named after a luxury brand. The lady is a great hostess and often has top Bollywood stars paying her a visit and a five-minute conversation is garnished at least 50 times with names of her distinguished guests. But for all her ‘stellar achievements’, when it comes to coverage, she is a hard bargainer.

Much before I moved to Dubai, my well-meaning former colleagues had warned me about the city being glitzy, shallow, unsubstantial and lacking in real excitement. I completely disagree. With such spectacularly colourful people around, who open your eyes to a different world, how can there ever be a dull moment?

Photo credit
: Clement Seifert 


  • IFE
    28.11.12 02:57 AM
    Did you expect to publish ground breaking scientific acheivements or eye-opening humanitarian work at the "entertainment" magazine??? I am surprised!!! You criticise the mouth that feeds? If these "un-important" rich people didn't keep the accounts books busy, how did you expect to be still employed? So confused by the article........
    08.10.12 11:40 PM
    How are you guys any different from them when you say YES to their money and do exactly that. So can we say that your sales department is just as shallow as them.

    Another question how are rich native Indians not same as them in term of class? Aren't they same?Just curious. I thought all rich people are same every where.
  • Nids
    08.10.12 06:36 PM
    nice article, have lived here all my life and glad to say i've never come across any of these people in a magazine or otherwise. guess they aren't really getting the publicity they were hoping for.

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