'I'm not a 6-foot-tall, blue-eyed model. I'm a girl like you': Rhea Jacobs
Why 25-year-old Dubai girl Rhea Jacobs, international beauty brand ambassador for Marc Jacobs, is someone to watch out for
To those who are not a part of it, the world of glamour can seem frightfully distant. The picture-perfect faces, dreamy shapes and sizes, not to mention the towering heels and the strands of hair that are never out of place - it is this idea of beauty and style that has rendered many as misfits.
And yet, it is this very idea of fashion that, in recent years, continues to be debated and tweaked to make room for wider possibilities. Rhea Jacobs is one of them. Her surname might have you believe that she has a deeper connection with Marc Jacobs, the brand whose beauty ambassador she currently is, but she insists it's pure coincidence. The story is an absolute fairytale, should you believe in one. Nearly two years ago, the international brand set out to scout for a face that could be its international brand ambassador. The online campaign #CastMeMarc aimed to bring in talent from around the world to represent the brand with each participant talking about who they were and what inspired them to participate through a video clip. "Ten finalists from 100,000 applicants were chosen globally and flown down to New York to meet Marc and the team. It was my first time flying down to the Big Apple and I was so overwhelmed to be there. After a series of interviews and test shoots, which were later reviewed by Marc and his team, the results were announced."
The results marked a dual victory for Rhea: an international platform to launch her career as a model and the prospect of meeting "Marc" himself. That moment is etched in her memory. "He is so involved in each and every step of the business," she says. "I still remember meeting him for the first time in his office in New York. He was working on the next season's collections with his team. I remember he had custom-made a bag for each of the shortlisted participants. He was so welcoming of everyone, regardless of their position or influence. And it's been pretty much the same every time we've met."
Learning the ropes in the international world of glamour, Rhea says she has been fortunate to not have encountered racism in any form so far. That may have something to do with the fact that she became a part of this industry at a time when diversity is the buzzword. "It is a grim reality that racism exists, and we cannot sweep it under the carpet. But globalisation is also bridging the gap. Companies all over the world are now realising that they can no longer cater to just one ethnicity, which has now led to a more diverse representation in today's media."
Diversity is also something that you come to embody when growing up in Dubai, a melting pot of cultures. Born to Indian expats based in the city, she has spent her whole life here. Today, she credits it for inculcating a mindset where nothing seems impossible. "I still remember my early morning rides to school. As I witnessed the city's skyline change, it instilled in me the importance of growth and positive change." This is not mere poeticism, it defines the woman that Rhea is. It is also the way she looks at challenges in her life. "The very fact that a petite brown girl from Dubai dared to dream big was, in itself, a challenge. The reality is I am not a 6-foot-tall, size-zero, blonde, blue-eyed model. I am a girl like you," she says. There is considerable truth in that claim. There are no fusses thrown, no list of what she should or should not eat. In fact, the only exercise that she does fall back on are evening walks. "All I ever knew was that I loved fashion and wanted to work on my own terms," she says.
The said love originates from her mother who used to work in the garments industry and handled buyers such as Gap, Gloria Vanderbilt and Abercrombie & Fitch. A young Rhea would often accompany her mother to the factory and be exposed to the design development process. It helped her realise how art translates into fashion. Perhaps that is why, today, she considers herself as much of an artist as a model. "I see art in everything. Be it when I paint on a canvas, or when I design outfits, or do my own makeup, it's art in different forms. As for makeup, colours and strokes always fascinated me, regardless of the medium. My fondest memory of makeup stems from watching my mother apply eyeliner and lipstick before heading to work every morning. I was fascinated by how empowered and feminine it made her look. As for the skill - that just came with practice and countless failures," she laughs.
Since bagging the Marc Jacobs contract, Rhea has also lent her voice to busting a few myths about 'beauty' - facial hair, in particular. It so happened that she posted a photograph of herself for Marc Beauty that showed hair on her face. The post received widespread love from women who admired Rhea's refusal to Photoshop the picture and shared their stories of how they are subjected to ridicule for the same. "Beauty can no longer have a singular definition or be linked to a certain attribute. We, as women, are often told about society's standard of beauty. Personally, I believe this is wrong. If you want to embrace something, it has to be your personal choice, and yours alone - be it facial hair (groomed or not) or body shape. We are all unique and should represent ourselves accordingly." It is a similar position she has taken on modest fashion, a choice organically made during her university days.
Today, if there is one aspect of her makeup that she has owned up to completely, it is the winged liner. The tips and tricks are fairly simple: getting it right involves replicating the stroke of her eyeliner to that of a paintbrush. "It helps when you follow the natural shape of the eyes, outlining and then filling it in," says the fashion design graduate.
Currently, she is juggling between her role as an artist, a designer and model. 2019, however, looks promising for the artist in Rhea. There are plans to showcase her art series, which is inspired by the UAE. For now, the 25-year-old looks poised to use her platform to make a positive change.