In 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince announced new reforms as part of his diversification strategy, commonly known as Vision 2030. The reforms granted women freedoms they had never previously known. The changes represent a clear indication that Kingdom really is modernizing. However, this article isn’t going in the direction you expect. In fact, speaking about reforms and changes has been labeled as “redundant and old news”, according to the Saudi women Pulse had the pleasure of meeting this month. In the car, while we drove to our first location for the shoot we were doing for Fashion Trust Arabia, I looked back over my shoulder and asked, “What is something you wish people stopped asking you about?” — Their reply was one: “What is it like being a woman in Saudi Arabia?”

So, who are these five fresh and fearless young women leading the creative wave in Saudi, you ask? You’re about to find out.

Haya Abdullah is a fashion director and creative director based in Riyadh, “My life takes me all over the world and I’m truly blessed to be doing what I love on a daily basis,” she tells us. Hessa Alajaji, who we met last month in our monthly column ‘Pulse Loves The Newbie’, is a creative focused on all things makeup. In 2021, the makeup guru turned entrepreneur launched her first business venture, Han Makeup. Linda Tariq is a multidisciplinary creative, whose language is art. Best known for being a model, Tariq tells us that “modeling is like a plain canvas [where art is created] using the body.”

Last but not least, are Noura and Alanoud Osama. The siblings are trailblazers in their own right. Noura is a makeup artist whose work speaks for itself, and she’s worked on campaigns for Jean Paul Gaultier, among others. She tells us her passion for makeup comes from her love of drawing and painting. Her sister, Alanoud, is one of the first female Saudi models. Her lifelong dream was to become a model, and she’s making that a reality every day.

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day – a global day celebrated annually to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women. So that’s what we’re doing today – celebrating the incredible women we met in Saudi this month. From female figures they admire, their personal hurdles and strengths, we discussed all things womanhood. We also drift for a quick minute to talk food. You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite dish. Aren’t we all foodies at heart?

Let’s get into it.

What does womanhood mean to you?

Hessa: Womanhood means solidarity, kindness, strength and genuine love.

Haya: Unity, power and greatness.

Linda: Womanhood means strength while maintaining elegance.

Alanoud: Femininity is beauty before anything else. Womanhood is a measure of beauty and the beauty of women, in particular, the female is beautiful, talented, innovative and strong. Being a female in our society is a source of pride, especially under the influence of our generous government. I am proud to be a strong Saudi female.

Noura: Beauty, inside and out.

What, in your opinion, is the most important challenge women face today?

Hessa: Needing to assert ourselves no matter how far we’ve got, or how much we’ve achieved.

Haya: Being underestimated simply for being women, yet we always rise to the occasion and achieve 10 times more.

Linda: Women being represented and heard in the appropriate way.

Alanoud: Women face many challenges, particularly in this day and age. However, I believe that one of the main challenges is society’s acceptance of their new ideas – ideas that are smart and innovative.

Noura: Women around the world are still striving for equal rights in their respective countries. Nevertheless, as women we continue to persevere and accept any challenges presented to us.

What is your greatest strength as a woman?

Hessa: I believe every woman has her own unique set of strengths, for me personally, it is knowing how to stand my ground when necessary.

Haya: My kindness and ambition, although they don’t go hand in hand sometimes.

Linda: To endure hardship with beauty and grace.

Alanoud: I think I am strong in all respects because I am a woman. Women are the measure of patience, endurance and feelings.

Noura: The greatest strength that women possess is the ability to persevere when obstacles are presented to us. We have a specific skill set, relying partly on our own intuition, to make difficult decisions.

What is the greatest hurdle you’ve overcome?

Hessa: Misogyny, I think I’ll always need to overcome it every single day, but I’m pushing through no matter what.

Haya: A lot of personal struggles that I had to go through to get to where I’m at today, I believe in a saying that says “What’s meant to be will always find it’s way” and going through such traumatic experiences made me more resilient and a thousand times stronger.

Linda: People trying to help in ways that prevent my growth.

Alanoud: The biggest obstacle was society’s opinion about me being one of the first Saudi female fashion models. I belong to society and society belongs to me.

Noura: Bullying and being underestimated.

If you could name one woman you admire/look up to — who would it be? Why?

Hessa: As cliché as it may sound, my mother is the woman I admire and look up to the most. And I think it’s because I’ve witnessed firsthand how strong, kindhearted, smart and respected she is.

Haya: I admire myself. For all that I’ve done, for all that I’m doing. I want to make my teenage self proud.

Linda: I do my best to be my own role model, I embody both my parents’ principles and values without repeating their flaws. I just try to become a person I look up to.

Alanoud: Would I be labeled a narcissist if I chose myself?

Noura: My mom, because she is the most powerful woman I have ever seen and I believe every woman on this earth is powerful in a different way and I’m so proud of them.

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would you choose and why?

Hessa: Driven, I never give up on what is possible.

Haya: Kind, because it’s a blessing and a curse, but I choose to make it a blessing that I can be so empathetic and giving to everyone around me regardless of anything.

Linda: Linda, in Saudi Arabia it is an exotic name, in the West it’s a common name. In Portuguese, it means beautiful. It represents a beautiful outdoor place, nature, while being beautiful.

Alanoud: Female, because I’m one proud, strong female.

Noura: Optimistic.

If you were in a position of authority, what would be the main rule you would implement?

Hessa: Paying creatives fairly

Haya: A lot! I can’t even begin to count them. Maybe I’ll keep them to myself for now and work on achieving them for myself and other women.

Linda: I have no interest in implementing rules.

Alanoud: Justice.

Noura: Equal opportunities.

What’s one place that eases your mind?

Hessa: Home, in my living room with my dog and husband. This combo is perfect.

Haya: Spending the day with my dog, Cookie, and not having a care in the world. So I guess wherever my dog is?

Linda: My husband’s arms.

Alanoud: My bedroom.

Noura: Somewhere around my family.

What’s one dish you could live off for the rest of your life?

Hessa: Not a dish, but chips, LOL.

Haya: A good cesar salad, no chicken, extra dressing, parmesan cheese and a slice of bread. And of course accompanied by a Coca Cola — extra ice and two slices of lemon.

Linda: Shawarma.

Alanoud: Hard question, but I would choose pizza.

Noura: Sushi.

If you could give your younger yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Hessa: Stop being so nice.

Haya: Don’t doubt yourself.

Linda: Stay strong, believe in yourself and it will all work out.

Alanoud: Be satisfied, be sufficient.

Noura: Take your time.