The Bulletproof Fashion Guru
We’re all familiar with how powerful a woman can be, whether domestically or out on the business battle field, but how about doing all of that and more while fighting cancer? Yasmin Yousri raises the bar after knocking cancer down three times, and in style! No matter how turbulent circumstances got, she fought her way through it all, while paving the path for her career along the way. We had a Q&A with the fashion icon, here’s what she told us.
What inspired you to start up ‘Spade’?
I used to work in the corporate world for around 14 to 15 years, and I really wanted to start my own project. I’m a risk taker, and I wanted to inspire people to realise that life is not all about having a routine job. Even after – especially after – I got cancer and survived it. I still believe that I can do a lot, and that it’s never too late to start your own project or do what you love.
You chose to express yourself through fashion and style. Is this something you’ve always been passionate about?
As far back as I can remember, fashion has always been my passion. I could always stand out with an outfit I picked out because I wear it differently. People have always felt like I don’t repeat myself, and that I always find a new way to express myself. I love wearing unique attire, and having my own look and my own style. I don’t like wearing whatever’s trendy or mainstream; I like going against the flow and wearing something a bit bizarre, which can turn out looking amazing. Some outfits are stronger than others though, so I don’t always pull them off and people start talking, but I don’t really care. I always wear what I think is different and defines who I am.
Were your previous jobs fashion-related?
Never! I majored in Political Science and Economics, specialising in Statistics. I worked at banks, the Ministry of International Cooperation, an insurance company and then at a multinational company as a travel and event manager. None of them were related to fashion in any sort of way, but I always liked dressing up while going to work. I loved having my own style and my own look. People used to give me comments all the time that I have to work as a stylist or in the fashion industry in general.
Why did you decide to move to Dubai?
I moved to Dubai with my husband, but I’ve always viewed Dubai as a new opportunity. As I previously said, I’m a risk taker and I love exploring new opportunities. I love to take the extra mile generally in life, especially when it comes to work. I started my blog and my Instagram. I always like being different and taking things further, which is why when I had to choose whether to stay in Egypt or move to Dubai, I chose Dubai. Even in the social media industry, there’s much more room to be creative and different than in Egypt.
You got your first diagnosis with cancer in July 2007. How would you describe your life before and after this particular month?
Cancer remained in my life for five years, and the changes it caused took a lot more than just a month. Before July that year, I was a selfish person, and that resonated in my attitude and ego. I also used to be a very practical person and very career-oriented. Once I was diagnosed, I went through a phase of denial. I used to ask myself, “Why me?” I’m still changing because of this disease, and it still teaches me. It made me view everything in a completely different perspective. I’m still working on my personality and health, and how to prioritise the latter. My health is almost 65% of my priority as I have much more in mind that I want to achieve. If I give my health 100% priority, a lot would be different in my life. As a person, I’m no longer selfish, and I deal with all types of people. I started living on a daily basis, believing that every single person has a purpose. I started believing that we meet people for a reason; they’re going to add something to me and I’m going to add something to them. I no longer feel upset over anything, and I no longer care for people who don’t want to stay. Cancer made me much more mature, especially because sometimes I still physically ache in certain areas where I had it. It’s like a constant reminder that it was there, and that life goes on and health is my priority.
You faced many society-related problems. What were the most shocking?
I was just talking about this with a friend of mine. She’s a cancer survivor as well. We noticed the same point: society still shames anyone who has or used to have cancer. I completely oppose the idea of fighting cancer silently because if I do, yes I will seem strong, but I will be scared of how society looks at me, as if I’m looking for pity. I don’t want people to look at me as an ill person. Outside the Arab world, whether celebrities or public figures, cancer survivors take pride in their journey. I want to inspire people to see it as any other disease. Psychologically, people surrounding them must give them support; they have to make them feel like a soldier. Just because you’re afraid of the way that society is going to view you doesn’t mean that you should fight it silently. The way we’re culturally regarded makes it harder, almost like we’re blamed for getting this disease. I used to wear a wig, I was too skinny, had dry and yellow skin with no eyebrows and no eyelashes, and there were many instances where people started pointing fingers and laughing at me. So, on top of cancer and being mocked, I had to wear an immunity mask. I think people here need to stop treating those who are different like they have done something wrong.
In 2008, you initially refused to receive chemotherapy after the second diagnosis. What was that decision based on?
I refused because I felt like it’s unfair for me to be clean for five months and still have it coming back. I wasn’t a different person then, cancer kept changing me for a really long time. I wanted to look for an alternative to skip chemotherapy, thinking that it was a good decision. Afterwards, the good decision turned out to be skipping radiotherapy after finishing the bone marrow transplant. Chemotherapy made me meet many people with different types of cancer, and this made see how everyone deals with it. So that part of it was a very nice experience.
You survived cancer thrice. How has that affected who you are now?
Until this very moment, I can’t believe I survived cancer. Sometimes I feel like I’m living a dream. People should be grateful for their health, always.
How would you describe your journey so far?
My journey was extremely tough. I experienced death a lot, but I also survived. I believe that I have a message to deliver, I don’t know when or how. I’ve been clean since 2012, and just last year I started speaking up. I still have a lot to do during my journey, and I have a lot of messages I want to send. I’m grateful for these five years and I’m still learning a lot from them.
You created your own hashtag #LalaLandByYasmin. What gave you the inspiration for that?
People always used to tell me that I live in my own la-la land, so it comes from that. Yasmin Yousri is la-la Land.
What are your ambitions for your firm?
I want it to be the best agency there is when it comes to styling and creativity – a kind of inspirational firm. I want to be the best!
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
I would tell her that life goes on, that she shouldn’t stress herself and should work on loving herself.
What’s Yasmin Yousri’s next big thing?
Believe it or not, I stopped planning. As I mentioned earlier, I now live my life on a day-to-day basis because I realised that God has the best plan for me. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know that it’s something big.
Who was your biggest support throughout your journey?
My caregivers: my mum, my dad, my brother and my husband. My husband keeps pushing me forward, he encourages me to keep developing in the fashion industry. He loves the idea that I want to inspire people and that I want to tell my story through my passion. My husband is living proof that good people exist.