Since Bravo announced that it’s bringing its Real Housewives franchise to Dubai, there has been one question on every fan's mind: who will star in The Real Housewives of Dubai?
The American television network is yet to comment on the cast, but has promised “over-the-top opulence, jaw-dropping modern architecture and wild nightlife scene”.
And of the cast, Bravo has said to expect “a group of women navigating their relationships, careers and supremely lavish and ultra-wealthy lifestyles in the United Arab Emirates.”
Here we take a look at some of the UAE social figures and influencers who could appear on The Real Housewives of Dubai.
Instagram following: 528,077 @carolinestanbury
One of the names that is being speculated the most is Caroline Stanbury’s, and should she be confirmed as part of the cast, this won’t be her first reality TV show stint. Stanbury, 45, starred on Bravo's Ladies of London from 2014 until 2017. She has since moved to Dubai, where she lives with ex-footballer fiance Sergio Carrallo.
Stanbury has no shortage of stories to tell, she dated Prince Andrew back in 2000, following his split from Sarah, Duchess of York. She was married to Turkish investment banker Cem Habib for 15 years; the couple announced their split in 2019 and have three children together.
Speaking of returning to reality TV, she told Us Weekly in 2019: “Never say never. With TV, it’s one step at a time.
“I want to come back. I get asked about Real Housewives of Dubai all the time, so many people want it. I don’t think it’ll work because it’s very hard to film there. But I’m open. Be it on stage or be it on TV, you’re definitely going to be seeing more of me.”
Sara Al Madani
Instagram following: 427,688 @sara_almadani_
Emirati entrepreneur Sara Al Madani has amassed a large social media following as she grows her many businesses, with interests in fashion and technology business, as well as the restaurant industry.
She started working aged 15 and has also held government roles. In 2014, she was selected a board member for Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“I believe when you want to be a leader, you need to inspire by setting examples,” she told Accounting and Business Magazine in 2017. “I started my business when I was 15 and it was a man’s world; nobody helped me."
She says she tries to be an example to Emirati women, and encourages them to build businesses of their own.
“When an expat woman succeeds here, she sets an example for locals. I use these case studies to motivate local women. I tell them, 'Look, they left their hometowns and came to a different country; they have a lot of risks to take and yet they’re doing something. You are in your own country and you have it easier. Do something. Take a risk.'”
Her LinkedIn biography reads: “Serial Entrepreneur. Public Speaker. Investor. Global Citizen. Rebel. Spiritual Gangster. Wanderlust. Leadership Expert.”
In May, Al Madani, who is a single mother, joked that she is a “goal digger, not a gold digger” during a video interview with YouTube channel Curly Tales.
Instagram following: 9.6 million @lindsaylohan
It’s no secret that Mean Girls actress Lindsay Lohan lives in, and loves, Dubai. The former-child star has lived in the UAE for seven years, citing a lack of paparazzi as one of the attractions to life in the Emirates.
She is said to be dating Lebanese banker, Bader Chammas, and was seen with him in Hammana in June.
It’s not expected that Lohan will join the first season’s cast, but Andy Cohen, who is executive producer of Real Housewives and hosts the famously explosive reunion episodes, said he would “love” for her to join the show in the future.
When asked by a paparazzi if she was on the cards, Cohen replied: “Do you think Lindsay Lohan would do it? I would love it. I love Lindsay Lohan."
Instagram following: 6.8 million @karenwazen
With almost seven million followers on Instagram, Lebanese-British influencer Karen Wazen is certainly a major name on the UAE’s social media scene.
Married to Elias Bakhazi, the couple have three children and live in Dubai. Of moving to the city she has said: “At the beginning, I thought it was temporary and we’d just live here for a couple of years. But today, I can tell you, it’s home. I don’t see myself going anywhere.”
She is behind the popular brand, Karen Wazen Eyewear.
Instagram following: 531,350 @nina.ali
Nina Ali is a Lebanese-American influencer who used to go by the moniker, Lipstick Mommy. She is married to British businessman Munif Ali and they have three children, Sophia, Nour and Ayan.
A co-founder of Fruit Cake and attached to Phoenix Store, a cryptocurrency mining hardware retailer, Ali has a diverse business portfolio.
She was born in Lebanon, but her family moved to Austin, Texas, when she was aged 4.
Speaking to Harper's Bazaar Arabia, she said of her early days on Instagram: “I didn’t even really know how Instagram worked. I just liked the idea of putting pictures up. And then people began to follow me, especially other mothers. It’s because of my followers and their support that I am who I am today.”
Instagram following: 218,078 @chanelayan
Often dubbed Dubai’s top model, Chanel Ayan, who was born Ayan Pillott, has worked on campaigns for Piaget, Moschino, Van Cleef and Chanel and is described as an Amato muse. The Kenyan model has been married for more than 20 years and has a 16-year-old son, who also models. She moved to Dubai in 2004.
“I know a lot of models that can’t keep relationships, they have many opportunities, meeting different people, so, it kind of make it easy not to keep relationships,” she told the Nigerian Tribune in 2019.
“I believe in love. I have kept all my love this 20 years, I have kept my kid knowing his mum and dad, compared to how I grew up, that makes me really proud of the other person, to show my kid there are better people and people can keep their relationship intact and fight for family values and all that stuff. But that doesn’t mean I have had it easy, life is full of ups and downs but the thing is, you should be with somebody you can make your friend. My husband is kind of like my friend.”
She says she frequently gets mistaken for Somali-American model, Iman, the widow of David Bowie.
“[People] always mistake me for Iman because I look exactly like Iman,” she told Vanguard magazine in 2019. “I actually sent her message on Instagram and I said, ‘Hey, do you really think I look like you because I get this a lot?” She was like, ‘Oh my God, you really, really look like me.’”
Instagram following: 130,846 @carolinedxb
Social media star and real estate director Caroline Brooks is also tipped to be on the show.
She describes herself as a “Boston-born real estate powerhouse, currently residing in Dubai”.
“I knew what I wanted out of life from a very young age. I never knew how privileged I was growing up until I travelled the world and got to see life through the eyes of so many people and cultures,” she wrote on Instagram in July. “Traveling and living abroad for the past 11 years has taught me so much, I began to appreciate my parents for everything.”
Brooks has been an executive director at Rent DXB real estate company for four years and she has cryptic Roman numerals in her Instagram bio, XV.XI.MMXXI, so could November 15 be the day she’s going to be announced for the show?
Lesa Milan Hall
Instagram following: 79,664 @lesa.milan
Jamaican designer Lesa Milan Hall, born Lesa-Gayle Wee Tom, is a former beauty pageant regular. She was a contestant in Miss Jamaica Universe 2009, and the Miss Caribbean World, Miss Hollywood Teen USA and Queen Miss Jamaica Caribbean World pageants in 2010.
She is no stranger to reality TV, having been cast in BET’s College Hill in 2008.
Milan Hall was linked to athlete Usain Bolt in 2010, but she is now married to British financer, Richard Hall, the couple have three sons.
Instagram following: 40,392 @kellymariehodgkin
Businesswomen Kelly Hodgkin could be a candidate for the series. With numerous businesses and investments under her belt, including Gym Clothing Co, Nood underwear company and Bella Restaurant & Lounge in Dubai’s Business Bay.
She is mum to three sons and a director at PPMG media group, her husband Darren Hodgkin is the chief executive of the company. She has lived in Dubai for 13 years and resides in Jumeirah Golf Estates with her family.
Speaking to The National in July, Hodgkin said: “I was adopted at a very young age, along with my two sisters, and moved in with a family in Essex (south-east England). Mum was a teaching assistant, dad was an engineer. We never had a lot of money but I did not feel I wanted for anything.”
Of a low-point, she recalls: “I remember in England when I slept on a police bench and another time in a car. I could not even afford a bag of crisps. It was low but those times really shape you. When I moved here, I was renting a room and when I did not have a job, I would clean the house and cook because I was not able to afford my rent.”
Will there be many Emirati stars in ‘The Real Housewives of Dubai’?
So far, apart from Al Madani, there have been no other Emirati influencers speculated to join the Bravo cast.
The shortage of local names was the topic of conversation on Reddit, with one member writing: “I'm guessing this will have very few local women and mainly people who moved there from other countries.”
During a conversation about whether or not The Real Housewives of Dubai will be “representative” of life in Dubai, another said, “It's just about a few expat women who live there.”
Another pondered if the series is just going to feature “people being in Dubai” rather than an Emirati cast.