x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

'I try to learn from my mistakes'

This much I know: Sophia Kamber co-founded Bodyworx, a medical spa in Abu Dhabi which specialises in plastic surgery and cosmetic dermatology.

Sophia Kamber grew up in Abu Dhabi.
Sophia Kamber grew up in Abu Dhabi.

Sophia Kamber co-founded Bodyworx, a medical spa in Abu Dhabi which specialises in plastic surgery and cosmetic dermatology. I was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire, in the UK, where my mother is from. My father was Emirati but he died when I was three, so I hardly remember him. My parents met in a lift, in a building they both lived in in Dubai. Abu Dhabi was a wonderful place to grow up. I am a child of the Eighties and we had some great times as children, playing on the beach and on our bikes. There wasn't a great deal here then, but we had a close group of friends and life was simple. Abu Dhabi was and still is a very safe place.

I was sent to boarding school in England when I was 11, which I hated. Suddenly, I found myself on a freezing cold hockey pitch, dreaming of the sun and sea. There were all these worldly girls with problems at home and it was a huge culture shock. I had been an excellent student until then, but my grades starting slipping because I was miserable, so I begged my mother to bring me home. Luckily, she gave in and I finished the American Community School in Abu Dhabi a year ahead of schedule, at 17.

Being an all-rounder made it difficult for me to choose a subject to study at university. I felt burnt out after school, so I decided to get a job. People here are very keen on getting degrees and MAs and PhDs, but I don't think any of that can teach you as much as being at the coalface. My father and grandfather were businessmen, so it's in my blood. I got the idea to start up Bodyworx in December 2006 and we opened in December 2007. We have an amazing plastic surgeon from California, who is the only endoscopic surgeon in the UAE. We have male and female clients, from the UAE and abroad.

Some people think, "if I change my face, my life will improve", but these are unrealistic expectations; a good surgeon will usually know if someone has psychological issues and will refuse to treat such people. The plastic surgery industry has been hijacked in recent years and we are trying to restore its credibility. I don't see marriage as a priority. I have always preferred to be alone than in bad company: unless I can grow and learn from somebody, I see no point in it. I live with my mother at the moment; we are very different characters and are usually so busy that we're like ships in the night. She has a great sense of humour so we laugh a lot.

My mother always encouraged me to take an interest in current affairs. I love watching Prime Minister's Question Time; Tony Blair was a brilliant debater and George Galloway is superb. The argument is irrelevant for me; it is the skill that I enjoy. I was rooting for Hillary (Clinton) in the US presidential primaries. I believe she would have done the best job, but there are too many people voting who don't know what they're voting for.

I have always loved opera. When I was four, I watched Placido Domingo play Alfredo in Franco Zeferelli's adaptation of La Traviata, and couldn't believe how handsome he was. He has a passion that is incomparable and when he performed in Abu Dhabi last year, I was over the moon. I am a very self-critical person, so I make sure I learn from my mistakes. I am happy in my own skin, though. I knew the sort of person I wanted to be when I was small and made sure I followed that path. Some traits can't be learnt but you can train yourself to think and act in a certain way.

Being surrounded by nature and animals gives me peace. I have a dog who I adore and I often get up early at weekends to take him down to the beach. Animal cruelty makes me sad. The RSPCA in the UK is a very impressive organisation and we need someone here with the incentive to set up something similar. Retail therapy never fails to cheer me up and I often go shopping at weekends. Shoes are my real weakness; I have no idea how many pairs I have but let's just say Imelda Marcos and I would get on like a house on fire.