Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm Emilia Dobreva, a fashion designer and model now based in Dubai, in the heart of the Middle East. I also run my own brand—Oh My Dear Emi. It is a fashion brand for ladies who are inspired by Dubai and by the Middle East lifestyle.
You hold several titles. Tell us about the main ones.
I'm originally from Kosovo. So, for sure, my first title was Miss Kosovo, of which I am very proud because Kosovo is my motherland.
Being Miss Kosovo gave me a chance to join Miss World, and then I joined many more beauty pageants and beauty contestants because of my love for it. I love to communicate with people, and pageants have given me that opportunity on a global scale.
The last title is Miss Friendship International 2019-2020; however, I'm still holding this title. The pageant was held in Chengdu, China, and I competed with 120 ladies from across the world.
How did you get involved in pageants?
It started with my mom, who was a model. Sometimes she still does photoshoots and catwalks, and she also participated in pageants, but in Miss Turkey.
My mom dreamt that her daughter would finally participate in something big like a Miss Universe and Miss World, and I can say that I did. So I am my mom's dream come true.
What's been your biggest takeaway from the big pageants you've been to, like Miss Universe or Miss World?
I think the biggest takeaway is the friendships formed. The ladies are still my friends. It's an amazing feeling when the ladies call me and tell me, 'Oh, we're in Dubai'. I love every lady; they are really my true friends from different countries. It is an amazing feeling to have friends around the world.
Tell us about your fashion brand Oh My Dear Emi?
Since I have always been in fashion—I work as a model, and I have done a lot of fashion weeks, including Milan Fashion Week, New York Fashion Week—and I know many designers who are my close friends, I always try to find some perfect dress for my style. My style is very Chanel, but it should be a little bit more casual. And because of this, I created this perfect dress for myself and made it a brand.
It was and still is brand couture; it's a brand for wedding dresses, for couture dressing. These dresses are for special events at which you wear the dress once, but they will be forever in the memories of people who saw them.
However, COVID-19 came, and it has been a difficult time for us. There are now many rules about weddings, and they have impacted the brand. I still have my team, which I really love and respect. Due to the impact of COVID-19, we cannot now do our perfect dresses for weddings, but we can do dresses for our girls; so now, Oh My Dear Emi is also a ready-to-wear brand, reaching everywhere. I'm happy when I'm going to Dubai Mall, and I see ladies in my dresses, oh this feeling!
Who wears Oh My Dear Emi?
It's a very classy lady who lives in Dubai, who knows what is in style, who knows real passion. This lady knows what she wants. She knows who she is.
We have a specific style; I cannot say that our dresses are for everyone, but our ladies are beautiful, and they're very stylish.
Tell us about your earliest fashion memories.
I think all my earliest fashion memories are from my mom because she was a model, and she was always on catwalks and in important photoshoots and interviews. I remember myself sitting on a chair and just watching the shows. And sure, I saw it, from early childhood, I was in this atmosphere.
Even though I didn't think that one day I would be saying that I should do something similar, I'm happy now I can share my opinion with my mom, and she can give me fashion advice, because she knows the style of her years and I can say the 90s, end of the 80s, is a perfect style for me. This is a very elegant era—an era of supermodels like Naomi Campbell.
How do you go about creating your dresses?
It's a little bit like this. I graduated from the Istituto Marangoni. My education is in fashion and, when I created my brand, I knew my brand from the beginning to the end. I can replace any person on my team, and because of this, I don't need a special atmosphere or something. I can create everywhere. I can sit right here, and I will create, by myself, every dress.
I am more about the technical parts, which I know very well. I am not a designer who only creates or paints; I know every step of my business. It's real business.
What is the easiest and most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
I mean, it's like in every business. Sure, it's my passion, it's my hobby, and I love it, but fashion is about business. Fashion it's about selling and about how to sell. We have a lot of pluses and a lot of minuses, like in every business. But, I like when people see the beautiful part of my business. Think of it this way, when models are on a catwalk; you see beautiful ladies, beautiful dresses and beautiful fabrics; however, backstage is a different story.
What inspires you?
This question is difficult because I'm inspired by everything. I am inspired by art; I love modern art. I love furniture, interior design. Models inspire me because I was a model and inspired by top models of the 90s. Naomi Campbell inspires me. For me, she's a perfect lady. My dream is to create a dress for her, and insha'Allah, one day, I can design some amazing dresses for her.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
I can understand that Allah decides everything in our lives, but my advice for myself would be: maybe, work harder. I'm a hard worker, but perhaps if I worked harder, my dreams would come true out earlier. Don't listen to anyone, and follow your dreams.
If young ladies are looking to become models, what advice would you give to them?
Just do it. Start from something; don't sit at home. Don't sit at a place; just do it. If you want to be a model, okay, there's no need for anything specific or special; just reach out to an agency. Just send them one of your photos; if they see a future for you, they will contact you. They will not ask for any money or anything; they will be interested in you, and they will do everything for you.
Same for beauty pageants. Beauty pageants are not about your face and how stunning you are. It's about your soul. Be honest about your soul, and you'll have a chance. Everyone is beautiful, but it's about your soul, about who you are, about what you can do for this world, how you can handle the title. This is the most important thing.
How do you look after your mental health?
COVID-19 time has been the most difficult time because I'm a person who loves communicating with people. I need people, and I need movement, and because of this, it's a really difficult time. But we're now in Dubai, where we can say that Dubai, for now, is the best city for living and for keeping your mental health in check.
I'm also doing a lot of yoga, which helps. I started yoga and golf before COVID-19. I've been paying close attention to my soul and caring about my mental health even before COVID-19.
If there's someone that's struggling at the moment with their mental health, what message would you give to them?
I think the important part is to keep yourself strong. I would also advise people to try to do yoga; it helps. Start with 30 minutes, 20 minutes and go step by step, and you will see how your life becomes more beautiful.
What's that one quote you live by?
"Just do it." Don't stay in place. Do it. You want something, go for it.