Kenyan-Born Model Chanel Ayan: Escaping Forced Marriage At 14 Now Making Money Moves In Dubai

Chanel Ayan made history after becoming the first Kenyan-born model to become a cast member in the renowned Real Housewives Franchise, featuring in its Dubai edition which premiered on June 1, 2022.

Ayan is also the first black supermodel to feature in a Dubai magazine.

The supermodel boasts over two decades of experience in the industry and has established herself as one of the best in Dubai. She has endorsement deals with several brands and has been featured in several magazines.

Here is her story as told by WoK.

Background & Education

Ayan is of Somali-Ethiopian origin. She grew up in Malaba, Busia County with her five siblings. Her father was an alcoholic and therefore, their mother took care of them for the most part.

In a past interview, she revealed that she had a traumatising childhood and at one point, she and her sister ran away from home.

Ayan also revealed that she was tied to a tree in the rain at the age of 14 when her father wanted to marry her off.

“Forgiving my father is the hardest thing I could do. It is not an easy situation for me to forgive someone like that,” she told fellow cast member Sara Madani, adding that she has not spoken to him for 26 years.

Kenyan-Born Model Chanel Ayan: From Forced Marriage At 14 To Real Housewives Of Dubai Cast
File image of supermodel Chanel Ayan, and Real Housewives of Dubai franchise owner Andy Cohen. |Courtesy| Reality Tea|

Modelling career

Ayan began her modelling career in Brazil at the age of 17. It is there that she met her husband, Luca Salves, a fellow model and artist.

The couple moved to the US after their wedding before later relocating to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They have a 17-year-old son who has since taken in the footsteps of his parents and is building his modelling career. He has been featured on Vogue Arabia.

“My husband makes me feel safe. My father never made me feel that way,” says Ayan.

Since arriving in Dubai 18 years ago, Ayan took her career up a notch and has since featured in several campaigns for top international luxury brands such as Chanel, Prada, Tiffany, Cartier, Dior, Moschino, Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana.

According to a report by Business Daily, is the face of Piaget, a Swiss luxury watch brand. She has also been featured in magazines such as Forbes, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Italian Vogue, American Vogue, and Vogue Arabia.

“I am the muse for one of the biggest designers in the world — the Amato couture. He has dressed Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. I usually try out clothes for celebrities before he sends them to the US for the Oscars or any other event.”

“Funny thing, I used to fit for Nicki Minaj even though we have very different bodies but they would check colours and designs that would suit her. I wore the same white dress that Beyonce wore at the Grammys before it was sent to the US. She quipped with pleasure,” Ayan told Punch in an interview.

Ayan is also an entrepreneur and owns her own beauty brand, Ayana Beauty, in partnership with makeup stylist Tony Malt.

The supermodel established and operates her own modelling agency and is approached by top brands to provide models for their products.

Ayan was also appointed as the head of the runway and casting for Miss Universe 2021 competition for the United Arab Emirates.

Despite leaving Kenya many years ago, she remains true to her East African roots and teaches her children all the indigenous names. Recently, she gifted her best friend Lesa Milan with a live goat, eliciting mixed reactions from cast members of Real Housewives of Dubai.

“In our culture, goats are so important. You were there for me so much a few nights ago when I was in a bad place,” Ayan explained.

Real Housewives of Dubai

Real Housewives of Dubai showcases the luxurious day-to-day lives of six successful women who call the city of gold their home.

Ayan is quite the drama queen and on the show, she is already beefing with her colleagues; Caroline Stanburg, for not inviting her to her bachelorette party, and Caroline Brooks, over a comment she made about her not receiving an invitation to the said party, claiming that she was not important to be included.

She later attempted to mend their friendship by gifting Caroline a pot full of lemons.

Ayan never shies away from speaking her mind, and when it comes to fashion, she dresses to impress on every single event.

“I am the first person from my village or from my generation to do something really big like this. So I feel so proud,” Ayan said during the first episode of the show.