Since our first photoshoot, we’ve made a conscious effort to have real women volunteer as our models. We celebrate the diversity of each woman’s heritage and background and can’t wait to introduce them to you! Here on Cultural Exchange, we’ll be sharing the stories of these wonderful women and why they are our role models. The first woman we will be featuring is Mona Sabet, a finance guru, environmentalist, and long-time supporter of The Little Market. Read below to learn more about her heritage, upcoming projects, and what she is passionate about.
Tell us a bit about your background and upbringing.
Growing up as a first-generation American — that is, being the American-born child of immigrants (Muslim Egyptians) — was challenging. On top of that, I briefly moved to Egypt as a teenager when my parents got divorced in 1999, which added a whirlwind to my world. My identity was constantly in flux straddling multiple worlds. I was figuring out how to be an American in Egypt, and an Egyptian in America. My life felt like a balancing act of competing cultures, languages, and traditions. These formative years allowed me, as a child of immigrants, to have first-hand experiences in my parents’ homeland; a world that couldn’t be more different than my birth country. That experience empowered me to stop feeling embarrassed about my experiential differences with my American friends. It opened my mind because I was part of two worlds that I love with superficially conflicting values. What was right there could appear to be wrong here and vice versa. It taught me to unlearn a lot of my beliefs and open my heart (and) mind and empower me to be unapologetically myself. It helped me become proud of the layers that made me and at the same time cherish the uniqueness within everyone that I meet.
What is your heritage?
What makes you proud of your heritage?
For one, Egypt is known to be Om El Donya, the Mother of the World. The rich and ancient history, the mystic of the land. Mostly though, that Egyptians are such gracious people, it’s hard not to fall desperately in love with the country and its people. Egyptians have a way of inviting and enchanting curious visitors; they welcome all with open arms. There is a tendency toward an inclusive, community-oriented mindset. Oh, and the food is absolutely amazing!
What upcoming project are you looking forward to?
I’m a banker by day, and a writer by night. Publishing my book! 11 years in the making … It’s a coming of age book about a young girl’s journey growing up between the U.S. and Egypt dealing with their conflicting dichotomies.
What causes are you most passionate about and why?
The Environment – Let’s face it, if we don’t take care of our beautiful planet, what else is there to live for?
Social Mobility & Financial Literacy – I believe self-sufficiency is key to any healthy society. Working in the banking industry for over a decade as an investment banker and now private banker, I see how financial literacy can help empower individuals to achieve their goals.
American Cancer Society – Both my parents are cancer survivors. I can’t be grateful enough for all the resources there are for research, and for individuals’ comfort during such a challenging time.
Boys & Girls Club – The future are the children, it truly gives kids a place to feel supported and encouraged.
What neighborhood do you live in? Why did you choose it and what makes it feel like home?
I live on a ranch in Malibu. I feel like it chose my husband and me, I don’t know why, it just did. Being a city dweller, at first I thought … hmm, a ranch? Now I can’t imagine a life without mules, fruit trees, and the Santa Monica Mountains. Looking at the abundance of nature every day forces me to remain humble. I love it!
Morning person or night owl?
The morning … I love waking up when everyone is still sleeping, even the birds. I just think better.
Where is your “happy place?”
Sahel, the North Coast in Egypt. Summer times on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt with its endless turquoise water and white sand beaches – is the best kept secret. It holds such a calming energy. No wonder Cleopatra retreated there…
What are you currently reading?
Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy. He is one of my favorite Egyptian authors who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. One of his quotes that I love, “Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.”
Who is your role model?
My mom. She showed me to always pick yourself up, work hard, give back, and always have a good attitude. I hope to be 10 percent the woman that she is…
What does every home need?
Love and living plants!
Thank you to Mona for sharing her story! You can shop her favorite items from The Little Market here.