Red Carpet Killer: Zuhair Murad Gets It Right, Every Time

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If I’m ever fortunate enough to walk a red carpet (instead of reporting from behind the barricade) there’s one designer I dream of wearing: Zuhair Murad.

The Beirut-based fashion king is now mentioned in the same breath as names like Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino Garavani when it comes to dressing stars for major award ceremonies.

“I’m not afraid to take risks with fashion,” Murad tells The Hollywood Reporter. “My pieces are made to stand out, and what I love is the celebrity then embodies the statement the dress is making.”

Jennifer Lopez stole the show at the Golden Globes last night in a silver “art deco inspired beaded sheer caftan.” The 45-year-old beauty is one of Murad’s biggest celebrity supporters, calling him one of her “favorite designers.” Murad has also produced classic moments for Beyoncé, Shakira, Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart and more plus scores of Middle Eastern royalty.

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Growing up in Baalbek, Murad started sketching dresses from the age of 10. He once remarked, “I don’t recall a day in my life without a pen in my hand.” He opened his first atelier in Beirut in 1997 (after studying fashion abroad in France) and presented his first couture collection in 2001 during Haute Couture Week in Paris.

Lebanese fashion designers have a storied history when it comes to dressing the A-list set (Elie Saab, Georges Chakra, Abed Mahfouz) and being of Lebanese descent myself, I admire and am truly inspired by Murad’s success story. His career advice to Fashiontographer.com is priceless.

“First, you should be passionate for this job to give it your best,” Murad says. “You should find your own style, own inspiration, and stay true to your vision. You will inevitably get frustrated and upset and will probably question yourself along the way. It is a tough road where you will face fierce competition and comparable talent. One needs to be patient and work carefully. Only perseverance will compensate those who want to succeed in the fashion industry.”

Take a glimpse at the designer’s best work at ZuhairMurad.com.

A Birthday Letter To Jennifer Lopez

Wishing a very Happy Birthday to the woman who made me proud in my own skin, Jennifer Lopez.

Let me explain. Embracing my ethnic heritage (a mixture of Lebanese and Greek Cypriot) wasn’t encouraged in Australia when I was young. It wasn’t nearly as bad as when my grandmother and mother were growing up (my grandmother tells stories of her and her siblings having to hide their homemade lunch food at school, for fear of being teased and beaten up by the other kids) but it was evident and felt. With her big hoop earrings, slicked back hair and pride in her Puerto Rican heritage, J.Lo made me “come out the closet” as an ethnic girl and in that, happily present my darker features in all their glory. Ask Kim Kardashian; she did the same thing for her and I’m sure countless others our age.

I remember writing a longer article on Lopez’s strong effect on Middle Eastern, Southern European, Indian and obviously Latina females for HQ magazine as an intern over 10 years ago, on how she bridged the gap for girls looking for a pop icon to physically identify with who fell somewhere between Janet Jackson and Madonna. Mariah Carey‘s ambiguous self was around before Lopez but she wasn’t presented as such until she took control of her career and decided to do so later on (remember when J. Lo arrived on the scene in her skimpy outfits with those killer curves, dancing up a storm? Mariah looked like a complete bore in comparison). Paula Abdul and Gloria Estefan were doing their thing but for my late teenage and early 20s years, Lopez was everything I needed. On an Australian press tour in 2001, she first acknowledged me—the only ethnic face in a sea of Anglo-Australian journalists clamoring to take her picture—with a big smile and wave (I think that was the reason; that or the fact I had tears streaming down my cheeks). Not only did she have the look I aspired to, she was also unashamedly streetwise. She named her first album On The 6 in tribute to her Bronx roots (riding that train was top of my list when first visiting New York) and she made it very clear you couldn’t get any better than a woman who was street and sexy. She was everything I thought I was (“no matter where I go, I know where I came from”) and more.

Lopez’s career has gone from strength to strength and while many can (and do) question her talent in both music and acting, I’ve never had anything but admiration for her. Being a hardworking female in this entertainment biz can be synonymous with being a glutton for punishment, so Lopez’s astounding achievements (at last count she was worth $110 million, thanks to her numerous business ventures) will forever inspire me. Happy 43rd Birthday, Jenny From The Block.

Meeting Jennifer Lopez for the first time in Sydney (2001)

My tape of Lopez’s press conference and our interview