Karen Wazen pens an open letter to herself about self-care, body image and life after lockdown

Just when it seemed that no plan, no career and no person was immune from COVID-19’s contagious spell, borders started to open, residents started returning and life began to resume. In Cosmopolitan Middle East's July/August cover story, Karen Wazen pens a letter to her pre-pandemic self, reminding us to be strong, resilient and to always look for the silver lining
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Karen Wazen -

Dear Karen - or Care Bear, if the fam was writing this,

Remember this time last year? Life was so chaotic–and you normalised that. You got used to the crazy lifestyle of never stopping, and made it part of who you were, which is, in fact, not who you are at all. You adapted to living life on the road, which came with not a lot of quality time for your family, and definitely not a lot of time for yourself. You were always putting yourself last; if you weren’t working, you were taking care of George, Karlie, Kay and Elias.

And then the world went into lockdown–but not before you put your family into lockdown first, because you’re organised like that–and you could stand still for a moment.

You swapped Fashion Weeks, Revolve trips and the Cannes Film Festival for homeschooling (seriously though? How do teachers do it? They must have a whole bunch of tricks up their sleeve that I don’t know about. Either way, you will develop a whole new respect for them!), ramping up your TikTok game, learning to cook new dishes, and chilling out at home.

One of the most helpful things you’ll do every day to maintain some normalcy in your life is to get dressed and put on a face of make-up every day. Yep, every day! It will make you feel more productive and ready to go, I promise.

In fact, it’ll work so well that you’ll even dress Georgie in his school uniform each morning! It’ll help make the kids feel like there is some sort of routine in this abnormal phase. And after you’ve spent the morning studying with Georgie at your new make-shift school, the girls will have finished their colouring, and you can all do an activity together (even Elias will be working less, so he can join in, too). The weather will be super nice at the beginning of lockdown, so you’ll spend most of your time playing outside in the garden.

This will be such a difficult period for so many people, so finding a routine for yourself and your family is important. And after spending so much quality time together, you’ll be in disbelief that you haven’t been doing this all along.

Opposite page: Hat, Dior, approx Dhs3,554. Dress: Bird & Knoll, Dhs1,000 at Ounass. Boots and jewellery, both Dior

Every morning you will get to go cycling around the neighbourhood with your husband. It will become a ritualistic and therapeutic way to start the day, which is just one of the many moments of mindfulness that you’ll adopt during lockdown. You’ll even get into exercise (something I never thought I’d say)! Remember when you literally had to be forced into working out? Well, Tracy Harmoush, one of your oldest and dearest friends, will launch a series of live workouts on YouTube, which you will end up doing–and loving–every single day. Exercise will give you a new found mental strength, as well as physical, that will allow you to see yourself as an important person that should be taken care of.

And that’s not the only moment of self-care you’ll adopt in lockdown. Somehow–somehow–you’ll stop biting your nails. Now, get ready for the barrage of questions on Instagram from people asking how you did it (spoiler alert: you’ll never know why you suddenly stopped. Perhaps it’s because you’re less stressed? Perhaps it’s because you have more time to focus on yourself?). Well, whatever the reason, it is a small win and a subtle silver lining to have come from all this.

You’ll also get to spend more time on your beauty routine, which helps mentally set you up for the day. Now that you’re having a break from shooting all the time and constantly getting glammed up, you get to give your skin and hair a break. The best new products you’ll discover during lockdown are Pantene’s Superfood shampoo and 3 Minute Miracle conditioner treatment. They will completely revive your hair, (seriously, what were we doing before this?!). The buzzword on everyone’s lips right now is immunity, and that’s exactly what these products do. The formulas are full of anti-oxidants that protect hair and replenish lipids. You won’t believe how much healthier, shinier and stronger your lovely locks will become thanks to your two fave new finds.

But all this pampering and chilling with the fam doesn’t mean you’re not busy. No. You’ll still be spending loads of time on Zoom calls, working on By Karen Wazen, brainstorming new categories, developing new products, and expanding the team. If it wasn’t for lockdown, there’s no way you would have worked on, or cared for, your brand this much. But your priorities and your focus will change, which even Elias will pick up on!

But do you know what is truly one of the best things to come out of lockdown? No labels. You get to be the most real version of yourself. You get to be you. You never wanted to be labelled as a fashion girl; sure, you’re ‘fashionable’, but you’ve never tried to give out styling advice or pretend that you’re a fashion connoisseur just so you could fit into that world.

You also never wanted to be defined by the fact you could or couldn’t fit into sample size clothes. You’ve always looked at the women around you–whether it’s at Fashion Week or on a press trip–and compared yourself to them. It made you feel insecure and you would talk yourself out of wearing certain clothes if you saw someone else who you thought looked better wearing them.

Remember that trip you took to Brazil last year? The one that you knew would be full of women who were #BodGoals, and would be taking loads of bikini-clad pictures on the beach? You put so much pressure on yourself before that trip to have a certain body type. You cut out carbs, changed your eating habits, and reached your goal weight by June...and ended up putting all that weight back on after you got home. But not anymore. Your new life is about balance and self-love.

This page: Top, Zimmermann, Dhs1,850 at Ounass. Pants, Dhs2,125, Temperly London. Hat, Dhs1,092, Janessa Leone at Boutique 1. Jewelley, Noora Shawqi & Aurate

You’re going to do things that feed your soul and follow people who inspire you (Chiara Ferragni is someone who is using her voice and her platform for good, raising money for front-line workers), and take a moment each day for yourself. You always thought that taking time for yourself was selfish, but you have new perceptions now.

Take each day as it comes, and hold onto the thought that as soon as the travel bans are lifted you’re going to straight Lebanon to visit mum! And when the rest of the world also starts going back to normal, I hope you’ll be able to continue these important things you’ve learned in lockdown.

But for now, continue to be real on social media. Talk about the really rough day you had, show yourself without make-up, continue to raise awareness about vitiligo. Just continue to do what you’re doing, because you’re actually doing a pretty good job... x

Jumpsuit, Andres Otalora, Dhs2,885 at Boutique 1. Pearl necklace, POA, Dior.

Styling by Carmel Harrison

Photography by Deepu Nair 

Concept by Milli Midwood. Hair: Stuart Hasting at Pastels Salon. Make-up: Amber McCarthy using Charlotte Tilbury. Photographer’s assistant: Aleksandra Gorokhova. Styling assistant: Yasmin Reda. Social media and video assistants: Nimotalai Oki and Catherine Galustian.