Zahra Lyla is the social media starlet; you NEED to add to your follow list in 2021. When it comes to fashion and lifestyle across the Gulf, Zahra has been a mainstay for many years after finding success with her first blog in 2009.
Since then, she has created opportunities for herself to work with the likes of Harper’s Bazaar UK, The Sunday Times Style, and assisting top stylists such as Mel Ottenberg, photographers Sean and Seng, and model Joan Smalls. In 2016, Zahra was given a life-changing opportunity to help with the roll-out of Vogue Arabia, the Holy Grail for all those in the fashion world. Her following has continued to grow across all social media outlets, and in 2020, she founded her creative enterprise, The Other Agency.
In addition to her creative successes, Zahra is also a big advocate for Mental Health in the UAE region. The stigma behind Mental Health issues has existed worldwide. However, there seems a greater focus on tackling it within the region. On the 10th of October each year, the Dubai Health Authority observes World Mental Health day; there has also been the unveiling of the Al Jalila Foundation award for journalists who discuss and encourage acceptance of mental illnesses.
Despite the early signs of improvements, dealing with mental health in the region is still in its infancy. An independent review found a minimal number of psychologists and mental health professionals, and facilities in the area. However, comments and awareness rising by influencers such as Zahra are a welcome addition to the narrative.
“I want people to feel more confident and remove the taboo of mental health (…) it can impact all elements of people’s lives; their work, relationships, and attitude. Seeking help is not being defeated; some people can be down on themselves when there could be other issues. I would love to have a positive impact on people, especially the younger generation.”
A new comprehensive draft Federal Mental Health Act is in its final review and approval stages. The hope is to produce consistent and sustainable changes in mental health practices throughout the UAE. “We should encourage people to reach out to health professionals (…) if you had a pain in your body you would consult a doctor, the same mantra should apply to mental health.”
It is refreshing and forward-thinking for stars such as Zahra to speak out on this issue; although there is a lot more work to do in the region, initial signs are positive for all.