The modelling industry in the UAE was taken by storm in 2003 when Nicole Rodrigues decided to start Diva Modelling and Events, which then expanded into a multimillion dollar business empire. Nicole, who is now the Founder and CEO of the Diva Group of Companies, is a full-time mum, entrepreneur and probably one of the warmest people we have ever come across.
Her husband, Dr. Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi complements her perfectly. A trained lawyer, he is now the CEO of German Imaging Technologies, a company that produces OEM compatible toner cartridges for the Middle East and North Africa. Truly gracious and
Nicole and Sassan are the proud parents of Victoria, 13 and Victor, 10 who are as different as they are similar. The siblings share a very strong bond, despite being in very different phases of their life. “They are my constant learning platform. Every day I learn something from them; their little smiles and dreams are so precious and they teach me how to retain my own child like sense constantly”, Nicole says with a smile.
It seemed fascinating to me, to be given the chance to see the inner workings of a family as diverse as Nicole and Sassan’s. A family that truly believes in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie, we were truly privileged to be invited into what is essentially Nicole and Sassan’s private space.
Nicole and Sassan’s house is a true testament to their refined and elegant taste. Minimalistic with touches of color throughout the house, their spacious abode is one where the kids are heard before they are seen, which is always wonderful to observe. With 2 dogs, Mia and Vasco de Gama and a Persian cat, Casper, this house is always alive with sound and laughter!
Born in Cochin raised in Mumbai, the beautiful Nicole did her schooling in Mumbai after which she graduated from National College, Bandra where was a Mathematics major and went on to get a Business degree from Harvard Business School. Truly entrepreneurial, she started Diva Modelling & Events in 2003. She turned an AED 50,000 loan into a multimillion dollar empire. She became a one woman show set to revolutionise the modelling industry in the UAE… and she did just that.
On a work and home life balance: I don’t find it hard to balance between work and home at all! I have a strong understanding that I am a mom, wife, entrepreneur, business owner, friend. All these roles need time. Planning and balance is the core of my existence. I am literally all about the balance!
On finding a purpose: My life is a sort of rags to riches story. I wouldn’t say total rags, as a good foundation is very vital to build on (so education is a must for all). Constant hard work, goals, focus, dedication, sacrifice are all very important ingredients in ones’ formula to success. I’ve come to realise that financial success isn’t everything in life. Sure it gives you options, but emotional peace and true success comes only when you find your purpose in serving and providing. I found my purpose when I set up Diva Models, a platform for the media industry talent in the region. I believe beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and everyone is born with some talent and it’s our job to find the right opportunity for them to shine.
My journey has never been financial or success driven, that just became part of the package. My true journey is of adding value to someone’s life on a daily basis. Being a mom has helped me understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and has helped me learn how I can praise the strengths and guide someone on a path to overcome the weaknesses with patience, understanding and love!
On doing something different: I would not change a thing. I live my dreams. I dream it, understand it and make it happen. Dreams are made to be lived and not hallucinated. The gift of being able to dream is God given but to not work on them and look for hurdles and excuses is ones’ curse. Our failures are also our gifts if we learn from them and not fall prey to them. Positive thoughts and faith is a strong driving force that can keep you going. Self-worth is vital!
Born to a German mother and Iranian father, Sassan’s family migrated from Iran in 1978 when the revolution broke out. After a short stint in boarding school in Shareborne, England, he relocated to Germany where he finished his education and trained as a lawyer. He practiced law for five years in Frankfurt in some of Germany’s top 10 city law firms and moved to Dubai at the end of 1999 where he set up German Imaging Technologies, the company he manages today.
On his work and life ethic: I believe in candour at work. I tend to be very straight forward and product. I like to get the job done. Maybe because I’m a trained lawyer and it has become part of my nature, but I think very highly of the Rule of Law. I think everyone in my company and any other stakeholder should transparently know where they stand, what their rights and obligations are. Accountability is a big thing for me and it works both ways. Personally and professionally, I am driven by a high sense of justice and mutual respect. Mutual respect is an essential aspect of life.
On learning from the kids: Love and passion is something we learn from the kids. They teach us how important it is and keep reminding us to not forget the important things in life. It is very easy to forget in a busy work life what family, love and sharing means to us. It is the kids that inevitably bring us back to these important values.
On future plans: I live in the realm of today. As long as I am with my loved one and we are all happy and healthy, I shall be fulfilled. I believe in the power of NOW!
On any life regrets: I have made many mistakes in life. I am not sure whether I can say I regret anything at large. The mistakes we make and what we learn from them makes us who we are and if we hadn’t made those mistakes, then we wouldn’t be the kind of people we are. Personally, I don’t live in the past. The past is the past and no one can change it. Regret is something for those who live in the past. The only relevance of the past, whether good or bad, is what we learned from it.
Nicole on the kids: They both have their own personalities and mannerisms. Victor is kind, energetic, alive, driven and bubbly while Victoria is more calm, sensible, sweet and smart. Since she’s the older one, she’s a lake of love and guidance and Victor is a bundle of joy!
They work beautifully together. As of now, Victoria would like to grow up and be an actress and Victor wants to be a famous football player. They complement each other by playing and learning to love and fight well. They’re at boarding school in Cheltenham College, ULK and so they have each other a lot more. They know that mum and dad won’t be there forever and one day when they grow up, their bond will keep them safe and sound.
Sassan on the kids: I think each of the kids is unique. If at all, I would say, there are nuances of resemblance. Victoria like me and Victor like Nicole, in the sense of humour, activity and personality. Victoria is more judicious and calm. She is full of love and is very sensitive. She will make sure that everyone in the family is protected. She and I share the same sense of humour. Victor is fearless and a very strong personality. He matches his mum in terms of energy.
I think there is a very clear understanding between the two about their unbreakable bong. The dynamics work very well because as I mentioned, Victor is extremely fearless and outwardly oriented and his older sister is the more level headed one. They have the kind of relationship where they would go through anything for each other. I attribute this to Nicole’s upbringing and relentless induction of family values.
Nicole on Sassan and their relationship: He is my best friend, confidant, guide and guru, if you may call it. We met at a business convention and Sassan, who was a successful entrepreneur himself asked me out and I rocrastinated 3 times before finally agreeing to meet him with a girlfriend of mine. We met daily after that and all we did was talk- for hours and hours! Years later, and I feel as if we’re still getting to know each other; it’s quite exciting!
He has this deep sense of sensibility and kindness, which tends to calm my nerves and gives me these light bulb moments of realisation and perspective. He provides me that security of always being there and guiding me emotionally, commercially and professionally when I need it. We both are learners and believe in constant innovation and change. He is a family man with his feet well-grounded and I love that about him.
Sassan on Nicole and their relationship: From the minute we met, it was love at first sight! I truly believe that we’re soul mates. We spend hours, days, weeks and months just talking and talking and talking! Our record stands at a staggering 9 hours talking sitting across from each other with no distractions. I think we have a magical chemistry and we definitely have eyes for only each other. She played hard to get, and probed and tested me relentlessly!
I’m extremely fortunate to have a wife and an entrepreneur at my side. The fact that she’s a successful entrepreneur herself who manages many companies allows us to share a deep understanding of what the other person does and makes us a power couple with matching mindsets. Most importantly, she is a beautiful wife in mind and spirit and has very strong family values. Her love and values provide us with a solid home, which is the most important to have a successful life.
Throughout the course of the evening, we were hard pressed to find even a moment when Nicole and Sassan’s hospitality might have wavered. Co-operative and friendly, the whole family was more than happy to do as many outfit changes as we asked! The kids Victoria and Victor, were fun, well-mannered, polite and got along with us like a house on fire. As is evident through these pages, this was probably one of the most fun and quick photoshoots we’ve had in a while! We can, in all honesty, say that it was amazing to meet this stunning and wonderfully warm family.
Photo Credits: Sarfaraz Ali
Editorial Content: Nupur Jaisinghani