Kenya-born, Dubai-based model, Ayan Pillott, whose stage name is Chanel Ayan never knew what fate had in store for her when she left her little town of Malanpa in Kenya to take on the world of modeling. Arriving on the world stage having made a mark in Brazil, US and Dubai, traveling the world and walking the stages of Paris, New York, Italy, India, to mention just a few, she has established herself as a black model not only of many firsts but also many amazing feats.
She’s the first black model in Dubai and indeed in the entire Middle East, fully booked and have been on the cover of every magazine in Dubai. She’s been in Vogue Dubai more than 10 times, as well as Vogue US and Vogue Italia, not to talk of headlining the Amato Couture showcase more than 7 times in India. She’s a colossal persona as strong and fierce on the inside as she’s delicate and gorgeous on the outside, so says Furne One, to whom Ayan is a delightful muse.
“When Rihanna came to Dubai for her Feinty make-up shoot, they asked a lot of people to send pictures and they asked me to send pictures,” she recalled how her path and the American music star crossed and how it impacted her life and career.
“I had to send pictures, videos, with make-up and no make-up. This casting took like 3 months for me to get the job and everybody in Dubai wanted to be on this job, and I was the only black girl that was there. I was the only black girl that they did Feinty makeup for in Dubai and I had pictures and videos with Rihanna. She came to me and said, “you skin is so beautiful”. Meeting Rihanna, talking with her, and being on stage with her was a big thing for me,” she added.
Continuing she said, “When the Channel show came to Dubai and I had to go for the casting and I met photographers that were huge, huge and I got to do the job, meeting Rihanna, doing Dolce Gabana shows, I have actually done many Dolce Gabana shows and he follows me on Instagram. Doing Luis Vuiton, doing Channel and for Walkwise, that was like the biggest highlights of this year. This year again, I had to go to India to do a show for Amato Couture, then I ‘m going to Philippines in 6 weeks to do the biggest show in Philippines. Those are the highlights of my life when it comes to work.
She met Iman, the American super model on a different pedestal, more like a quest than fate. Having been touted on different occasions as an uncanny look-alike of the American, Ayan took a plunge to find out herself by reaching out to her on Instagram
“ They always mistake me for Iman because I look exactly like Iman. I actually sent her message on Instagram and I said ‘hey, do you really think I look like you because I get this a lot?” she was like, “Oh my God, you really, really look like me”. And after she said that we met in New York and got talking and we realised we are actually from the same tribe in Somalia. She was really friendly and we got to know my uncle knew someone that knew her. It was amazing, we shot together. For me now it’s really easy but for a lot of black girls, they are really having hard time working. In Dubai if they know you and you are good they keep using you, over and over again,” she said beaming with smiles.
Chanel Ayan is a Kenyan of Somalian descent. She grew up in Kenya and at the behest of her cousin took to modeling and left Kenya at age 17 having tasted a bit of modeling in Kenya doing TV commercials. From Kenya she went to Brazil, got married to her American husband in Brazil and then got on the plane to the US on the bill of the Elite Model Agency. She arrived in Dubai 14 years ago and has since been the face of top brands like Piaget, Amato Couture, and part of Channel, Moschino, Dior, Dolce Gabbana, Van Cleef, Loius Vuiton shows just to mention a few.
“When I moved to Dubai 14 years ago there was no black modeling in Dubai. I am the first black model to ever appear on magazine covers in Dubai. I have been in Vogue countless times, including Vogue Italia and Vogue US. I did shows that were covered in CNN worldwide. I have done every brand in Dubai. I have done Prada, I’m the face of Paiget in Middle East, face of Channel. I’m the only black girl that did Vogue. I have done big brands like Apple, Van Cleef and Piaget. It’s amazing to wear a million dollars earring and 10 million dollars chains. I was the first black to ever do all these in Middle East. I’m booked for every job that’s in town. I love doing my job, I love being a model.
I am the muse for one of the biggest designers in the world, the Amato couture. He has dressed Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Nicky Minaj, Shakira and Jlo he says I am his muse. I usually dress clothes for celebrities before he sends them to USA for Oscars or anything. Funny thing I used to fit for Nicky Minaj and we have very different bodies but they would check colours and design that will fit her. I wore same white dress that Beyonce wore in Grammys before it was sent to USA, she quipped with pleasure.