'I always try to be a better person'

This much I know Parisa Askari owns and runs Parisa Beauty Salon, which has branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Abu Dhabi - July 16, 2008:  Parisa Askari, owner of Pariska Beauty Center in Abu Dhabi poses with the "Ionto", her favorite "beauty concepty machine" which she uses for facials. Lauren Lancaster / The National  *** Local Caption ***  LL_ParisaAskari001.jpg
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Parisa Askari owns and runs Parisa Beauty Salon, which has branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. She has lived in Abu Dhabi for 28 years. I was born in Hue in Vietnam. My father died when I was two and my mother remarried soon after. She went on to have seven more children, but I was adopted by my aunt and uncle. They brought me up, along with my grandmother. Even now, although I am fond of my mother, I love my aunt, uncle and grandmother like parents. My husband is Iranian and we met in Karachi. I was on my way to France with my family (we have a lot of family there) and we started going out. Three years later, we got married in Tehran.

We have Canadian citizenship and have a house in Vancouver. All our children were born here but live there now. One is an engineer, one is training to be a lawyer and the other is at university. Abu Dhabi is my home for the time being and I'm very comfortable here. I see our future in Canada, though. I believe I have done most things right by my children, although when my eldest son said he wanted to study in Paris, I advised him against it. I was very lonely as a child and I thought it was important that they all stayed together. In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do because he would have got a lot out of it.

I wanted to be a lawyer when I was young; I am a good debater. But my husband wanted me to do something more flexible, so I trained as a hairdresser instead. Hairdressing is an extremely happy profession; after every client you have the satisfaction of seeing them looking better. However, all the perm chemicals we used (everyone wanted perms back then) affected my hands, so I switched to beauty instead. We were living in Karachi and I had some Emirati clients who were on holiday there. They offered me a job at one of the palaces here in Abu Dhabi and they found my husband a job in the Department of Defence, so we moved here in 1980.

I had three salons in Abu Dhabi at one point, but it became too much. I had a bad car accident because I was rushing between salons, so I decided to concentrate my efforts on one bigger place. I had lots of clients who came down from Dubai, so I recently opened a salon there as well. I divide my time between the two. We have a lovely apartment on the Palm with views out to sea. I like to get up early, at about 5am and go for a walk along the Corniche with my husband. I'm usually at work by 8. I like to get everything set up before we open at 9. The salon is very successful and I am usually booked all day. I train all the staff myself and we're like a family. It's sad whenever anyone leaves. I'm like their mother and I give them advice on how to save their money because I know from experience how important it is.

My idea of a perfect day is to have a facial, manicure and pedicure, then go home and play the piano a little. I learnt when I was young and usually play Vietnamese music. I love going to the movies; my favourite films are Love Story, Titanic and Dr Zhivago. Then perhaps some dinner with my husband. Our maid is a good cook and I've taught her lots of Vietnamese dishes, which are very healthy with lots of vegetables.

I collect Swarovski crystals and have about 1,000 now. I love the rainbow the light creates when it shines through. It reminds me of the ones in Vancouver, which you get a lot of in August and September. I keep them on the window sill and the room is lit up with rainbows. Oprah is one of my heroes. She had a hard childhood but she became somebody and now she uses her influence to help people. I am always trying to be a better person and enjoy helping people.

I am a very happy person, maybe because I have a happy marriage, three lovely children and a good business. I couldn't ask for any more. I'm not religious. I believe that once you die, you're gone. For me, heaven is where I live now.