Lindsay Lohan is a woman on the move, and on a mission. Here, she opens up about her new life in the Middle East, faith, media fallouts, and her grand plans for the future.

“Are you ready to go to Lebanon?”

It’s not the question I’m expecting as I stand, passport-less, at the pre-arranged meeting spot on a dock in Dubai’s Jumeirah Fishing Harbour. Even less so from Lindsay Lohan, the former child star turned Hollywood tearaway (if you believe the hyperbolic headlines).

She is a woman who’s spent the majority of her life on cinema screens, TV sets, magazine covers and, yes, splashed across tabloids all over the world. Everything from her legal troubles to her nights out with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears and even a stint in rehab have been bandied about the papers, paraded as the fall from grace of a teen movie queen.  After more than a decade of such media attention, you feel as if you know her, without having met. But the Lindsay Lohan of today is not the Lindsay Lohan of then.

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Although stood there, on a rickety wooden dock, with her hair back to a burning-ember red, she looks unchanged from her Mean Girls days. Indeed, a dusting of freckles across her face, uncovered by makeup, makes her look younger than her 31 years.  She now lives in Dubai and I’ve spent months pursuing her for an interview, desperate to quiz her on her move to the Middle East, her much-touted new businesses and those stories about converting to Islam.

lindsay lohan
Missoni hat at Boutique 1

She’s a face that sells, a divisive topic of conversation, an icon of a generation – but don’t call her a party girl, she detests that title.

“What does it even mean?” she questions, bristling, as we bumpily coast across Dubai’s waters on a hazy May afternoon. (For, with a broad grin, Lindsay had revealed she meant Lebanon in the World Islands, the man-made archipelago off the city’s coast, rather than the nation a three-hour flight away).

“I get so uncomfortable with that word, party,” she says, in that distinctive, raspy drawl. “People are still stuck in the past, of the stories I had in LA and I hate it. It was all lies.” After just a few minutes in her company, I realise Lindsay is indeed a different person than those paparazzi shots would suggest; quieter, softly spoken, refreshingly reflective. “That’s why I opened my club in Greece, because I thought what’s the one thing that people have most misconstrued about me? It was probably about me always going to clubs, and so I was just like, ‘well, I’ll make my own’. And now I never go to clubs!”

She has venues in Athens, Mykonos and, now, she’s adding Dubai to her ever-expanding portfolio.

Yes, the actress’s hint last year that she wanted to create a Lohan Island was not an empty promise. She is about to take the reins of Lebanon, turning it into a sandy getaway with a restaurant, beach club, cabanas, and possibly even some private villas.

Lindsay is set to give the destination a makeover and reopen it this year – and it’s not her only paradisiacal endeavour. She’s also transforming Thailand Island, with the aim of turning it into a luxury hotel and beach club, with a Michelin-worthy restaurant, idyllic pool, and multiple moorings. “We’re slowly taking over the islands!” she jokes. And don’t think the New York-born star is involved in name only.

lindsay lohan
Albus Lumen top & skirt at Matches Fashion, Missoni earrings & choker at Ounass

Dressed unassumingly in geometric printed leggings, a knotted T-shirt and Off-White sneakers, sunglasses buried in a haphazard topknot, she wanders around the island with a notepad, sketching out a new-and-improved blueprint. It’s just another sign that Lindsay intends to set down roots in her adopted home of Dubai, a city she says struck her fancy due to its “lack of paparazzi”.

“Moving here was a fresh start,” she admits, over a late lunch of burgers (“no pineapple thanks”) and fries. “You hear more about real current events rather than celebrity gossip, which I really appreciate.” She reveals she’s been calling the emirate home for almost three years, though I point out we’ve only heard such rumours in the last 12 months or so. “Well, at first I lived mainly on the Palm, so I didn’t really see anyone,” she laughs, confessing she spends many nights at home, engrossed in Netflix. “And it’s not like I’m going out at night much, it’s a very different lifestyle for me.

“I moved here for that purpose – I don’t have to be publicly seen all the time, or discuss what I’m doing.”

But don’t think for a second that the star, who broke into Hollywood with her dual role in 1998’s The Parent Trap, spends her time here sunbathing. Even as we wait for our meal, she’s running through plans to redecorate her penthouse, as well as brainstorming ideas for Lohan Island(s), cutting and saving inspirational images to a WhatsApp group without even breaking eye contact. “It’s funny because people don’t realise that I actually do work when I’m here,” she says. “But I get more done because I don’t have the scrutiny and fixation on what I’m doing every second. I work all the time; my mind never stops.” Should she build her brand anywhere else, she says, “people would have made things up, because good stories are not always interesting”.

“Have you often read lies about yourself?” I ask, curious.

“Yes,” she replies like a shot, straight-faced. “People say things that don’t even happen. They just make things up. “Someone emailed me yesterday from America, saying, ‘Oh, I heard you got married in Dubai.’ I was like, ‘news to me, who’s the lucky guy?’

“I don’t know how many more things they could say about me that haven’t already been said.”

lindsay lohan
Alexis dress at Ounass, necklaces from Cornelia Webb, Mer’s, & Gas Bijoux at Ounass

Being trailed by a legion of photographers was a daily occurrence for Lindsay when she lived in the States, something that left her feeling “numb”. “I just have to drown it out and pretend it’s not happening,” she says, admitting that she once attracted a pack of snappers to her location by accidentally live-streaming her location.

“At first I was like, ‘who called them?’” she grimaces, before falling into giggles. That hyper-paranoia of being followed, of always watching her back, is something that’s stuck with Lindsay, despite her move to the Middle East. “It can come across as a bit manic,” she admits. “When I’m looking around it makes me look really distracted, but I’m just really protective about [my privacy].” It’s that desire for seclusion that has led Lindsay to make Dubai her base for the indefinite future, only travelling “for work or to see my family”.

The former promises to keep the star busy over the next year, with several films in the pipeline (such as one entitled Confinement, a true life tale about a Swiss couple captured by Taliban in Pakistan in 2011) as well as her clubs and plans for a debut beauty line.

“We’re figuring things out,” she says with a groan, as I press her on that makeup collection, which she teased on her social media last year. “The second I went to America and started discussing it, I shot myself in the foot because I wasn’t really there yet.” The product design is finished, she says, but she’s still looking for a collaborator to work with on the branding and manufacturing. “We’re still meeting about it,” she promises. “I’m not going to not do it, I just want to find the right person that I really trust to do it with me.”

lindsay lohan
Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini at Ounass, skirt Robert Rodriguez at Harvey Nichols – Dubai

One project that is definitely on the cards in the near future, however, is Frame, a movie Lindsay is shooting in Saudi Arabia later this year. Helmed by filmmaker Nancy Paton, the tale is centred around an American teacher at a women’s university in Riyadh, with scenes also shot in the UAE. “It’s going to be an exciting role to play. It’s OK that it’s kind of similar to me, because then I’ve got my own experience to draw on,” says Lindsay.

The film will feature a mainly female cast with a female-driven storyline, a conscious decision made during a time of vast social change in the kingdom. “It’s about women teaching other women about their culture, and standing by each other in a time when women are getting more rights and more opportunities,” she adds.

“So it doesn’t come from a negative place, it’s all positive.

“Maybe [the film will force] people to open their eyes a little bit more and be more understanding.” Tolerance is an issue close to Lindsay’s heart, one she is all too familiar with after she was photographed carrying the Qu’ran in 2015. “They wrote horrible stories about me,” she says of the world media, “with such judgment. “And when I went abroad they made it look like it was a bad thing – I was going to work in refugee camps. They were so angry; they didn’t know what to do about it. They couldn’t just show light on the subject and encourage more people to do that. It was so strange to me.”

lindsay lohan
Shrimps 1 dress at Boutique 1, cuffs by Gas Bijoux & Valére at Ounass

Islam is a “peaceful, personal” path the actress says she is still exploring, although she admits she is “open to all religions”.

“My main base for spirituality is not living in a subconscious, but living with an awareness that there are more things that we can do to help other people,” she says. “And that takes understanding of that person and their culture and their mentality first.

“I’ve had a really wonderful experience with people taking me under their wing, and teaching me more about the culture. I’m a very spiritual person so I’m always interested in religions, and faiths and beliefs and higher powers.” The star is also still studying Arabic, along with Russian, admitting she’s self-taught but hopes to take lessons later this year. She practices a little Arabic in a WhatsApp group she shares with a Syrian family she befriended while visiting a refugee camp in 2016. “I talk to them on a daily basis,” she says, scrolling through messages, with two young children – a boy and a girl – regularly uploading selfies and handmade drawings to Lindsay. “I don’t do this [for publicity]. I talk to them about school, about their English,” she says, revealing she’s hoping to journey back to visit them soon. “If you could see the change in them… from the fear they had in them when I first met them, to where they are now; in school, understanding, learning, happy.”

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Language skills aside, Lindsay has also embraced the region’s dress, having on occasion been photographed wearing a hijab (again, spawning a slew of headlines). However, the star doesn’t understand the need for the controversy, saying, “it’s a respect thing”.

“I think it’s important to support every culture. When you’re in certain places with certain people, you should make an effort to understand how they live.”

Like Madonna (a star she cites as one of her icons, along with Ann Margret, Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, and the “coolest woman ever”, Queen Elizabeth II), Lindsay is a doyenne of reinvention. She’s worked as a model and actress since her formative years, has dabbled in singing and fashion design, and now has her sights set on adding another string to her bow. “Eventually I want to direct,” she divulges. “I know how to write, how to edit, I’m so conditioned in it. I’ve gained so much knowledge, and grew up so quickly – I’ve been working for 25 years, people can’t tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Lindsay isn’t resistant to a few tips from seasoned pros, however, counting Freaky Friday co-star Jamie Lee Curtis and Lauren Hutton among her friends. “The fact that I can sometimes text Al Pacino and ask him for advice is crazy. Alec Baldwin gave me some advice too, once, when I was about 16,” she recalls. “He poured a bunch of salt on the table, and said: ‘Those are all of the people. We’re all just grains of salt. We’re all just moving around, trying to figure things out.’

“In my mind, I’ve always wanted to figure everything out, but sometimes it’s OK not to. To just go with it.”

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Another life lesson Lindsay says she’s embraced along the way is to accept that “everything happens for a reason. I try to live without regrets, only experiences, and to learn from those experiences, which is just growing up,” she says.

She had to grow up in front of the camera’s glare, with her teenage escapades laid out on front pages, I point out, something most adolescents don’t have to endure. Lindsay shrugs, as we board a boat back to Dubai, her demeanour casual but her eyes sage.  “The thing is, everyone goes through experiences and experiments, but the things they say I did, I didn’t ever get to actually do,” she exclaims. “There are some things that I was very honest about and I’ve never lied about. If I didn’t do that then, then I wouldn’t know what I know now.” You get the impression, as Lindsay raises her eyebrow as we jet back to the mainland, that she knows a lot more than she’ll ever let on.

Pick up the June issue, on shelves from the first of the month, to see more images and read the exclusive interview.

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Direction & styling: Carmel Gill
Photography: Mazen Abusrour
Hair: Adam Garland using Sam McKnight
Makeup: Sharon Drugan using Dior
Fashion assistant: Kimberly Dyer
Location: Sir Bani Yas Island
Main image: Atoir top at Harvey Nichols – Dubai, Vita Fede earrings at Ounass.