Sophia Serin is the epitome of a magazine editor. As the glamorous editor of Emirates Woman, one of the longest-running and biggest-selling magazines in the Middle East, the smart and oh-so stylish Serin definitely knows what the modern woman wants. I caught up with Serin in Dubai to talk about everything from social media to pushing boundaries and shaking up magazines…
How long have you lived in Dubai?
This is my 12th year. It was really strange how I came here. I had just finished university and I had done some internships and they needed journalists to come over – Emirates Woman at that time wasn’t a huge journal but they needed journalists to come over and to work. So I ended up coming as a freelancer. I was on a plane with two girlfriends and I’ve been here ever since.
Tell me about your magazine Emirates Woman.
Emirates Woman has been around for 34 years. So it’s the longest-running, biggest selling English magazine in the Middle East. So, when I came on board with Emirates Woman, we did a redesign. I just shook it all up. It was a little bit old because it had been around for so long. It has been my mission with the mag, just to keep it current and I always think to myself, “This magazine can’t look out of place on an international newsstand. It has to be relevant and for women in the region.”
Who is the Emirates Woman reader?
Being in such an expatriate community, we have to appeal to many different readers. So, everything from the Emirati woman to the expat who has been here for a long time. Our younger reader starts at about 21 and goes right up to about 45. Which is sometimes a challenge because you have to do things that appeal to such a wide range of women.
Because you are based in Dubai is it [the content] quite different compared to an Australian magazine? Are there any restrictions on what you can publish in your magazine?
Yes. You really have to be respectful of the culture. And that’s a huge part of my job actually. So if I feel that anything is a little bit too sexy or a bit sort of over the top or disrespectful, it doesn’t go in. But I also have a team that checks everything. But usually, [it’s] bikini shots and basically anything too sexy.
Has there ever been a moment where you’ve pushed the boundaries?
Always. That’s what I do. But where the magazine pushes [the boundaries] is not necessarily with the images, it’s with the content. We talk about child rights and we talk about rape, all those things that sort of can get swept under the carpet and people don’t want to talk about, especially in young markets like this.
Is social media a very important part of what you do?
Huge. When I started in journalism, all those years ago, social media didn’t really exist. So I’m learning more every day. I have a fantastic, very young, amazing team and that’s their forte. It plays a huge part because now it’s all about who has the highest Instagram followers, who is the hit blogger, who is wearing what. Brands love it as well. Brands want to be associated with it. We have lots of events with the bloggers and with the brands; we’re all wearing their stuff, we’re promoting it. It’s the new way now and it’s the only way. Unless you embrace social media and everything around it, you are dead.
It is refreshing to hear that you feel like it is such an important part of the industry.
It is. I’m not saying that all bloggers are good. Again, this is an emerging market. They are everywhere. You can become very famous very quickly here. But, it’s my job and we really try and get the good ones because at the end of the day, I want to be talking to someone and reading about someone that’s an authority on fashion or beauty or on lifestyle. We always have to keep relevant and abreast of everything that’s going on in town and a huge part of that is the bloggers and social media.
What’s your future plan? Will you stay in Dubai forever?
I don’t know if I can stay here forever. It’s a full-on city. It’s amazing. I feel that I have grown with the city, especially in my job as a journalist it’s all about educating. It’s different than markets like Australia. Magazines are new [in the Middle East] and not part of the culture as much. So I’m not leaving any time soon. I think I’m here for a few years.
WE WENT TO Per AQUUM Desert Palm
WE ATE a selection of canapés from a high tea
WE DRANK English breakfast tea
SOPHIA WORE a Roksanda dress
If you want to see more of my interview with Sophia Serin, don’t miss tonight’s episode of Fashion Bloggers at 9.30pm on E!