The Dubai Dolls is a cruelty-free brand founded by Canadian duo Priya Judge and Gayatri Sagar.
It celebrates the city through four Lip Shine shades, each named after the some of most popular destinations: ‘The Burj’ which comes in an iconic red shade; a bright coral for ‘La Mer’; ‘The Palm’ is represented with a creamy nude; and ‘Marina’ is captured with a popping Fuchsia hue.
Below, the founders open up about personal challenges with racism and bereavement, and how their brand is benefiting the community in more than one way.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Priya: My favourite subject at school was maths. I was good at it and loved being able to identify patterns and build logic to it.
Gayatri: I really disliked school! While I was a ‘good’ student and enjoyed subjects like mathematics (because it is logical and to the point), I was always the kid getting involved with anything other than academics. I was a professional provincial swimmer, I learned Indian classical dance, I skated, I ran charitable events at school and for minority communities, I even MC’d with Justin Trudeau at the age of 15 for a cultural event.
What was your first job?
P: I had three first jobs at the age of 17 all related to fashion.
G: I was encouraged to be an entrepreneur since the age of 10. Every summer and winter break during elementary and high school, I volunteered in daycare centres & school camps as a camp counsellor assistant. Even my sweet 16 birthday gift was a promotion in my family business where I started working in-depth in our early years education company.
What inspired you to launch The Dubai Dolls?
The Dubai Dolls was born to be a cruelty free beauty brand with a higher purpose.
As the co-founders of The Dubai Dolls, we have always struggled with the definition of beauty. After all, beauty comes in all forms, and during different stages of one’s life.
Having lived across the globe in multiculturally diverse environments such as Montreal, London, Delhi, Jeddah and finally our dream location, Dubai; we have learned that the ultimate definition of beauty is to be your most authentic self, inside and out. We want to encourage our youth to “Be real, be you”.
As stereotypes begin to dissolve and gender diversity becomes visible, our goal is to encourage every person to celebrate their unique beauty, and to look and feel like the best version of themselves.
Right from the start, it was very clear that we wanted to merge our passion for beauty with our dedication to helping the less fortunate. In all our previous work and life experiences, giving back was imbedded into our goals. Therefore, ensuring that this aspect remains the core purpose of our venture together has been primordial. As a social enterprise, The Dubai Dolls supports and improves young girls’ access to quality private childcare education in developing countries by dedicating 2 per cent of our sales to this mission.
What are the key elements of your roles?
We work as a team. We are both involved in all aspects of The Dubai Dolls. We always consult each other and discuss everything before we execute. Having said that, we do have our fortes. Priya is the product development, logistics, and the “behind the scenes” genius whereas Gayatri is a visionary. We know each other’s strong points and have great communication which results in a very successful partnership. We push each other to succeed and to continuously think outside the box. We want to create a positive impact worldwide, and we work hard every day to strive that.
Talk us through your normal daily routine.
G: I am a morning person. I make sure to work out first thing in the morning at around 6 or 7 am to get it out of the way. Other than that, and my turmeric warm water with lemon followed by fruits and my daily cold coffee (with no milk or sugar), I don’t think anything else can be planned even when I try. Every day is unique and comes with a mountain of obstacles. Being a young female entrepreneur trying to carve my path in the field of education and beauty, my days are filled with calls, meetings, brainstorming sessions and for some reason, a bunch of emergencies. I am a goal digger, and own three businesses, so I try my best to strategise a plan and jot down weekly goals. But indeed, no day is alike, and I love it.
P: My daily routine involves waking up by 6:15am to make sure my daughter’s school day is organized before I begin any other work. My husband and I believe in a hands-on approach to nurture our family. I make sure all my meetings and work commitments are completed during the day, as I am much less productive in the evening. My daughter is also a bundle of energy, so by the end of the day, I like to (and quite frankly, I need to) sit down alone, recollect my thoughts and enjoy a cup of chai.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Be authentic, remain focused on your mission, and work really hard. There are no shortcuts. In today’s world, everyone has ideas, and there are so many new and interesting careers, but nobody is you.
Which fashion brands can we find in your work wardrobe?
We both love to wear bright colours, mix and match different brands and experiment with our wardrobe. Style is so personal and says so much about one’s personality.
Some of our current favourites are Dubai’s Zarah Amira, Spain’s Uterque for Blazers, Canada’s Club Monaco & Smythe.
We also absolutely love the online sales at Nordstrom Rack & Namshi.
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What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Be Real, Be You!”
“Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life!”
And what is the worst?
P: Way too many to name, but this one is at the top of my list: “Be diplomatic, there is no need to always be so honest.”
G: Sometimes the advice we get is sensitive and outdated. When I was just about to get married to my ever so supportive husband, I remember several people telling me “Make sure you work less than your husband, and that you are never more successful than him. You wouldn’t want him to feel bad and leave you!”
I am so lucky that I have never had to worry about that, because my biggest “cheerleader” is actually my husband.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
P: My father was my business partner for most of my life, and I worked very closely with him every single day. He passed away unexpectedly, without notice or illness. I have never faced a bigger emotional and professional challenge in my entire life. This is actually the first time; I am ever writing about this, it isn’t easy.
Three years after, I took the very difficult but right decision to sell our family business. It was an extremely difficult time in my life. However, soon after, my husband and I got an amazing opportunity in Dubai. After a lot of back and forth, we grabbed this once in a lifetime opportunity and embarked on this magical journey in Dubai. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have had to make several adjustments but, I am in love with Dubai and I am grateful that we moved here.
G: I grew up in a small town in French Montreal called Brossard and did my schooling in an even smaller town called La Prairie. I was the only South Asian kid in my entire school. When I look back, I cannot believe the amount of racism and injustice that was thrown at me simply based on my ethnicity. As a young girl, not only does this really scare you, it most definitely scars you. I began to question who I really was and relentlessly tried to fit in rather than stand out.
Now when I look back, it shocks me that I had so much inner strength (which I didn’t even know about at the time) to overcome such intense discrimination from my peers and my teachers. Nobody used to talk about it. It was like the unspoken reality of an immigrant in a small town during those times. Unfortunately, I didn’t even know that I was given a voice for a reason. With time, I learned to appreciate my uniqueness. I was very fortunate to have an amazing family and an older sister that continuously encouraged me to stand tall. I genuinely do not want anyone else to feel so small and so insignificant; it just does not make any sense. We should be proud of our roots and be encouraged to explore who we are.
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Images: Supplied, Instagram