Rawan Bin Hussain: Meet The October 2019 Cover Star Like Never Before

Brains, confidence and rock solid roots, this 22-year-old has her heart and head in the right place.
Rawan Bin Hussain: Meet The October 2019 Cover Star Like Never Before

    

Rawan is pretty much a nerd. Yeah, she really is. Check this: After graduating in the top 20 at the Kuwaiti national level, she was awarded a scholarship by the minister of higher education to attend any uni of her choice. Despite her increasing popularity on social media, Rawan set her sights on getting a degree in law.

At first, she wanted to be in LA, and spent a year at USC majoring in Political Science. Without any undergrad law degree available in the States, she then transferred to Kings College and the University of Westminster in the UK. Four years and a degree later, she’s spending a gap year in Dubai before planning to pursue Graduate Law School in the States.

Rawan makes overachieving look like child’s play. While killing it at school, she steadily grew her following to over 3 million on Insta alone, collaborated with awesome brands and also wrote a book, which, FYI, went on to become a bestseller! No biggie. And, she’s only 22. Things are looking pretty good on the personal front as well. At the tail end of her uni, Rawan found love and had a super private wedding. “I don’t want to talk any more about that,” she says, just as I had a thousand questions at the ready. Who? How? Where? When?

BEAUTY BY KIKO
MILANO ARABIA:
FACE: Smart radiant 3 in 1 primer;
Insta- moister foundation N1.5;
2 IN 1 Full coverage foundation & concealer WB15 (used as a concealer); Face palate N3; Radiant fusion highlighter; Invisible touch powder;
Face makeup fixer.
EYES: Smart cult eyeshadow palate N1 & N2;
Maxi Mood mascara; Extra sculpt eyebrow
pencil #5.
LIPS: Velvet passion matte lipstick 305;
Creamy colour comfort lip liner 301.
FASHION:
Jumper, Iris and Ink
Skirt, Miu Miu, both from Ounass.com.

 “My private life is private and I don’t have any pictures of my parents, my siblings and now, my husband on social media…” More power to her. As someone whose private life occupies zero space on social media, I feel a kindred spirit in Rawan, and it’s kind of heartening to know that not everything about her is for public consumption. 

Half Palestinian and half Kuwaiti, Rawan’s childhood was an empowered one; her father always made her feel like she could do anything she wanted. With three sisters and one brother, all younger than her (“I’m the big boss”) the pressure was on. “Being the oldest comes with a huge sense of responsibility. You have to set an example for your younger siblings, which is why I’ve always studied hard and been good at school. 

I wanted my siblings to look up to me.” Was her family super academic as well? “Both my parents worked in the Ministry of Interior but they’re retired now.” Her mum worked with five children at home? “Yes, she worked throughout. And the thing with her is she likes doing absolutely everything. We have a driver but she would still get behind the wheel (when she retired) and drive my sisters to school. She may have stopped working now, but she’s still super active and taking credited courses at this age. Like mother, like daughter… we don’t like staying at home. We like achieving and keep at it!”

“You’re not supposed to stay the same. We need to change, evolve and grow. If you have the same ambitions every year, then I’m sorry, you’re not doing so well in life.”

BEAUTY BY KIKO MILANO ARABIA
FACE:
Smart radiant
3 in 1 primer;
Insta-moister foundation N1.5;
Face palate N3;
Radiant fusion highlighter;
Invisible touch powder;
Face make-up fixer.
EYES: Smart cult eyeshadow palate N1 & N2;
Maxi Mood mascara;
Extra sculpt eyebrow pencil #5;
Precision liner.
LIPS: Unlimited double touch #120;
Everlasting colour precision lip liner #402.
FASHION:
Jacket, Marina Rinaldi
Top and Jeans, Ashley Graham x Maria Rinaldi
Earrings, Elisabetta Franchi
Shoes, Philipp Plein

Blogging and being an influencer seem pretty far from a family steeped in academia. “Yeah, it happened by mistake. I started writing poems on Instagram and also wrote political articles for newspapers in Kuwait. When I was 18, I had a high school sweetheart who broke my heart which prompted my poetry. I did put pictures up of myself but whenever I saw that a picture had too many likes I would delete it.

As someone whose identity was linked to how I did academically, and not how I looked, I didn’t want to be perceived as just a pretty face. I mean I got a ton of awards at school, for French, the constitution… so just being liked for a picture didn’t mean much. I wanted to be recognised for my achievements.” Being liked for how she looked didn’t sit well with

Rawan for other reasons as well. “I was obese as a child which was very stressful as I was bullied a lot. Even though I lost the weight at around 16, I gained it back again. But my weight has never affected my self-confidence. I’m more than my looks. And I’ve always felt
that way.”

Whether she liked being noticed for her pictures or not, Rawan caught the media’s eye. “MBC, the biggest broadcasting platform in the Middle East, published an article on my writing and my pictures, etc, calling me the Brooke Shields of Kuwait. I remember landing back in Kuwait between my move from LA and the UK, and having the immigration officers know who I was.

BEAUTY BY KIKO MILANO ARABIA
SKIN & EYES: Same as facing page.
LIPS: Unlimited double touch  #109 Red; Everlasting colour precision lip liner  #411.
FASHION
Shirt, SemSem
Denim dress, Ashley Graham x Marina Rinaldi

When I got home, my father was on fire because my videos and pictures were everywhere. The article went viral. It was the first time people in Kuwait saw a Kuwaiti with white skin and blue eyes…” Rawan laughs at the look on my face. “You’ve got to remember this was four years ago. Social media was not as big as it is now. And all the Kuwaitis on social media had dark skin, dark hair and dark eyes with a certain look… heavy make-up etc. I stood out as I look more like my mom – she’s very fair. People had a certain impression of what Kuwaitis look like and I didn’t fit the mould. Also, the fact that I was living abroad alone and writing… that caught people’s attention. There were a lot of pretty girls but I refuse to believe that my following increased only because of my looks.”

She stood out alright. Young, driven, beautiful and unafraid to be herself, with a story to tell, Rawan quickly became a role model for the Gen Z Arab girl. “I know my strengths. It’s not like my fashion sense is so great. I’m liked because I’m doing a bunch of interesting things and am always exploring new stuff…” Four years on and Rawan has made it to the top of the influencer heap in the region. How have her parents taken her fame? “My father is still super sensitive about everything. He reads every comment (laughs) and asks me to block this and block that… he’s a dad.”

Travelling back for 24 hours to do a shoot and rushing back to Uni, while also having fun, being young and living it up the way any student should, may sound exhausting to most, but Rawan thrives on the craziness. “I love being busy. Having a frenetic life is totally in my DNA. I like studying so I stuck to it; no one forced me. I could’ve moved to Dubai and made millions like other influencers but I didn’t. In fact, I worked so I could support my life expenses in London. No one is paying my bills and I live my life the way I want to.”

BEAUTY BY KIKO
MILANO ARABIA:
THIS PAGE:
FACE:
Smart radiant
3 in 1 primer;
Insta-moister foundation N1.5;
Face palate N3;
Radiant fusion highlighter;
Invisible touch powder;
Face make-up fixer.
EYES: Smart cult eyeshadow palate N1 & N2;
Maxi Mood mascara;
Extra sculpt eyebrow pencil #5;
Precision liner.
LIPS: Unlimited double touch #120;
Everlasting colour precision lip liner #402.
FACING PAGE: Same.

FASHION:
THIS PAGE:
Top, Stella McCartney from Ounass.com
Jeans, Ashley Graham x Marina Rinaldi
Earrings, Elisabetta Franchi
FACING PAGE:
Top, Marella
Skirt, Fendi from Ounass.com
Belt, Ashley Graham x Marina Rinaldi

She may be Gen Z when it comes to her age, but Rawan seems way older, with perspective that people acquire well into their 30s. “My gap year in Dubai has a lot to do with how much time I want to spend with my parents. I’ve spent five years away from them. I miss my noisy sisters in the morning, I miss my father telling me off when I wear something short…” Does she want to have kids soon? “I want to have kids young and I want a big family. I was raised with four siblings and we’re all very close to our parents. I really cherish my family. Most girls as young and famous as me would be off doing fashion shoots and doing whatever instead of getting married. For me, family is the biggest achievement ever.” Kids and family may be on her brain but

Rawan hasn’t given up her dreams of going back to school. “After my gap year I’m going to L.A to get my masters and teach,” she says. What about her career as an influencer? “Right now, it’s a hobby. I really think that social media will lose popularity in a couple of years.” What makes her say that? “It’s just like everything. Do you watch TV now? It’s all about Netflix. Every generation has its phases. I remember when Instagram first started, brands had big budgets and influencers were making a lot of money. Now, brands have reduced their budgets as consumers are smarter – they know when something is paid and something is organic.” 

BEAUTY BY KIKO
MILANO ARABIA:
FACE:
Smart radiant
3 in 1 primer;
Insta-moister foundation N1.5;
Face palate N3;
Radiant fusion highlighter;
Invisible touch powder;
Face make-up fixer.
EYES: Smart cult eyeshadow palate N1 & N2;
Maxi Mood mascara;
Extra sculpt eyebrow pencil #5;
Precision liner.
LIPS: Unlimited double touch #120;
Everlasting colour precision lip liner #402.

FASHION:
Top, Stella McCartney from Ounass.com
Earrings, Elisabetta Franchi.

She may have an idea about what the future holds, but the thing that makes Rawan a winner in our books is simple: she isn’t afraid to bend the rules, adapt and evolve if things don’t go according to plan.

“You never know… maybe next year I’ll have a different vision for my life. You’re not supposed to be the same. You need to change, to evolve and grow. If you have the same ambitions every year then I’m sorry, you’re not doing well in life. You’re meant to dream bigger.”

And so she does – dream bigger that is – without fear or superficial concerns such as popularity, looks and money getting in her way. For Rawan knows what she knows because she’s rooted – in her family and above all, in herself. I walk away from our conversation feeling a little less jaded about the future. If there are Influencers like Rawan around, there’s hope yet.

By Kavita Srinivasan @kavitasrin
Photography: Oliver Marshall Doran @oliverdoran
Styling: Celia Jane Ukwenya @celiajaneukwenyastylist
Stylist’s Assistant: Leen Kassab @leenkassab
All Make-up and Beauty: Zaid Jab for Kiko Milano Arabia @kikomilanoarabia
Hair: Sarah Jane @sjmakeupdubai