Joelle Mardinian to Majalla: the Bullying I Endured in London Changed My Life

Fashion Expert and Influencer Joelle Mardianian Gives Us Her Take on Online Bullying, Her Newly Adopted Baby and the Lebanese Protests

* I always try to look at instances of ridicule through a positive and lighthearted lens.

*I hope one day that Lebanon becomes a united nation not affected by sectarianism, religious intolerance, and social stratification; I hope that the nation can rise up and build a great country for our children and generations to come…

* As Arabs, we have a lot of history to be proud of and how we destroyed this history is beyond me.
Beirut: For the past two decades, Joelle Mardinian has been one of the most prominent Arab women, particularly in the world of fashion and beauty. Her 14 years as the host of her television program “Ma’a Joelle” (With Joelle), helped her become a household name in both her home country of Lebanon and the Middle East as a whole. As it stands, she is the second most followed influencer throughout all social media platforms. Her ubiquitous presence on social media has enabled her to campaign for life principles she believes in, such as motherhood, self-confidence, anti-bullying, especially bullying towards children and teenagers. Naturally, she also utilizes social media platforms to showcase her expertise in fashion, beauty, and makeup which are her main areas of expertise.

In addition to her work in the beauty industry, a large following on social media, Mardinian has also been influential for being the first Arab celebrity to adopt a child and wholeheartedly welcome him into her family. As such, she is raising Nathan, her adopted son, and is treating him the same way she treats Billy, her eldest child from her first marriage, and Ella Sophia, her daughter from her current marriage to Kamal Kaddoura.
Majalla recently sat down with Mardinian where she gave us a delightful interview discusses her plans for the future and her decision to adopt a child.

Q: Do you consider yourself one of the biggest influencers on social media?

A: I don’t think of myself as the most important influencer, rather one of the most prominent ones. Influence isn’t the most vital factor in my social media presence since influence can be either positive or negative. I strive to leave a positive impact on my followers, which is why I campaign for issues that concern girls and women. That doesn’t mean that I only present serious issues, my platforms present a good balance of fun posts and important posts. I feel a great sense of joy when I become a positive influence on my followers because I truly care about them. I always try to give my followers advice on a number of subjects, and I especially love helping small business owners by promoting their businesses. I love reading direct messages from followers thanking me for my help, and I thank my followers for making me the second most followed influencer in the Arab world.

Q: Do you think you were influential before the advent of social media?

A: Of course, I wasn’t as famous as I am today. However, as a television presenter, I was well-known. After my ventures in television, I decided to go into the beauty industry and was dedicated to my clinic and beauty salon and that helped continue my popularity. While I wasn’t as famous as I was today, those days had many benefits that I took for granted, namely a more private personal life. That isn’t to say though that I don’t appreciate my followers on all my social media platforms.

Joelle with her husband Karim Kaddoura. 

Q: Have you ever considered going back to television given how successful your program on MBC was?

A: (She laughs) I happen to know some great news that I cannot fully disclose, but there are plans to renew my MBC program. This program meant a lot to me, and I only truly appreciated it after it came off the air. It was a program that channeled my beliefs of giving viewers self-confidence, hope, and strength. It was truly a unique program that continuously stayed on the air for 14 years, and its popularity never waned during this almost decade and a half long period. Many similar shows that aired in Europe and the US never had this longevity, and I plan to get back on the air with this program in the near future.

Q: Do you ever see yourself going into acting and the cinema industry?

A: (She laughs) Why not? I studied acting while I was at school and I loved it very much. Moreover, I grew to love it even more after I moved to London from Lebanon. In England, acting was a compulsory course that everyone had to take. I enjoyed acting more than fine arts, one of the more unconventional reasons why I liked acting so much is because you can never lie in the fashion industry otherwise you’d never go far. But, in acting, you get the license of adopting personas that are different from your own, provided the role makes me feel comfortable and is interesting in its own right.

Q: Do you think Arab women need TV programs centered on beauty, skincare, makeup, and fashion?

A:  Of course such programs are needed. However, the programs I presented weren’t just about making women happy with their appearance; they also featured serious topics regarding the beauty industry. For instance, we understood that we had a responsibility to present the benefits and drawbacks of plastic surgery, as well as the pros and cons of certain beauty products and how to properly use them. I took this responsibility very seriously and saw to it that my advice had all the important information and all the minute details. I ensure that the products and services I provide in my clinic and salon are of high quality, and the same goes for the advice I give on my shows. I don’t like lying to people, and I cannot do so, being honest is one of the simplest things a person can do.

Q: As a famous person, you have suffered multiple incidents of bullying and ridicule. Does that bother you, and how do you react to such instances?

A: I always try to look at these instances through a positive and lighthearted lens. I don’t have followers who mock me, but there are pages on social media that satirically make fun of me, but they don’t bother me since other celebrities have satirical pages made about them. Furthermore, my family members and I often partake in lighthearted banter towards each other, so I know how to take a joke. I also never receive any insults, I only receive petty remarks like “Your hair color is horrible”, and that doesn’t bother me, as a matter of fact, I view it as a blessing. An insult from my husband, brother or son would break my heart, but words from faceless individuals fly over my head.

Q: You recently announced that you recently adopted a child, even though you already have two children. What’s the reasoning behind your decision?

A: The decision to adopt a child didn’t come overnight; it was something I decided to do ever since I was really young. As a matter of fact, it was actually something that I have been pondering over since I was a child. Eleven years ago I told my husband about this desire and he wholeheartedly supported it. Five years ago, we started telling our son and daughter about our intention to adopt so that the idea is implanted in their heads by the time we do it. We tried adopting many times since then, but things wouldn’t end up working in our favor. The entire ordeal was a private matter and I would only discuss it with family members and loved ones, and I never thought it would become a massive subject of interest on social media. As such, today I openly discuss it on my platforms for the followers who interested in the topic. The day I adopted Nathan was without a doubt the most wonderful day of my life, that isn’t to say that the birth of my older children weren't happy days. However, my pregnancies with my biological children weren’t strenuous experiences, but the process to adopt Nathan was a long and winding road and to this day I cannot believe that he is part of our lives, it feels as if it’s a dream. My dream is for all orphans can leave their orphanages and live in homes with families, perhaps when things get better I can help all orphaned children in some way. Adoption isn’t just for families that can’t conceive, but naturally, they should have priority since they cannot have children of their own. Nathan is my child and I do not treat him any differently than my biological children, I love him with all of my heart and he is the best thing I have ever done with my life.

Joelle with her family. 

Q: Do you ever fear that Nathan’s biological mother will come back for him?

A: I am Nathan’s real mother and I have played this role every day ever since I adopted him. I was just telling my elder son, Billy, that I feel sorry for Nathan’s biological mother since she does not know where he is, she doesn’t know what he’s doing and she must be asking herself every day on the whereabouts of her son.
But, I am certain that she is a good person, but difficult circumstances have forced her to make difficult decisions. When Nathan turns 18, we will try to find his biological mother but only if he wants to do so, of course. Every day, I think of how difficult it would be for us if we find his biological mother, but I am certain that she will thank me for raising him and always being by his side.

Q: Your media presence today doesn’t pertain only to fashion and beauty, you have since expanded to covering motherhood and its challenges. Do you ever worry that your children might get bullied because of your fame? And how do they react to such situations?

A: My children are well aware of my fame, but they don’t give it much thought and they don’t engage with any detractors on social media. Billy, my eldest son, is very mature for his age and often acts like an adult rather than a teenager. He is focused on his university studies and is has chosen his own direction in life and isn’t engaged in the same social media platforms as me. As for my daughter, Ella, she doesn’t bother with social media altogether and only uses YouTube to watch videos that appeal to kids her age. I have taught my kids to be open and honest with me and if they ever suffer from any kind of bullying they would tell me. Bullying is a terrible phenomenon, of course, my daughter’s friend gets bullied at school and I hope one day I can use my social media influence to bring this issue to light.

Q: For the first time in its history, the Lebanese people are revolting against its corrupt ruling class. Do you support this revolution and how so?

A: I hope one day that Lebanon becomes a united nation not affected by sectarianism, religious intolerance, and social stratification; I hope that the nation can rise up and build a great country for our children and generations to come, and I hope that the revolution isn’t swayed to another direction. I am always amazed when I see old photos of Lebanon, the nation used to be much more open and much more developed in the past and if it weren’t for the civil war we would have been in a much better place now than the place we are in today.

As Arabs, we have a lot of history to be proud of and how we destroyed this history is beyond me. I have seen my country at war since my childhood, a war that has forced me to flee to London. My life turned upside down in England, as I faced a lot of bullying while I was at school there. Our rulers have not taken the responsibility of serving the people. Even though I have Armenian roots, and have dual Lebanese-Italian citizenship, Lebanon will always have a special place in my heart; I was born there and am proud to be Lebanese.