DHAHRAN: On an ordinary November night in 2020, Lina Malaika and Farah Hammad had a conversation that changed their lives.
In the midst of the global pandemic, the pair decided to embark on a business partnership that they hoped would elevate their communities and carve out a new path for them in the business world.
Both women are established in their own right: Malaika has been in the creative industry for over a decade as a filmmaker, designer and entrepreneur; and Hammad is a fashion designer with an acute eye for color and texture and a repertoire that spans several continents.
“Basically, me and Lina are talent agents — Clay is the name under us. We are not an agency yet — that’s the plan. Hopefully, we get investors and we become a proper agency. But for now, we are two talent agents,” Hammad told Arab News.
It all started when they met in September 2020, and shortly afterwards decided to launch their business, Clay Models.
It was Malaika’s brainchild. She got her start at Destination Jeddah magazine about a decade ago and then as a creative director at TheLoftMe, a creative studio based in her hometown in the Kingdom’s coastal city.
• In the midst of the global pandemic, Lina Malaika and Farah Hammad decided to embark on a business partnership that they hoped would elevate their communities and carve out a new path for them in the business world.
• The name ‘Clay’ was the first one that came to Malaika. She wanted a ‘short, playful and versatile’ name that was flexible like a block of clay that one is able to shape. It is a word that could describe makeup, hair, clothing — or modeling.
• As of now, Clay exists mostly in the cloud, literally. Both women have studios, so it is possible to meet in a physical space, but most of the interactions are over the phone. They currently have 30 models on their books but are looking for more
For each of those roles, she needed models for photoshoots and found it quite cumbersome and daunting to constantly curate a database for locally-based models.
It was nonexistent at the time, she said, because many women still needed approval from their families to be photographed, and to have their images in the media was still taboo in many ways.
Malaika then decided to study film in New York and fashion in London before settling back home. She found that she was constantly faced with the same task of finding models for each of her roles and decided to take matters into her own hands. She had a Rolodex of models but wanted it to be more streamlined.
“I was just always thinking, I have what it takes … all I need is a partner because I can’t do this on my own. Yeah, I’m a creative person but I’m not necessarily a businesswoman,” Malaika said.
Hammad had a similar hurdle each time she had a shoot for her fashion design business.
Raised in multiple countries, splitting her time between Jeddah, Europe and the US, the globe-trotter has a calm steadiness to her. Her attentiveness and empathy toward those around her makes it seem like she collects thoughts and weaves them into the world with an invisible string. She is a doer.
Joining forces seemed like destiny for the two women.
“We’re on the same page, we more or less share the same kind of mentality. So we really understood each other. I don’t remember exactly the conversation, but I was telling her I have this idea to turn this database into a modeling agency.
“And I told her ‘if you don’t do it with me, it’s never gonna happen because I’ve built so many ideas in my head and they never, never come to life.’ I have like a shelf of unfinished ideas. We complete each other in that sense. She started instantly (and) it came to life. She built the website by the next morning. No joke,” Malaika said.
“I was honestly scared and then a bit skeptical because, for me, when I launched my business, my connections — it took years. So when she approached me regarding this, I was like, I’ll get back to you but I think it’s a yes. Then, I was like you know what, I think this is going to be a great opportunity,” Hammad told Arab News.
Saudi Arabia was opening up so they decided to seize the day.
“This was during COVID, remember? At the time, there was this uncertainty in life and there was also like, a lot of ‘we are gonna die.’ And aside from it being a business, it was great for me, and I would say for Farah, too, as a coping tool because we were dealing with parallel personal transitions, and that helped us. It was kind of escapism,” Malaika said.
The name “Clay” was the first one that came to Malaika. She wanted a “short, playful and versatile” name that was flexible like a block of clay that one is able to shape. It is a word that could describe makeup, hair, clothing — or modeling.
“We had (a) lawyer that helped us with the contracts. We wanted the contract to be very flexible, just so it’s fair for everyone and not to stand in the way of the model’s project and life. It was very important for us so the model feels that they can trust us because we’re not there to dominate, we want that relationship with our models and to maintain it, and with our clients, as well,” Malaika told Arab News.
Modeling is typically more women-dominant but Clay also has five male models.
One of them, Abdullah Ali, was raised in Riyadh and joined Clay after being on the scene independently. His versatile look and aura of confidence allows him to pull off urban and traditional looks flawlessly.
“As a self-established model, one of the obstacles that I faced in my early career was the linking point between the talent and the client. Luckily, Clay stepped up and became one of the leading modeling agencies in Saudi Arabia. Even though I had my client base, working with Clay was an advantage to elevating the local industry standards collectively,” Ali told Arab News.
It was important for Clay to offer clients options and to not box any model into any category. Their website has a section for Saudi Arabia, international and male models, with all their specifications. They do not represent anyone under 21.
“Keep in mind, prior to the new Saudi vision, most brands — all luxury brands — would shoot products dedicated to us in the GCC using foreign models. Shots in foreign locations that do not represent us, it does not appeal to us. And slowly, the brands started noticing, like, we need to speak to our clients.
“A lot of them started going to Dubai; it wasn’t acceptable to have models shooting in Saudi Arabia. Brands finally started wanting to use local models in Saudi Arabia, so again, I want to highlight that was very important for us to start this here — it was nonexistent,” Malaika said.
While models are notorious for being divas, they have only encountered one model who misbehaved and disrespected the client by being tardy and having an attitude on set.
They have zero tolerance for unprofessional behavior and they issued a refund to the client with an apology and the model was swiftly fired after giving her a second chance, which she also abused. The brand did return as a customer and it is a testament to their commitment to taking care of the relationship.
“They come back to us because of the type of professionalism we offer and we provide,” Malaika said.
Although the Clay founders still consider their business to be a startup, their stellar reputation in Jeddah and the digital MENA space is evident.
As of now, Clay exists mostly in the cloud, literally. Both women have studios, so it is possible to meet in a physical space, but most of the interactions are over the phone.
“We want to expand and we want to find more talents. (If we) can find more we can find investors to grow … like the sky’s the limit,” Malaika said.
For anyone hoping to land a coveted spot at Clay, professionalism is a must but also an online presence is key. In the digital and social media saturated world, every aspiring model has the ability to open up an Instagram account and share photos.
“It’s very important to have a portfolio. With stylists, designers, photographers — see how they look behind the camera. They might not be photogenic. They should do some research, look at YouTube videos of models, how they pose. To some, it’s just a hobby and they don’t really take it seriously,” Hammad said.
While they do the bulk of the work for quality-control assurance, they have a few freelance agents who help when necessary. So far, they have the same instincts when deciding to let a model join the Clay family and have not yet disagreed on who to sign up.
They currently have 30 models on their books but are looking for more.
The women say they are not doing it for fame but to fill a gap and serve as a platform to elevate the industry.
“Other agencies take a percentage from the model’s rate, we don’t do that, we add our percentage to the model’s rate. The model pays us to do the dirty work — like we’re their agents. We make life easier for the client because everything is done, they don’t have to deal with anything. All they do is book … So everyone is happy. It’s a win-win situation for the models, and for us and for the client. It’s like a perfect recipe,” Malaika said.
RIYADH: Boulevard Riyadh City, one of the entertainment zones of the third Riyadh Season, celebrated the 52nd Omani National Day on Nov. 18 with a range of activities.
The zone witnessed a spread of the colors of the Omani flag as people joined in a march to celebrate the country’s heritage and prosperity.
The square screens in Boulevard Riyadh City turned into a visual show celebrating the leaderships of both the Kingdom and Oman.
The fountain and the Boulevard lights were decorated with the colors of the Omani flag, confirming the importance of the occasion for the people of both countries.
Attendees in the zone celebrated the National Day of Oman with a large number of Omani visitors, many of whom have joined in other events hosted by Riyadh Season.
Celebrations continued in the background with patriotic songs and celebrations that aimed to deepen relations between the Saudi and Omani people.
Riyadh Season hosts activities for the national days of friendly and brotherly countries, which contributes to creating an atmosphere that consolidates relations among people, enforcing national values in the Kingdom and emphasizing Saudi appreciation and pride in relations with countries around the world.
There are various other events and experiences in the many zones of Riyadh Season, including concerts, local and international exhibitions, theatrical performances, Cirque du Soleil and WWE shows, fireworks spectacles and a football tournament.
There are also restaurants and cafes, lounges and a wide range of interactive activities suitable for people of all ages.
The third Riyadh Season contains 15 diverse entertainment zones and features the largest artificial lake in the world, cable car transportation, and sporting events such as the Riyadh Season Cup, which brings together the Paris Saint-Germain football team and stars from the Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr clubs.
RIYADH: The first RiseUp Saudi Arabia, an annual entrepreneurship summit, kicked off at King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh on Saturday.
The three-day summit will attract over 10,000 participants, over 150 startups, 150 investors and 200 speakers from all over the world to share their global experiences as well as the latest developments in many fields to serve the startups and help them build foundations on which to base themselves.
The summit is supported by the National Technology Development Program of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in a strategic partnership with the Saudi Federation For Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones.
The summit also includes some sectors specialized in entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia, such as the Saudi Venture Investment Co.; the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority; the Garage, the Digital Cooperation Organization; the Ministry of Tourism, and the Angel Investors.
Princess Lolowah bint Yazeed, CEO of RiseUp Co. in Saudi Arabia, said: “The Kingdom witnessed a historic boom for the startups community, and the Kingdom has been and will remain the most prominent supporter of this sector, as it represents a prosperous future for the economies of the world.
“The impact of startups on the lives of the citizens of the Kingdom has become clear and tangible, as the efficiency of the daily life of citizens has been improved by relying on modern technology in managing all tasks.
“The continued growth of startups is by finding many sources and resources and abundant investments.”
RIYADH: A cooking event in Riyadh on Thursday featured the Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish embassies promoting New Nordic cuisine and sparking gastro diplomacy through their own “MasterChef.”
Michael Jensen, the Danish deputy head of the mission, said: “The four Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway are trying to make a little gimmick out of doing a dish from each country that we will then give feedback to, and give participants an opportunity to try and cook.”
Six teams of two went head-to-head in the competition at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the Diplomatic Quarter.
The teams prepared one dish from each Nordic country, starting with a smoked salmon and cream cheese appetizer from Norway and a toast skagen from Sweden.
The contestants then had 15 minutes to create the remaining two courses, including the main dish from Finland called voileipakakku. The final course was a layer cake dessert from Denmark called lagkage.
Participants in each round were timed when gathering their ingredients and assembling the dish for the Nordic envoys to judge.
The embassy judges included the Ambassador of Sweden Petra Menander, the Finnish Ambassador Anu-Eerika Viljanen, the Norwegian Ambassador Thomas Lid Ball, and Jensen.
Menander told Arab News: “We are here for a bit of an experiment in the Nordic cooking contest, in which Saudis are creating something we know very well, and some dishes we don’t, and it is very interesting to see how the dishes are being interpreted.
“We have been laughing a lot and sort of challenging a lot and really had a lot of fun. It’s really good to come together and just enjoy each other’s company.”
The ambassadors discussed the importance of bringing people together in the community to highlight and share Nordic cuisine.
Lid Ball told Arab News: “I think this reaches a different audience than the people we often reach as ambassadors.
“It’s important to us to learn, to understand Saudi Arabia and the different parts of Saudi Arabia, and reach out to many people.”
Jensen said that the aim of the event was to present a glimpse into Nordic food.
New Nordic cuisine promotes cooking with local, seasonal, and natural ingredients that contribute to sustainability.
He said: “We have a lot of focus on sustainability in our countries, and using the ingredients that are close to where we are.
“Trying to limit the carbon footprint and using what is in season and what is in front of us, I think that is very much how traditional cooking in our countries used to be, given the harsh winters.”
Contestants received a list of ingredients and an image of the four dishes from each Nordic country, but not a step-by-step instruction on how to put the dish together.
Menander said: “It can be even better when you do things differently.
“The best toast skagen I have ever had was here, and it wasn’t the original recipe.”
A similar event took place in 2020, led by the Danish embassy in Riyadh.
Jensen said: “We are far away from the Nordic countries here, and there’s not a lot of Nordic restaurants.
“We’d like to present what we can do in the Nordic countries, which is very often quite healthy food.”
JEDDAH: The 69th Annual Convention of the National Association for Gifted Children is being held in Indiana, US, between Nov. 17-20, with the participation of more than 2,000 people.
During the opening ceremony, an introductory film about Mawhiba was presented, in the presence of the participating delegation led by Mawhiba Deputy Secretary-General for Gifted Services Basil Al-Sadhan, convention guests from the educational community and decision-makers interested in talent and creativity, as well as parents, teachers and researchers.
Mawhiba will take part in the event with members of the foundation in a pavilion throughout the conference to highlight Saudi Arabia’s role in caring for and empowering talent and innovation, as well as promoting communication with the educational community. The members will take part in a dialogue session that seeks to find solutions that contribute to improving the educational environment for gifted children and youth.
Mawhiba will take part in the event with members of the foundation in a pavilion throughout the conference to highlight Saudi Arabia’s role in caring for and empowering talent and innovation, as well as promoting communication with the educational community.
The members of the delegation — including Noura Al-Dawsari, Rawan Al-Qahtani, Bakr Madini and Abdulaziz Al-Qahtani — will review their local and international achievements, the Mawhiba enrichment programs they attended and the impacts on their academic achievement as well as life decisions, along with their ambitions for the future, challenges facing education for the gifted and the available solutions.
In a statement, the foundation said: “Sponsoring the event reflects Mawhiba’s international dimension as a global leader with the most comprehensive approach in discovering and sponsoring gifted people around the world, as well as sharing its experience and expertise in discovering and sponsoring talented, and creative individuals in the scientific areas of development priority.”
The foundation added that through sponsoring and taking part in the event, it aims to build a system for talent and innovation locally, regionally and internationally. The system is based on its vision represented by empowering talent and innovation, which is the foundation of prosperity.
DHAHRAN: Under the patronage of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals President Mohammed Al-Saggaf, the Interdisciplinary Research Center for Finance and Digital Economy and the KFUPM Business School is hosting MENACIS 2022, the conference’s fifth edition.
Held from Nov. 16-19 under the theme “Socially Responsible Information Systems for Sustainable Societies,” the conference is providing a global platform for the presentation of innovative research in the field of information systems, aiming to promote a more sustainable future for all societies.
The conference welcomes scholars, practitioners and research students from various academic disciplines from up to 40 countries around the world. It discusses different topics that contribute to serving society, such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, fintech, digital transformation, information systems and more.
The conference program includes parallel sessions, keynote and author presentations, and social events with the effective participation of international scholars from the US, UK and France. It also includes an exhibition, workshops and other activities that aim to highlight the role of information systems in serving society.
The event comes within the framework of KFUPM’s strategic transformation and is aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to propel the Saudi economy toward transformation into a diversified knowledge economy.