Fashion Feature: Maruf Azimov (Max Fardan)
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Maruf Azimov, a 32-year old fitness model based in Dubai. On social media, most people know me as Max Fardan. I'm a proud native of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a beautiful landlocked Central Asian country teeming with history and exotic appeal. I have three adorable kids, and I’m married to Shohista, my amazing, beautiful wife.
Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with an unlikely illness. Breast cancer, the culprit that takes over thousands of victims every year worldwide, struck me: and I’ve fought it for years. Three years ago, I underwent several sessions of chemotherapy, including surgery to remove the lump in my chest. Today, I stand as a proud cancer survivor, and I wish for more years of good health to come. I still undergo routine check-ups every six months to monitor my condition.
I came to Dubai when I got sick, and I was anxious about letting my family know about my struggle. When magazines started wanting to write about me, they asked for my real name. I was a little hesitant to disclose it back then for fear that news about my health will reach my family in Tashkent. Most of my friends call me Max, as it’s a short name, with an easy ring to it like ‘Max Rich’. Max sounded just perfect, so I eventually adopted this screen name.
Tell us about your journey through breast cancer.
I was 24 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Back then, I’d been noticing a small lump in my left chest for months. It was becoming uncomfortable, and it wasn’t going away. I felt that it was getting bigger. I decided to see a doctor to have my condition checked. I’d undergone several tests: from lab tests to MRI scans.
The day came when my doctor told me to call my family. I was preparing for some bad news. My father was recuperating from a recent heart problem, and I couldn’t bear to send my family depressing news. “Be strong; everything will be okay.” The doctor told me. What came next was something I wasn’t prepared to hear in my life, ever. “You have breast cancer.”
It was difficult for me to comprehend at first. I have breast cancer. I googled about it, and I could only stare in shock at the facts. At 24 years, I was, indeed, a Stage 2 breast cancer patient.
Cancer treatment started very soon. Slowly, I went to treatment after treatment, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was a dizzying struggle, nauseating and leaving me fatigued. I was told that there would be more chemo sessions to undergo, so I considered leaving my home country. At first, I went to Turkey, asking myself where to work, and weighing in the sacrifices I need to make to get treatments as well.
I decided to come to Dubai because of a close friend. He recommended Dubai very highly, saying that it's a good place he thought might work for me well. I found a good job in Dubai, initially starting as a salesman. At that time, it wasn’t enough to sustain my needs, so I found a part-time night shift job as security personnel. I worked for a year doing these jobs, and at the same time, going to the hospital for the treatments. It was a challenging time for me, and whenever I'm talking with my family over the phone, I’d pretend that everything was alright.
The life of a cancer patient is exhausting. The fatigue quickly sets in, and the exhaustion was palpable at the end of the day’s work. After a year, I stopped working those two jobs, and I just focused on one. I was eventually promoted to sales manager after three years. The company helped me through my ordeal. My manager, my boss, they understood my situation, and they supported me all the way. The unwavering support of my friends here in Dubai was also instrumental in helping me cope with cancer. For this reason, Dubai will always be my second home.
I went back to Tashkent for my surgery. My fantastic doctor became a close friend of mine, and my gratitude for him flows really deep. He helped me obtain the expensive medicine I needed. In Uzbekistan, healthcare is also free, thanks to the government’s efforts to finance the state hospitals, medical institutions and clinics.
After finishing chemo and successfully undergoing surgery to remove the lump in my left chest, I was declared cancer-free. Living not only for myself but for my wife and kids, as well as my family back in Tashkent, makes me so happy and grateful.
How has your life changed since finding out you are cancer-free?
I was in Dubai when the ‘call’ happened. I picked up the phone and heard my doctor on the other side. He was crying. “You’ve won it, my boy. You’ve won it.” I was in shock. “What happened?” I told him. He replied, “You’ve beaten cancer!”
I reminisced about all the treatments I braved, the arduous, difficult months of chemotherapy. I looked back on all the support I received from the people around me. There wasn’t a day in those cancer-stricken years that I’ve told myself that I have to be ready for anything that could happen. Life is fragile, and it is a brief time we only borrowed from God. I remembered the prayers I’ve mumbled silently, asking God to give me even a little bit more time for my loved ones, for the dreams and goals I have for them. I have to be there when all my unwed sisters finally walk down the aisles. For my father, I’ll buy him a car for his taxi business. And how could I even leave my sweet wife? At least, if I were to perish soon, I should be able to find him a suitable husband to take care of her and the kids when I’m gone. These were the thoughts I had to prepare for the worst.
I was indeed fortunate and blessed. And I knew I fought well. I never gave up, and I enjoyed life even though I was stricken with cancer during all those challenging years. I went to the gym to dance because I love dancing, and I also sing whenever the vibe hits me. Knowing that I might as well be gone at any day made me enjoy my life, including the smallest of happy, positive events. I think God listens when we are truly grateful for the lives we’ve been gifted with.
I ventured into freelance modelling and eventually became a brand ambassador. I’m more passionate and happier than ever, and I couldn’t simply ask for more. Having won over cancer and becoming healthy is enough as a blessing and a renewed gift of life.
How would you describe your style?
My mood dictates my style. I also see myself with a versatile, independent taste in fashion, and I like showcasing different styles for many occasions. Sexy, elegant styles are appealing to me: something not too gaudy but catches attention like a whiff of mysterious perfume. It is also important for me to pick a style that accentuates me as a person and not the outfit itself. It’s like ‘dressing not to dress’.
How did you get involved in Mr Dubai?
Mr Dubai never occurred to me in the first place, and winning the title is unbelievable for me. I did try my best to win, though! I know that I am pretty capable, but I don’t think of myself as any better than the rest of the contestants, and I always remind myself that someone else is better than me.
It was the idea of my close friend who told me to try joining the competition. Mr Dubai is a big event, so I had my doubts at first. Eventually, I thought it might lead me to new opportunities, so I joined and tried my best. It was quite a pleasure becoming friends and acquaintances with my co-contestants, event organisers and the rest of the staff. Everybody is already a winner! I enjoyed the experience as much as winning the title itself.
What responsibilities does carrying the Mr Dubai crown carry?
Having the title of Mr Dubai imposes both prestige and responsibility. You have to represent a culturally diverse, cosmopolitan city, bearing the local roots of a true Emirati as the male face of Dubai. It’s not all about being physically beautiful, or aesthetic in the fashion sense. Still, titles like these also demand strength of character and authenticity in putting forward your convictions, aspirations and advocacy. The male figure that we need our society to embrace is the picture of a benevolent father, an amazing brother and a loving son. As Mr Dubai, these are the images I want to exemplify.
Mr Dubai also allows me to introduce my home country to many people. Not many are aware of my country and our culture back home, including its people and history. Everywhere I go, I pride myself in being an Uzbek and a native of Tashkent.
What was the first thing you did after winning the title?
There wasn’t really a specific thing that I did after winning the title. What ensued after the event were lots of meetings, photoshoots and magazine interviews. I was also invited to other events like concerts and shows. I was able to share my experiences with many audiences, and the opportunity to introduce my home country comes along with these gigs. I am very honoured and delighted indeed to find that more and more people are getting to know Uzbekistan and the Uzbek culture because of me.
More importantly, I was able to share the past struggles and victory of being a cancer survivor. We can rise above these personal battles with resilience and faith. As long as realistically possible, we can still pursue our passions even when we are sick or physically frail. I love telling people to enjoy every moment of their lives because life is beautiful. The short time that we are endowed with is enough for us to live our lives to the fullest.
Five fashion items every man should own:
Fashion is also a means of carrying yourself in public, which should reflect your attitude and behaviour. In my opinion, it shouldn’t just be ‘fashion items’ that every man should have, but also the right attitude.
Firstly, you have to be friendly and approachable. It doesn’t matter how a man dresses if he doesn’t know how to smile and radiate charm. Having an open mind, and a face that always smiles is the most impressionable fashion statement that any man can have.
It’s also important for every man to take care of himself. Improving yourself on the daily by making sure you’re fit and learning every day is something that never goes out of style. Your body is going to thank you for going to the gym, or by exercising while being guided by fitness books and TV shows.
Thirdly, a fashionable man knows how to dress appropriately for the right crowd and occasion. When people are watching you, your outfits speak your mood for them. It doesn’t have to be dressing up expensively, donning expensive items and all that. A simple tee paired with classic pants or jeans, as well as shoes for the right events and suits are all good.
The fourth item on my list is something I deem as too important not to leave out: sunglasses! Here in the ME region, the sun is really high and protecting your eyes while being out and about is essential. It’s not precisely for fashion’s sake, but for comfort too!
Last but certainly not least, accessorising needs to be on point, and for me, the whole look is not complete without a watch.
What makes you call the fashion police?
Since I have already gathered a lot of knowledge about fashion, I'll be able to give help on how to choose the right decision with your clothes. First of all, people are getting crazy about fashion, and they're starting to do crazy things with it. Yes, fashion loves crazy things. It's also important to understand that fashion is not all about how much skin will show. Fashion is cool, elegant, sometimes a little bit wild, sometimes sweet. That is fashion.
One trend you detest
When it's too common. As I said earlier, whatever the trend is, that should not define you. You should be creating your own signature style. If you're going to go with the flow, how will it be you? You're already a trend. Just wear something cool. It will be a trend if you know how to wear it properly. Of course, this is only my opinion.
Describe your fitness routine.
I can't drink or take any diet supplements as advised by my doctor. They said it's risky because it may trigger the cancer cells again. That's why I decided to do it healthily. For breakfast, I'll be boiling five or six eggs which I prefer half cooked. I love eating slowly. I'm eating five times a day with small portions per meal. I try not to overeat after seven or eight in the evening. I have a fast metabolism, so I tend to lose weight fast. If you want to have a great body, you have to focus on your food and try to eat healthily. You can drink alcohol but not too much. Enjoy your life. Exercise is also essential if you want to have a good body. I go to the gym every day and spend one to two hours there. I have different exercise routines each day; today it can be chest exercise, tomorrow is for the shoulders, and after that for the legs. There are days that I'm unable to go, but I'll make sure that I'll go on the next day.
What makes you happy?
What makes me happy? That's the most beautiful question. If I see someone smiling, it makes me happy. If I hear something, even a noise, it makes me happy. When I'm drinking tea, it makes me happy. When I'm walking, it makes me happy. I can see, I can feel, I can smell. I can hear, and I can walk. Everything makes me happy.
What’s that one quote you live by?
I can say it with a couple of words. Enjoy every moment in your life because life is short but beautiful.