I’ve noticed there’s a certain breed of people in the Gulf. I like to call them ‘ex-paps’. They’re the expats who seem to have transformed into celebrities on arrival in the country. The ones who attend the opening of anything, from a restaurant relaunch to the unveiling of a new supermarket, in the vain hope they’ll find themselves caught in the shutterfly of the local paparazzi. Every week you see the same movers and shakers – the (no doubt self-proclaimed) beautiful people – in all the local rags, and some faces soon start looking familiar. Their mugs may have been in one mag last week grinning inanely at the opening of a boutique, then they’re clocked the next, dancing at the latest hot club.
It’s almost as if they spot a photographer, sidle up to them and cough a quiet ‘ahem’, before the pap says: ‘Can I take a picture, please?’ The response is typically: ‘Well, I don’t know… maybe’ (meaning: ‘Yes! Yes! My God, please, yes!’). The ex-pap then shuffles into position, elbowing others out of the way to ensure their best profile is always on display. As I flick through the back pages of the local celeb mags, I wonder where they get the time and energy to attend all these events anyway.
Having said that, I’ve experienced a few moments as an ex-pap myself. The first time I was at a work function and happily posed away while the shutter clicked. I was flattered – until I didn’t see my smiling face anywhere in the ensuing weeks, even after scouring all the social media with a fine-toothed comb. To be honest, I was bitterly disappointed. Did I wear the wrong shoes? Dress? Was my hair a mess? Was I scowling, or – even worse – was I simply not photogenic enough to make the cut?
My next episode was at the opening of a new designer store and I managed a few square centimetres of space on the social pages. Yes, it was mildly thrilling to spot my familiar features on the glossy pages. But no, I wasn’t pleased with the picture and couldn’t help but cringe at my cheesy smile, shiny face and unkempt hair. I spent the rest of the week buying up the issue so no one I knew would spot it. After my mild brush with celebrity, I’d label myself an ex-ex-pap: after all, it’s far less stressful being incognito.