At just 28, Kuwait-born-and-bred Fouz has created an iconic Instagram alter ego – @therealfouz. With over 2.6 million followers hanging onto her every word, the power influencer is on the lips and radar of millions, and all in a little over four years.
So how did she do it? And more importantly, how does she keep it all real (and believe me she does) with the superficial demands of her day-to- day? Cosmo gets the deets.
“You remind me of someone,”
I TOLD FOUZ, AFTER STARING FOR AN EMBARRASSING TWO MINUTES STRAIGHT AT HER IMPOSSIBLY PERFECT, MAKE-UP FREE SKIN. She turned around, stuck her tongue out and screwed up her nose. “Who?” she said, barely containing the giggles that erupted a couple of seconds later. “Eva Mendes!” I said, laughing at the ridiculous faces she continued to make. That’s Fouz in a nutshell. She just doesn’t seem to take any of this seriously, despite racking up a whopping 2.6 million followers on Instagram alone, and has a total of three friends (“one of them is my mom and the other Aziz, my manager, who I travel with”) and lets the hate, love, adulation and fame, slide off her back. Jumping from one city to the next, with jet-lag and sleep deprivation the necessary evils of a travel-packed schedule, having three friends sounds just about right.
So, why is it that despite all of the hard work, long hours and obvious sacrifices that accompany the job, the world still doesn’t seem to take ‘influencers’ seriously? “No matter how much people criticise us, influencers are the new thing, and people need to deal with it.” It’s tough being able to take a call on who’s real and who’s not, with anyone being able to buy likes, followers and fake engagement, I offer up. “There are some amazing influencers who have great content. Unfortunately, people focus on the hundreds of others who put out mediocre stuff,” she says.
What about cyberbullying and the hateful comments that are a part of the job? ‘Every time I’m criticised, all everyone tells me is that I’m a public figure and I’ve just got to deal with it. But, I don’t know why people make an effort to ruin someone and say something so awful, online. I’m all for opinions but putting all that hate out there, I just don’t get.”
I open her Instagram account (@therealfouz) and scroll through one gorgeous picture after another (all of which actually look like her – she really is THAT pretty, if not more, in person) and tell her that all the hate may have a lot to do with how perfect she seems. Unlike others, she doesn’t open up her private life for the world to see. There’s no ‘I woke up like this’ moment or her being disheveled and hanging out with her pals… “I’m very private, which people may find shady, but that’s something I will not change. But, honestly, it’s not me to be in my pyjamas on Snapchat. I’m not even like that with my friends and family, and actually like to have my hair and nails done. That’s just me; I’m being myself. And, to all the girls who follow me, here’s my message loud and clear – BE YOURSELF, LOVE YOURSELF. If it’s you to be in a pair of pyjamas and feel great, DO IT.”
Easier said than done; being yourself and being happy is as elusive as it gets for girls these days. “True… but you know what kind of girls I really like? The kind that are in it with their girls, the kind who fix your lashes, tell you that the sticker on your hair extension is showing, or, that you have lipstick on your teeth. In short, girls who like other girls looking good and who don’t have an issue with it. Spending your time labelling someone ‘ugly’ or ‘fake’… I mean, it’s almost 2020 and, it’s time we evolve, are comfortable with ourselves and get over it!”
Fake is a word that’s being thrown around a lot in the beauty world these days, with a fake nose, lips, hair, teeth and, lashes as natural as throwing on a face pack or applying zit cream. “Whatever it takes for you to feel good – plastic surgery float your boat? Do it, no judgement. Not that I’m anyone to be judging on that or any matter,” she laughs.
“Every time I’m criticised, all everyone tells me is that I’m a public figure, and I’ve just got to deal with it. But, I don’t know why people would make an effort to ruin someone and say something so awful, online...”
I’ve always imagined influencers waking up, getting to the gym and eating long, leisurely lunches with a couple of work engagements a month, I confess to Fouz, knowing well that her life is far from a walk in a shopping mall. “Babe, I work 12 to 14 hours a day,” she smiles. “I have a beauty salon with 41 employees now – The RealFouz Beauty Salon. It’s 900 metres and I’m involved in every aspect. My mother helps me as I’m barely in Kuwait. It’s a concept that came to life after two years of hard work behind it.”
When she’s not in Kuwait, Fouz is on-the-go with a few hours to spare for the essentials – sleep and food, not necessarily in that order. She breaks down the previous day to me as I probe her for an hour-to-hour update, curious about the unstructured and unending mayhem of a work day that more often than not, extends into the night. “I landed day before night, woke up and had three back-to-back meetings, got my hair done and rushed to the event I’m in town for. We came back late last night, and I was wired. To relax, I started playing an addictive game online called Papchi. I slept at 7am, and now I’m with you!”
With so much of her life being all about work, does it get lonely? “Yes, it does, especially since you’re doing a lot on your own. But I do travel with someone at all times to help with that.” With one of your three friends? “Exactly!” she laughs out loud, smiling at her BFF, Aziz, in the corner.
We’ve spoken about the punishing hours and the hate that comes along with the job, but there’s a ton of money in being an influencer right now which must make it all worth it. “I feel like it’s not about the money anymore. I’m happy and satisfied right now and can even just go offline today and be all good. If this is where it has to stop, then I’m okay and really am not hungry for the wrong things.”
So what is she hungry for? “To be happy and relaxed. I’m constantly thinking about a million things, and my mind doesn’t stop…” Maybe it’s time to take that vacay! “Ummm… when was the last time I even went on a holiday?” She turns to Aziz – “When did I last go? I can’t remember! He looks at her, nonplussed. “Aziz, when did she wake up? What did she eat? When did she sleep? Aziz, what’s her name?” I ask. Fouz laughs but continues to stare at Aziz for an answer. “I went to London for three days to celebrate my birthday,” she says after he offers up the info.
Three days really doesn’t sound like much. “Babe, I have my ‘kids’ to feed (referring to her employees). All 40 plus of them!” Sounds like she really needs to switch that phone off! “The longest I’ve done that for is 10 seconds,” she laughs. “If I don’t Snapchat for a bit, people may think I’m dead. We have a calendar and a schedule of content we have to follow… I switch off from 1am to 4am when I hang with my friends and family at home.” Doesn’t sound like much but I stop questioning her, suddenly feeling the need to redefine my version
Fouz steps out of the fitting room, looking fabulous in a sequined skirt, revealing a little more leg than she would like. She turns the skirt around, covering more than half, angling her body so the revealing bits are hidden, and says, “My parents would not be happy with that much showing!” Speaking of, how have her parents dealt with everything that comes along with what she does? “When I quit my job working at a University in Kuwait (which was really hard to get) I lied to my father about it and pretended to go to work every day for a month. He wasn’t a fan of me making this a full-time profession but has now grown to accept it. I have certain rules I don’t break, showing too much skin is one of them,” she says, pointing to her legs.
We rush through the shoot, getting through all five looks faster than we ever have. Fouz is a natural, with the kind of face that doesn’t know how to take a bad picture. “I have a flight to catch in two hours,” she says, frantically slipping into a pair of jeans as she wipes every last bit of make-up off – bare faced, beautiful and ready for another sleepless night.