x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

'I always try to be a better person'

This much I know Parisa Askari owns and runs Parisa Beauty Salon, which has branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Parisa Askari owns Parisa Beauty Center in Abu Dhabi.
Parisa Askari owns Parisa Beauty Center in Abu Dhabi.

Parisa Askari owns and runs Parisa Beauty Salon, which has branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. She has lived in Abu Dhabi for 28 years. I was born in Hue in Vietnam. My father died when I was two and my mother remarried soon after. She went on to have seven more children, but I was adopted by my aunt and uncle. They brought me up, along with my grandmother. Even now, although I am fond of my mother, I love my aunt, uncle and grandmother like parents. My husband is Iranian and we met in Karachi. I was on my way to France with my family (we have a lot of family there) and we started going out. Three years later, we got married in Tehran.

We have Canadian citizenship and have a house in Vancouver. All our children were born here but live there now. One is an engineer, one is training to be a lawyer and the other is at university. Abu Dhabi is my home for the time being and I'm very comfortable here. I see our future in Canada, though. I believe I have done most things right by my children, although when my eldest son said he wanted to study in Paris, I advised him against it. I was very lonely as a child and I thought it was important that they all stayed together. In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do because he would have got a lot out of it.

I wanted to be a lawyer when I was young; I am a good debater. But my husband wanted me to do something more flexible, so I trained as a hairdresser instead. Hairdressing is an extremely happy profession; after every client you have the satisfaction of seeing them looking better. However, all the perm chemicals we used (everyone wanted perms back then) affected my hands, so I switched to beauty instead. We were living in Karachi and I had some Emirati clients who were on holiday there. They offered me a job at one of the palaces here in Abu Dhabi and they found my husband a job in the Department of Defence, so we moved here in 1980.

I had three salons in Abu Dhabi at one point, but it became too much. I had a bad car accident because I was rushing between salons, so I decided to concentrate my efforts on one bigger place. I had lots of clients who came down from Dubai, so I recently opened a salon there as well. I divide my time between the two. We have a lovely apartment on the Palm with views out to sea. I like to get up early, at about 5am and go for a walk along the Corniche with my husband. I'm usually at work by 8. I like to get everything set up before we open at 9. The salon is very successful and I am usually booked all day. I train all the staff myself and we're like a family. It's sad whenever anyone leaves. I'm like their mother and I give them advice on how to save their money because I know from experience how important it is.

My idea of a perfect day is to have a facial, manicure and pedicure, then go home and play the piano a little. I learnt when I was young and usually play Vietnamese music. I love going to the movies; my favourite films are Love Story, Titanic and Dr Zhivago. Then perhaps some dinner with my husband. Our maid is a good cook and I've taught her lots of Vietnamese dishes, which are very healthy with lots of vegetables.

I collect Swarovski crystals and have about 1,000 now. I love the rainbow the light creates when it shines through. It reminds me of the ones in Vancouver, which you get a lot of in August and September. I keep them on the window sill and the room is lit up with rainbows. Oprah is one of my heroes. She had a hard childhood but she became somebody and now she uses her influence to help people. I am always trying to be a better person and enjoy helping people.

I am a very happy person, maybe because I have a happy marriage, three lovely children and a good business. I couldn't ask for any more. I'm not religious. I believe that once you die, you're gone. For me, heaven is where I live now.