Najla Alfardan is in her 20s and is a certified nutritionist, skincare expert and entrepreneur. She is the co-owner of Orange Theory Fitness (OTP) in Qatar and founder and CEO of Qiyorro, Qatar's first conscious beauty platform.
She launched both businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been in the field of general wellness for eight-plus years, and her main aim is to help people live a better quality of life emotionally and physically by translating all of what she's learnt into a tangible form from which people can benefit.
The ILoveQatar.net (ILQ) team is bringing you an exclusive Q&A with Najla, so you can get to know more about this authentic human being who has brought her knowledge of skincare, nutrition and health to Qatar to help others redefine the meaning of beauty.
Najla: My undergraduate studies were something very different from what I am doing now, but it's obviously helped my businesses a lot. I majored in finance and economics from Boston. I wanted to major in something that I wasn't good at, which is the opposite of what people do. But I wanted to get into a subject that I knew I would need.
Najla: In terms of work experience, I had an internship while I was in Boston for six months at an online furniture company called Wayfair and I was in the marketing department. When I graduated, I launched my businesses straight away and I did some internships at Alfardan Jewellery as well.
Najla: I became popular in Qatar upon launching my Instagram account, which was, two months or so after I moved back to Qatar. My Instagram account was always to help people feel confident in their own skin and help them live a better life.
I think the valuable information that I share and the rawness and authenticity of my page and of me, are what I wanted to project. I didn't want to project something that I'm not. And, I think that is really what made me be seen in this community.
Najla: It really started when I was much younger; when I was 14 years old. That's when I really became obese and overweight. I had an eating disorder as well when I was about 16 years old. I realised that I didn't want to live this life. I didn't want to see food as restrictive. I wanted something a little bit more sustainable.
So I got into nutrition and the more I got into it and read about all the different foods and what they do and how they support your body, I switched my perspective. Food became more of an opportunity to nourish and love myself rather than restrict me. And so that change in perspective really created a huge shift.
Najla: I got into skincare when I was in Boston, when I was experiencing acne and I tried so many different things but it just kept getting worse, and so I just said, let's take a step back a little bit. So, I read everything that I could about skincare and even took courses. I reached out to experts in the field, and I started to connect the dots a little bit.
Once I understood the anatomy and mechanics of the skin, I understood my skin type. At the same time, I was having digestive issues and treating them as well. So, simultaneously I started to see an improvement in my skin, and it was such an inspirational outcome for me because I know a lot of women here struggle with their skin or have insecurities around them.
I wanted to teach people how to take care of their skin, so they could feel confident, use makeup and enjoy it. I want people to feel like makeup is complimentary, but that they can feel completely satisfied, confident and beautiful without it as well.
Najla: It started from a young age because of my own personal physical experiences. Everything I learned, I always wanted to translate it to others and give it back to people so they could also benefit from it.
It's been two years since I got into mental health and its awareness after suffering from my own mental health issues. I projected a little bit about it on my Instagram, but within the last two years since arriving back in Doha and around the launch of Qiyorro, I experienced chronic pain on the left side of my face and my leg, and it's been mentally challenging in terms of going about my day with it.
It gave rise to the emotional pain that I was carrying, and so I shifted a little bit of my content recently to promote awareness towards mental health and to inspire people to own their emotions and stories.
Recently, I've been very interested in trauma stored in the body, loneliness, and various aspects of emotional pain, because that's also a big part of health.
Najla: Qiyorro is a by-product of what I learnt since Boston, which is that your health and your wellness is not one part, it's the sum of parts. And, the name really tells that story. So 'kokoro' in Japanese means mind, body, soul, and spirit as one and 'qi' or 'chi' in ancient Chinese medicine is energy flow. So I connected both of them together and created the word 'Qiyorro'. I had access to all these amazing conscious beauty and skincare products and I wanted people to have access to them here in Qatar.
Najla: My favourite Qiyorro product is Clinical Pro-Heal Serum. It's a 15% vitamin C serum. It helps to brighten the skin, increase collagen, reduce pigmentation, and it just gives your skin such a beautiful glow. So I like to enjoy that in the morning. At night, I love Cosmedix Serum 16 which is an encapsulated retinol. It increases your skin cell turnover.
Najla: Orange Theory Fitness (QTF) is a US-based franchise, and it's based on the orange zone and your heart rate. Why I love this concept is because it's catered to the individual and you can work out in a safe environment because you're constantly monitoring your heart rate.
Within the studio, there are three sections. It's a 50 - 60 minute workout. You have the treadmills, rowers, and you have the floor work where you got the TRX, the Bosu ball, free weights, etc. Every single day, it's different, so your body is always guessing. That's a little bit about Orange Theory Fitness.
Najla: What I consider to be my career highlight was for sure the launching of Qiyorro because it has been something that I've been wanting to do for a very long time. It was a very proud moment for me, the day that we launched, which was 15 October 2020.
Najla: It really comes down to being of service to my community in any way, shape or form with the goal of helping people live a better life, and with raising awareness to the concept that everything is related - your mental health and your physical health.
That is also why I got into Ayurveda, which is a beautiful spiritual science that teaches you how to celebrate life and how you relate to the world.
Najla: My sisters are huge inspirations for me because they are very bold in their stance, and they are not afraid to be the first in everything they do. And, so watching them as I was growing up was a huge inspiration for me.
Najla: I would like to be remembered for my kindness, my compassion towards people and as someone that was never afraid to say the unsaid, someone who inspired people or planted a seed in this community to live a more holistic life. Someone who was not afraid to be vulnerable and inspires people to do the same.
Najla: I made a lot of mistakes throughout my career. I believe that they are necessary, and I have been very gentle and kind with myself when I've made a mistake because I realise that I am human. We all are, and it's okay to make a mistake as long as we learn from them, and we know why it happened.
Najla: I would do nothing differently. I believe that the way things unfold are for a reason. So, I have learned to trust the unknown with no judgment. If I didn't make the mistakes that I did, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Najla: Kind. Gentle. Compassionate. Empathetic. Sensitive.
Najla: What really gets me up in the morning is hearing a story of someone who never felt confident in her skin or hearing about someone that really felt alone in her loneliness or in her pain. Then telling me that she has reached out to a couple of people, and realised that she wasn't alone, or tried therapy, or she's treating herself better.
These little 'glitters' are what gets me up in the morning. It's helping people in their physical or emotional pain and teaching them how to become their own healers and empowering them because we all have the ability to heal.
Najla: Don't expect that you are going to know everything all at once and don't see failure as a setback. It's more of a clue as to why something went wrong.
Najla: If you are going to start a business or if you're going to dedicate a lot of time in your day to do something, you need to know 'your why', because that's what's going to keep you going.
Najla: I think it's very important in any business to be a people person, to be compassionate and kind. It really helps you create strong friendships with your partners, business partners and also with your team as well.
Najla: As mentioned earlier, I have been very drawn to mental health and its awareness and looking into deep-rooted trauma stored within the body and how to heal from that. And, so a big journey of mine is to really explore that a little bit more with the goal of giving back to my community whatever I have learnt.
Najla: I love taking care of myself. I love going for a walk on the beach, moving my body for at least an hour or so. I love journaling, writing short stories and poems. I love a good Netflix show at night and spending some time with friends and family.
Najla: I would say the best place I've ever been to is Seychelles. I love places that are exotic. I was in Seychelles recently for five days, and it's such a beautiful giving place.
Najla: I have a sweet tooth, so I do love a good vegan chocolate every day. I love vegetables. I have a veggie platter every day which is like a rainbow of vegetables that are all cooked and then I like to have protein and some carbs, so I don't necessarily have a favourite food.
Najla: Own your story and own your passion. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable because your vulnerability is the most beautiful sign that you are human, and that is something to celebrate, and that is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
Cover image provided by Najla Alfardan (image credit: Aparna Jayakumar)
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