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Leila Ghandi: The Ultimate Arab Woman Boss

Leila Ghandi
Before Youtube became a thing, Leila Ghandi was a solo traveler and TV host embarking on long journeys across continents, breaking boundaries as a female voyageur, and using her platform to highlight social and cultural issues often considered as taboos in mainstream media.

A graduate of Sciences Po and Harvard University, a chevalier des arts et des lettres and an International Women Leadership Award recipient, Leila is now considered as a change maker and has impacted women across the North African region with an audience that exceeds 1 million viewers on her digital platforms.  

We sat down with fearless Leila to talk about her career, her upcoming projects, and her recent collaboration with L’Oréal Paris.

AM: Leila, how would you describe your journalistic style?
My shows revolved around traveling; however, I didn’t want to do a travel program but more of a culture magazine where I discussed sexual harassment in Egypt and radical Islam in France. I visited Palestine to interview Mahmoud Abbas and you would see me climbing the Kilimanjaro and interviewing a head of state in the same episode. I needed freedom to express myself which is why my show was created from scratch and not a purchased format.  

I feel like I always addressed the elephant in the room. I do a lot of research before I conduct an interview but I like to keep my point of view, and I am not always neutral because I am here to discover the truth and to meet and learn from people around the world.

AM: And was it a difficult journey?
Well, I was the first Moroccan woman to solo travel around the world as a program producer, so I was considered a strange woman with a backpack but eventually turned into a role model. At some point the CEO of the Moroccan TV reached out to me as he wanted to design a show around me and that was aired during primetime. I’ve always been impact driven, as a teenager I wanted to study politics and work for the United Nations, but I then realized that I can have the same influence with media. Now they even speak about me in classes because I advocate for universal values like women empowerment and social justice.

AM: Do you think being a woman has hindered your career?
No, I would say that being a woman has helped me a lot because my profile was needed in the industry back then. It also allowed me to have intimacy and proximity  with other female-related stories. I didn’t realize it, it was the media that highlighted that, and now there’s a community of Moroccan women who travel. It’s not only about geographical travel but more of a personal voyage. So being a woman and travelling alone raised a lot of questions about my origins, religion and culture. They even discussed my show in the Moroccan parliament because it was controversial. 

Leila Ghandi
AM: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Women send me messages all the time telling me that I have inspired them to follow their own journey and girls living in conservative countries need a role model to push them. I am not only a producer and TV host, I do events and moderate panels at the EU parliament, the UN, etc. I have a mission to fight for women’s rights, climate change, a better world in a nutshell. We all have a role to play, and any woman can have an impact in her own circle. You can be Arab, Muslim, Moroccan and you can still achieve anything you desire no matter what your society imposes on you.

AM: You have recently been chosen by L’Oréal Paris as a brand ambassador for North Africa. Tell us more about this experience?
It was a great experience, I am no beauty queen, yet they have chosen me. I felt proud and privileged to be considered by the industry as a role model, and this is my mission to allow women to feel confident and strong and to feel free to voice their opinions. While I am regularly contacted by brands, I am very careful about choosing the right collaborations as I want to remain consistent with the image that I have built over the years.

AM: And what are your thoughts about the impact of social media today?
At the end of the day, it’s a demand and offer equation. Traditional media doesn’t have a monopoly anymore and there’s more free access to information. That being said democratization is dangerous, not only with fake news, but when we associate low quality content with good one. People are starting to reward good looking personalities as if they were Nobel Prize winners. We are all equal as individuals but we don’t have an equal say in things. 

AM: What are your preparing this year?
I am currently working on the Monaco Impact Network which is a platform that inspires people through short and impactful messages from talents and influential people who I have met during my work and travels. We have business personalities, head of states, academics who loved the bold and simple idea. Also, my website which consolidates all my work and productions that are aligned with my values and positioning. 

Full story available in Arabian Moda’s Autumn/Winter Paper Edition — The As Haute As It Gets Issue.