Emile Zarife

Emile Zarife defines the modern Middle Eastern man

Emile Zarife is a former women’s magazine fashion editor turned renaissance man: he blogs in Arabic at Anasharqi.com – “I’m Middle Eastern” –  while his Instagram content about fashion, fitness, wellness and mental health that has earned him 45k plus followers.

Livehealthy editorial director Ann Marie McQueen chatted to Esquire magazine’s Best Dressed Man about what it means to be a Middle Eastern man in 2023, the toxic stereotypes that surround masculinity, his top fashion tips and much more. 

What does it mean to be a Middle Eastern man in 2023?

Well, there’s a big difference between the stereotype of what a Middle Eastern man is, and who they actually are. They are actually normal human beings who have emotions, mental health issues and challenges just like the rest of us do.  There’s this idea that Middle Eastern men have to be unemotional, strong and be a good example for society.

This is stereotyping and putting so much pressure on people to fit into a certain definition of masculinity. Because the truth is that you can still be a masculine Middle Eastern man if you prioritise your wellbeing or self-care.

It’s not selfish at all if you talk about the challenges you’re facing, if you show weakness, if you cry, if you like fashion, or have a skin care routine. These are normal things, but they don’t conform with the stereotype of a Middle Eastern man.

So, I would say a 2023 Middle Eastern man is just a man who embraces his wellbeing. He embraces his masculinity, but he likes to look good and doesn’t worry about what society will think of him if he expresses any emotions.

Does talking about your emotions get easier with time?

Personally, I have come a long way. When I first started speaking openly I would say things in a shy way just to be politically correct. I didn’t want to put all my thoughts out there immediately. But when people started identifying with what I was saying, it encouraged me to say more.

So yes, with time it gets easier. Plus, these days there are so many people out there who are breaking barriers, changing society, and being outspoken about stereotypes.

What does your family think of your work?

It’s a bit challenging. If you look at my Instagram account, it’s quite fashion-forward and there’s a lot of focus on fitness. So my family will say ‘Why are you wearing this?’ or ‘Why are you talking about this?’ 

So the education I impart goes all the way from my own home, right out to my social media following.

It is challenging working on social media? 

Of course, it’s a very challenging and competitive market, especially in the UAE. You have to really branch out in terms of the quality of your content. You have to stand out, offer something niche and be true to what you believe in. Because you get lots of collaboration offers for brands that you don’t relate to. So you have to choose between accepting them or staying true to yourself. At the end of the day, social media is a business as well.

How do you find the confidence to handle rejections?

It’s a learning curve. I’ve realised that sometimes when you get a ‘no’, you just need to ask again. Because sometimes it’s with persistence that you get people interested, because you stay at the front of their mind. I’m sure lots of brands receive hundreds of requests daily. So I learned not to take a ‘no’ as a personal rejection.  This can really set you back and cause you to go into a negative spiral.

I realized you always have to ask again. If someone doesn’t reply to your email, don’t start questioning yourself. I really encourage people to send reminders. Not to the extent of harassment, but just to see if a different timing would work.

Sometimes a ‘no’ will turn into a ‘yes’ three months later. I take every rejection as a challenge. When someone gives you an opportunity, it opens doors for others as well. You need to believe in yourself and work to get your name out there.

What is your ethos when it comes to health and wellness?

I believe in making gradual changes. People think it’s all or nothing when it comes to fitness, especially with new year’s resolutions. They take it to the extreme and go from not working out to working out five times a week, or from not eating healthy to eating healthy every day. This just creates frustration. 

It’s better to start new habits slowly. For example, if you’re doing 1,000 steps a day, start doing 3,000 and from there keep on moving. Or start with 20 minutes of exercise, two times a week and add to that. Healthy habits are the recipe for success when it comes to fitness. That’s why I don’t believe in these drastic and immediate changes. I believe in gradual steps. That way it will become part of your lifestyle without you realizing it or without it feeling like it’s a burden.

How do you work out? 

I do strength training, tennis and a bit of casual cycling. I keep active as much as possible and I work out six times a week. I’m very religiously disciplined about my workout.

I do cardio if I’m on vacation or if I fancy a change of scenery or being outdoors. But my sole focus for now is strength training.

I do encourage any type of physical activity, because as I always say in my videos and podcast, fitness is not only about going to the gym. You can be active by going for a run, by walking, cycling or swimming. Find an activity that you love, because that makes it easier for you to pursue it. Some people are put off from going to a gym for lots of reasons.

Do you do nutrition content?

I don’t because I don’t have a background in nutrition, but I do share what I eat. My food program also came out of research and trial and error. I believe in small meals and snacks throughout the day. I don’t believe in one big bulky meal. I think that you should eat everything in moderation. I have one treat day a week, but I don’t take it to the extreme. I don’t think you should put barriers on food, because having an unhealthy relationship with food puts so much mental pressure on yourself.

I would say you can easily eat healthy as long as you monitor what you eat.

What are your top fashion tips? 

I think lots of people don’t know how to dress. They just don’t realise there’s a way of styling things and looking better. 

First, you need to know the colors that suit you and the styles and cuts that suit you. Secondly, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to follow trends and wear something you’re uncomfortable with. That’s going to affect your self-esteem.

The fitting is also important. Especially for suits, but with any item that doesn’t fit properly, you can always visit the tailor and adjust it. There’s so many guys who neglect styling.  So every time they go out, they feel like they could be a better version of themselves.

There’s a big relationship between clothes and how we feel. Clothes really empower you on a day-to-day basis and give you better self-esteem. For instance, you would have more confidence in approaching people or running a meeting.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or try things. Get out of your comfort zone. A man is not only supposed to wear denim with a shirt and a blazer. You can wear a suit with a t-shirt and sneakers, or a bit of color. In spring or summer, you can try short-sleeved shirts, or in winter oversized sweaters. It’s okay to try, but I think most guys don’t know how to start.

Which stores do you recommend for men?

Personally, I like department stores because they have several different brands that you can style and match. It depends on your budget as well.

But it’s possible to really style some nice items anywhere as long as you know your fit and your colors. One of the first things that others notice in men are shoes and belts. So you should invest in good quality accessories.

To find out more, visit anasharqi.com, or find Emile on Instagram @ana_sharqi

Livehealthymag.com is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



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