Social media influencers are users of one or more social media platforms who have amassed large followings that are continuously engaged with their content. Coming from a variety of backgrounds – with some of them being reality TV stars, makeup artists, or fitness gurus – they curate and post content that highlights items, hobbies, activities, or places.
Often, influencer posts are sponsored by larger companies who offer payments for the advertising service or offer commissions based on the activity of people who have engaged with the social media posts and then completed the action desired by the company. These actions could include purchasing the advertised product, attending an advertised event or subscribing to a service.
These ads rely on subvert messaging in the form of personal endorsement. Social media influencers are unique in that they have established strong authenticity and credibility in the eyes of their followers, to the extent that even simply visiting a place and posting it on their Instagram is sufficient to refer others to spend money.
The Middle East has one of the youngest populations in the world. With a whopping total of 108 million people, more than 28 percent of the region’s population are between the ages of 15 and 29. Young people are the fastest growing demographic in this region, with a median age of 22 years old, compared to the global average of 28 years old. With the majority of younger generations moving towards smartphones, there has been a clear increase in the influence of social media in the lives of young Middle Easterners. Social media is a way to learn every day what is new and trending in the world, and participate in these trends to gain social acceptance and popularity.
In 2015, there were 25 million Instagram users in the Middle East. Since this statistic was recorded, this number is sure to have increased tremendously. Saudi Arabia has the most users in the region per capita. It is thus natural that with the emergence of social media in the Middle East, there has been a boom of the region’s social media influencers. As the influence of lifestyle bloggers in the Middle East becomes more entrenched, it is also opening the doors for companies to reach new buyers in various markets. Below are some of the most popular and successful social media influencers.
1. Huda Kattan
Instagram followers: 29.3 m
YouTube subscribers: 2,734,455
YouTube Views: 105,597,922
Theme: Beauty and makeup
Huda Kattan is the best known social media influencer in the Middle East. She born in Oklahoma City to Iraqi parents. After struggling with extreme self image issues due to bullying, she found solace in her makeup tools. After moving to Dubai, she gained social media notoriety after her makeup tutorials and advice videos started gaining traction on Youtube.
Since then, she has racked up a number of accolades. She was ranked #1 on the “2017 Influencer Instagram Rich List”, earning a whopping $18,000 per post with a sponsored ad. She was also named one of the “ten most powerful influencers in the world of beauty” by Forbes. In 2017, she was also selected as one of “The 25 Most Influential People on the Internet” by Time Magazine in 2017. Forbes estimates that she is worth $550 million.
After her popularity skyrocketed, she decided to move towards brick and mortar selling as well, so she developed a Dubai-based cosmetics firm called Huda Beauty, offering a variety of beauty products including false lashes to bronzers to lip contours to eyeshadow palettes. The total 140 products+ generate at least $200 million in annual revenue. Huda is regarded as an inspirational woman figure for the region’s business women and young girls alike.
2. Joelle Mardinian
Occupation: Entrepreneur, TV Host, Makeup Artist, Reality TV star
Instagram followers: 8.8 m
YouTube subscribers: 152,407
YouTube Views: 11,190,304
Joelle Mardinian, a Lebanese-born TV host, has had a multitude of career paths to reach where she is today. After moving to Dubai, Joelle started her career initially as a makeup artist in salons, but later discovered her engaging camera personality. She merged these two passions and has had a well known makeover show on MBC for over ten years. This led to her ventures in a new business market where she created her own salons, skin products, hair products, spas and even plastic surgery clinics. Some may say she is building a beauty empire spanning the Middle East. This year, she is getting even more attention as a reality show focused on her and her family is debuting. Those in the Middle East who haven’t heard her name as yet are about to!
3. Taim AlFalasi
Instagram followers: 2.6 m
YouTube subscribers: 575,467
YouTube Views: 99,417,494
Theme: Travel, Food, Lifestyle
Restaurateur & Influencer
Based in Dubai
Growing up, Taim AlFalasi was a large fan of English and American radio shows which she used to listen to obsessively. During her experience as a visual communications major at Zayed University, she started making her own shows using basic production techniques in her bedroom. The Taim Show, as it was called, was launched in 2013. She became one of the very first Emirati women to create and maintain an internet radio show. She has found widespread success. The Taim Show is regarded in many rankings as the most listened to program in the Arab world.
Following this success, Taim Alfalasi has become a well known influencer in the Middle East. She has 2.6 million Instagram followers and more than 575,467 people have subscribed to her YouTube channel. She frequently creates posts promoting glamorous travel locations, luxury clothing items and gourmet food restaurants.
4. Abdullaziz Baz
Theme: A social media jokester, lifestyle influencer
Instagram followers: 4.9 million
YouTube subscribers: 601,033
Abdullaziz Baz grew up in Dubai living a relatively normal life before he started his career as a comedian and a model. Known as Baz or Bin Baz, the popular influencer has become one of the region’s biggest social media stars. With near 5 million followers on Instagram, he is best known for creating hilarious videos and pictures that portray life in the UAE. He is widely loved for his role as a jokester, always pranking people or poking fun at himself. This lovable nature has earned him high profile sponsorships with tech, car and perfume companies. Follow his Instagram or YouTube channel if you are in search of a smile!
5. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Instagram followers: 6.7 m
Not only is Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed the Crown Prince of Dubai, he also is a ruler of social media as well. His instagram, followed by a massive 6.7 million people, is a record of his lavish lifestyle through his photography talent. He has a clear passion for traveling and expresses it to all of his followers. It seems the more remote the place, the more he loves to go there. He frequently shows off his thrill junkie passions which include skydiving, ziplining, snowboarding, spearfishing and diving. He also often posts pictures with exotic animals such as lions and falcons, as well as [less-exotic] camels.
If that list was not impressive enough, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed is also a published poet. While he does not need the money as he is already a multi-millionaire, the Prince enjoys being an influencer in his own right. After looking at his posts, one is certainly inspired to live a more active, adventurous life!
6. Fouz al Fahad
Theme: beauty, empowering women, fashion, lifestyle
Instagram followers: 2.6 m
Kuwaiti-born Fouz al Fahad has become one of the region’s most prominent beauty influencers taking over the social-media world. Her makeup tutorials are watched globally by hundreds of thousands of women, with big names such as Chrissy Teigen following her on Instagram. She notes one of her biggest struggles being getting girls to appreciate other girls, especially given the competitive nature of social media.
Despite initial resistance, she appears to have found the magic trick and has united women across the Arab and greater world with her global following. On her Instagram page, she has high-stake partnerships with Shein, Colgate dental products, the Arab world E-commerce site Souk, and even Disney. These partnerships are transcending a solely Arab audience. For all around the world, don’t be surprised if al Fahad pops up on your Instagram soon!
7. Mo Vlogs
Theme: Lifestyle, luxury, cars
Instagram followers: 1.5 m
YouTube subscribers: 6,621,267
YouTube Views: 1,722,642,122
Mohamed Beiraghdary (better known as MoVlogs), although only 23, is one of the most popular YouTubers and social media influencers in the Middle East. This Dubai-based Iranian personality is known for his car-related videos and for displaying a glimpse into the lifestyle of an extremely wealthy person in the United Arab Emirates.
With frequent guest stars by Rashed Belhasa, the richest self-made 16-year-old in Dubai, and Saygin Yalcin, a self-made billionaire, he has gained many followers from people who are intrigued by this lifestyle. He frequently talks about his cars the Rolls Royce Ghost (worth around $311,900) and the Mercedes Benz G Wagon (worth around $124,500). Though he is not necessarily providing advertising space for companies, he is a lifestyle influencer that believes in spend large amounts of money on having fun and looking good.
8. Dalal AlDoub
Theme: Fashion & Beauty
Instagram Followers: 2.4 m
YouTube subscribers: 657,829
YouTube Views: 31,762,958
Dalal Al Doub was born and raised in Kuwait City, Kuwait. In 2012, she started blogging on her website called Dalalid with content focused on her daily clothing choices and personal makeup tips in 2012, also sharing her blogs on Instagram. In almost no time, word about her lifestyle tips had spread throughout the Gulf countries and the Arab world.
Dalal is one of the most well-known influencers in her country of Kuwait. After finding widespread success after only one year, she started her YouTube channel where she continues to provide makeup tips and share her experiences, as well as conducting reviews of beauty products. Similar to influencer peer Fouz al Fahad of the same country, the star’s biggest focus in on empowering women. The welcome quote on her website reads: “The goal is to empower women; to provide them with confidence, and to encourage them to become their own stylists and makeup artists.”
9. Noha Nabil
Theme: Engineering, TV presenter, fashionista and social media star
Instagram followers: 6.6 m
YouTube subscribers: 170,019
YouTube Views: 5,755,857
Nabil started hosting TV shows in Kuwait at the young age of nine. In 2008, she completed her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and moved to the United States to pursue her masters. While in the USA she discovered a passion for fashion, and shortly thereafter began her blog, Nohastyle, while first garnered traction when she was as featured as a presenter on popular channels, Dubai TV and MBC. Instagram soon became her most recognized platform and has remained so today. In between her beauty posts, you will find advertisements and partnerships with many children’s toys, a passion she follows personally as she has two children herself. She has also seen success in promotions for fashion and cosmetic companies.
10. Darin Al Bayed
Theme: comedy, social commentary, women empowerment
Instagram followers: 4.3 m
Darin Al Bayed is a Lebanese content creator and comic star with over 4 million Instagram followers. Currently based in Jeddah, she posts comical imaginary situations between women and men to explore gender-based social dynamics that exist in Saudi Arabia. She argues that Saudi women have far greater power to speak on the internet than in real life.
Since she created her channel, Darin has gained significant attention from Saudis and public appreciation of her values. As a result of her popularity, she accepted a leading role in the play “Memoirs of a Ghost” which focuses on the issues that women have faced in the country over the last 60 years. Many companies have capitalized on her celebrity status and had her advertise their products, with two recent examples being Huawei Arabia and sadeem.com.
11. Njoud Al Shammari
Theme: fashion, lifestyle, hijab
Instagram followers: 1.4m
YouTube subscribers: 1,642,051
YouTube Views: 103,613,273
Njoud Al Shammari is a lifestyle blogger, Youtube sensation and Instagram queen from Saudi Arabia. She is currently based in the UAE where she shares photos and videos on her account related to her personal lifestyle, travels and comedic moments, with occasional features from two of her brothers.
Since starting her Youtube channel in 2015, Njoud has earned over 1,600,000 subscribers and an astounding 100,000,000+ views. In 2017, an online video intelligence company named Tubular Labs released a report with their calculation for ranking the most influential female YouTubers in Saudi Arabia. Al Shammari took the very top spot on the list with content that was found to be over 5X more engaging than the average YouTuber. Her Instagram displays posts with high profile sponsors such as shampoo company Persil, lotion for Johnson’s, and even bottled Frappuccinos for Starbucks.
12. Hayla Al Ghazal
Theme: TV, creating change, women empowerment
Instagram followers: 1.8 m
YouTube subscribers: 6,057,942
YouTube Views: 1,019,859,093
Hayla Al Ghazal launched her YouTube channel in June 2013 when she was 18 years old, and today has a whopping 6 million subscribers and over a billion views. Over time, her channel evolved to highlight specific key social issues throughout the Middle East. The United Nations appoints women with inspiring and successful YouTube channels to be Change Ambassadors to the UN’s Sustainable development action campaign, and pays homage to the plethora of diverse, passionate women using its platform for social benefit.
Al Ghazal was elected one of seven Change Ambassadors with a responsibility to create content that strives for more equitable experiences of women within each user’s community. In response, Hayla said, “It’s wonderful to see that organisations like the UN are recognising that women on YouTube represent a powerful community of female role models from diverse communities around the world. I found my voice on YouTube through sharing my videos about lifestyle and entertainment and over the years I’ve built a family of fans that I can connect with on what’s happening in culture and the issues that are relevant to me as a woman.”
Hayla also founded Hayla Couture, a bridal and evening dress boutique with stores in malls. What an impressive woman!
13. Thana and Sakhaa Abdul
Theme: Fashion, lifestyle, youth, graphic design, sisterhood
Instagram followers: 80.1k
Saudi twins Thana and Sakhaa, who now reside in London, have found much success both as influencers and entrepreneurs. In 2013, they co-founded an online venture titled Coded Nation, a e-commerce platform and blog, where they highlight new designers and brands and consumers have the ability to purchase on the spot. Their most recent collected is titled the ‘Kids of Arabia’, marking Saudi Arabia’s national day. They have stated their goal is to “transfer Saudi Arabian history and street culture through graphic designs”. Their Instagram account highlights their friendship and sisterhood, fashion trends, and artsy locations around the world.
14. Nora Bo Awadh
Theme: Make up
Instagram followers: 2.6 m
YouTube subscribers: 434,827
YouTube Views: 19,101,963
Saudi Arabia-based Bo Awadh is one of the top makeup artists in the country. Within 10 months of the launch of her YouTube channel, Bo Awadh had been viewed more than 3 million times. She also conducts masterclasses across the region for women who want to learn about fashion. There is not much available online about her, as she likes to keep her private life hidden from the media.
15. Lana Rose
Theme: Lavish lifestyle, makeup, travel, cars
Instagram followers: 1.2 m
YouTube subscribers: 1,331,065
YouTube Views: 74,542,415
Lana, an influencer from Dubai, first began her social media career in 2013 with an Instagram account and followed it with a YouTube channel several months later. She gained almost immediate recognition for being known as the older sister of “Mo Vlogs” (Number 7 on this list).
Her YouTube is used for vlogging purposes where she talks about all the occurrences within a typical day. She is particularly known for the lavish lifestyle that she portrays, with luxury fashion and cars. She has also evolved to post makeup tutorials, with sponsorship from many expensive cosmetics brands.
Throughout the Middle East, she is considered one of the most criticized and envied social media stars, because of the luxurious lifestyle that she has and represents. Different videos such as her “Driving the Lamborghini Aventador”, a $417,650 car, have garnered both support and backlash online. Despite seemingly portraying significant portions of her life on social media, much of her actual identity remains hidden from the public eye.
16. Ascia Al Faraj
Theme: love, couple, family, fashion, society issues
Instagram followers: 2.5 m
YouTube subscribers: 162,227
YouTube Views: 7,669,112
The Hybrids are a husband and wife blogger duo, Ascia and Ahmad (Number 17) from Kuwait. Since 2014, their blog and social media accounts have sought to capture everything from their lives from marriage and traveling to life in the Middle East. What once started as just an occasional blog post has turned into a full career for the both of them. Ahmad and Ascia now work with leading fashion, lifestyle and cosmetic brands from all over the globe. Their popularity also extends to the Islamic world outside of the Middle East in Malaysia and Indonesia
Ascia Al Faraj, (or Ascia AKF on her blogs), is the woman half of the team. She has worked with well known fashion brands including Net-a-Porter, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, TAG Heuer, Dior, and Tory Burch, and is the face of Riva Fashion. For her powerful partnerships and follow power, she is considered one of the Middle East’s most influential social media influencers. She advocates for fashionable clothing that is also modest, as demonstrated on her Instagram through fashionable options despite wearing a hijab.
Unlike other social media stars, she always insists on showing the true version of herself, by refusing to edit her body shape or airbrush out acne. She is an icon for many, especially in more conservative communities. Through her blog she attempts to raise awareness of different societal issues, and recently published a blog post on eating disorders. She has also started several businesses of her own:
17. Ahmad Al-Balooshi
Theme: family, gym, couple, lifestyle, fashion
Instagram followers: 230 k
YouTube Views: 7,669,112
Ahmad is the husband half of the Hybrids team. Though he and his wife share a blog, they keep separate Instagram accounts. He is half Latino and half Kuwaiti. As well as being a very successful social media influencer, he is also a mechanical engineer. He has posted Instagrams advertising very different products from Samsung, Moschino, Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and many more others.
18. Aljuhara Sajer
Theme: Lifestyle, Luxury, Modesty, Hijab, Lifestyle
Instagram followers: 310k
YouTube subscribers: 506,572
YouTube Views: 54,178,992
Aljuhara Sajer, known as JaySajer online, has been defined as champion and role model for other women influencers in the Middle East. In Arabian Business’ The World’s Most Influential Arab Women 2017, Sajer was ranked #24, in an impressive position that falls in between government ministers and finance company CEOs.
In 2014, AlJuhara Sajer created a YouTube channel to offer women advice that she felt was missing from mainstream media in conservative Saudi Arabia. As a result, she kept her identity secret and hidden from viewers, fearing retribution from close minded members of her society. Eventually, she revealed herself and has used the ensuing momentum to fuel her social media content, talking about everything from gender in society to inspirational talks to galvanize youth. Her Instagram is filled with luxury jewelry, hair care, and skin product advertisements.
Theme: Funny, witty, beauty
Instagram followers: 2m
YouTube subscribers: 1,923
YouTube Views: 486,262
Bibi Alabdulmohsen, a well known Kuwaiti influencer is the only Snapchat influencer on this list where she stands out uniquely due to her hilarious and honest commentary that she posts regarding various events in her life. She initially started out on Instagram like others on this list, but garnered support from her funny and relatable reviews of beauty products.
Her witty, brutally honest posts earned her a spot on Vogue’s “starter pack of 15 personalities you should be following on Snapchat”. She also has an active Instagram page where her recent advertisement partners have included Dove, Fendi, and Ixiname. She also was featured on E! Entertainment’s reality show called My Fabulous Middle East (along with Dana Al Tuwarish) focused on the story behind her rise to influencer.
20. Lojain Omran
Themes: Media Personality, Lifestyle, Glamor
Instagram followers: 6.9 m
YouTube subscribers: 102,640
YouTube Views: 5,503,910
This Saudi newscaster has always been in the news for making a splash. In 2008, while living in Dubai, she bought an expensive Porsche and then resprayed it in pink with silver glitter and the slogans “Girls Rule” and “Angel”.
She has picked up a number of ratings as well. Forbes put her at number 55 in their 2017 list of 100 Arabic celebrities. She has been described as “one of the most influential media personalities in the Middle East” and as one of the five “most popular fashion and beauty influencers” affecting millennials in the UAE. Gulf Business listed her as number 87 in its Arab Power List 2018. Her Instagram is filled with beautiful travel destinations, expensive goods, and videos highlighting various aspects of Saudi life.
21. Dana Al Tuwarish
Themes: Fashion, Skincare, lifestyle, Reality TV
Instagram followers: 2m
Dana Al Tuwarish is a half Kuwaiti half Iraqi lifestyle Instagram influencer who was recently featured on My Fabulous Middle East with #19 Bibi Alabulmohsen. When she made her Instagram account while a student at the American University of Kuwait, she could never have predicted that she would have the life she has now. Through her posts and her huge amount of followers, she shares advice on fashion, skin care, lifestyle and perfumes, often collaborating with famous brands.
22. Zahra Lari
Theme: Hijab, athletics, Figure Skating, Women’s Empowerment
Instagram Followers: 20.6 K
Zahra Lari is from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, born from an Emirati father and an American mother. Fueled by inspiration after watching the movie Ice Princess, she started figure skating. Lari soon developed an excellent talent for it and became the first figure skater from the United Arab Emirates to compete internationally. She also made news by becoming the first figure skater to compete in a hijab.
In 2011, she received a competition penalty due to her hijab as officials argued that it was not an approved part of the costume. She brought press attention to the issue and protested it, thereby changing the rule. Headscarves are now allowed at all competitions. As a result, Nike announced that it will be adding a lightweight hijab for athletic competition to its sportswear collection.
Lari is one of the athletes that will be featured in the campaign for the sports company giant. Lari said, “I think they’re really fighting for girls in the Arab region. It’s great having a big sports brand doing that.” She also works with FBMA Elite Athlete and Red Bull. She keeps her Instagram regularly updated. Besides winning competitions, her main intention is to inspire other young women. She has a special focus on Muslims who struggle with the same obstacles she faced and continues to face to this day.
23. Sondos Al Qattan
Themes: Fashion and Beauty, Human Rights Activitst
Instagram followers: 2.5 m
Sondos Alqattan is a Kuwaiti influencer specializing in beauty and fashion. In late July 2018, Al Qattan posted a video to Instagram in which she condemned recently laws seeking to protect the rights of Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait. In the days following this scandal, there was significant public outrage and many brands she previously helped influence for stopped ties with her, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, MAC Cosmetics Too Faced, Max Factor Arabia, French perfume brand M. Micalle and the English Chelsea Boutique. However, despite her refusal to apologize, most brands have still chosen to work with her and her following has only grown larger.
24. Saufeeya Goodson
Theme: Contemporary, Modest, Fashion
Instagram followers: 412k/ 2.7 m
Saufeeya Goodson’s Instagram bio is “bridging the gap between East & West” and that serves as a very accurate description of her life. This influencer, born in North Carolina but now based in Dubai, has become a successful fashion conduit between America, Europe and the Middle East. On her personal blog and Instagram account, she posts pictures of herself and her daily outfits while using the tagging feature to accredit certain designers.
Her feed is refreshingly minimalist and fashionably conservative. Vogue wrote an article about her, citing her posts as “Defining Modest Dressing”. Goodson’s wildly popular Hijab Fashion Instagram highlights different fashionable ways to wear a hijab. They have submissions from people from all around the world.
Not only is she influencing the Middle East in terms of what to buy, she is also redefining unfair standards that are frequently discussed in Western rhetoric. Goodson proves through her work that it is possible to be conservative and also fashionable, and is certainly a name to watch.
25. Mahmoud Sidani
Themes: Famous people, Glamorous vacations, fashion, lifestyle
Instagram followers: 124K
Known in some circles as “Mr. Moudz” Mahmoud Sidani gained his initial exposure to the world of finance while working as a shoe buyer at Dubai’s renowned Level Shoe District. That gave his career a kickstart where he now frequently works with fashion in various capacities.
Sidani travels all around the world to various Fashion Weeks and shows, taking pictures of both his own fashion triumphs but also others’ styles. He posts on his personal blog as well as his Instagram. He appears to have met a number of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Zac Efron and Gwen Stefani. The influencer launched “Mr. Moudz Fashion Consultancy” in April 2015, which offers a variety of services from styling to buying to events. He is certainly a name to keep tabs on.
Written by: Jennifer Lundt