I was born in Beirut, Lebanon and have been fortunate enough to have lived in over 7 different countries enabling me to become fluent in 4 languages. My ethnic background is extremely mixed as I have ancestry from Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Ethiopia. As a child, home was a constantly changing place; I hopped around from country to country living in Italy, Egypt and Morocco where I ended up staying for 8 years while I attended the American School of Tangier.
My athletic endeavors started when I was about 5 years old. I started riding and proceeded to compete in show jumping events at the age of 10. During high school, I immersed myself in sports, and was on the varsity basketball and volleyball teams. I was also captain of the track and field team during my senior year and ran the 100, 200 and 400 meter races. As queen of flexibility and sit-ups, I remember practicing sit-ups and stretches every night so that I could break the school records. Unfortunately, I could not manage to do one push-up or even a lying pull-up!!! All throughout high school I had self image problems. I could not accept being genetically muscular, and wanted to look like Barbie. It did not help that my mother was Olive Oyl incarnate who was as thin as a rail and looked fabulous.
Upon finishing high school I spent 2 years in London getting my GCE’s in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and French after which I went onto university in the USA. I moved to Washington, DC at the beginning of 1994, and started attending class at GWU. My major was Electrical Engineering with a pre-medical option. At this time since I had very few friends I spent a lot of time in the gym…but I had no clue what I was doing…
By 1997, I knew a little more about weight lifting and nutrition. It was around then that I stumbled on a fitness magazine and felt that the female bodies featured were beautifully sculpted and something far more attainable for me than the Barbie stick body. It was my epiphany if you will, and I finally realized that I too could be beautiful without being a stick figure.
I started competing as an afterthought. My trainer at the time was getting ready for his first show, and decided that I should do one as well. I was initially a bodybuilder, and then switched to fitness and finally figure. After a string of wins, I felt that it was time for me to try and get my Pro card with the IFBB but I discovered that only US citizens may compete at the Pro Qualifiers in the USA. I was told to ask my country of citizenship for a recommendation for professional status with the IFBB. I did not think that the Kuwaitis would be amenable to helping me compete in a discipline that requires the donning of a very small bikini so I decided that my only recourse was to petition the IFBB for a Pro Card. I sent in a petition explaining my situation, and with the help of Jim Manion, head of the NPC, I was finally awarded my Pro Card thus becoming not only the first Arab IFBB Figure athlete but also the first Arab female athlete to stand on the Olympia stage.
I competed obsessively from 2003-2004 snagging a place to the Olympia both years and placing 5th. In 2004, I made the decision to focus more on modeling opportunities and other projects since the competitive arena was not lucrative for women.
During my time away from the competitive stage, I added many other activities to my workouts. I enjoy rock climbing, yoga, snow boarding, Bikram and CrossFit. Being active and following a healthy and sustainable diet will always be my lifestyle regardless of whether I am on a stage, in front of a camera, or globetrotting around the world!
P.S… OK I lied.. I didn’t quite retire. I returned to the IFBB stage for one last hurrah to compete in the Bikini division. I competed in the inaugural Bikini Olympia in 2010 as the only athlete to have competed in both the inaugural Figure Olympia and the inaugural Bikini Olympia. Follow what I am up to on Twitter, Instagram or FaceBook!