Although I currently live in the United States, I am from the United Arab Emirates, and when I'm there I like to seek out spaces where people go to create their idealized selves—places like men's and women's salons, photography studios, traditional pharmacies, garment districts. In a place so diverse, these spaces exist to realize endlessly differing notions of desirability, and in my work I try to chart what those look like, and how they influence each other. Much of the local population is dark-skinned, and skin-whitening treatments are popular. Women trade recipes for homemade bleaching creams using online beauty forums; some grocery stores sell green contact lenses alongside basic necessities.
When I'm there, I also like to visit salons and ask the stylists to make me beautiful, collecting the results over time, looking for a hybrid aesthetic that distills all these different aspirations into one generalized idea of beauty. While there, I document the sources of inspiration on the walls of these spaces: Murals of pastoral landscapes, posters of Hollywood film stars, elaborate mirror displays, and blue-eyed mannequins are some examples of the typical décor.