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Fri 4 Dec 2015 01:11 AM

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Barbie bites back: Bravo's Lilly Ghalichi

She may be seen as a stereotypical rich kid, but reality TV star Lilly Ghalichi has much more going for herself than her looks

Barbie bites back: Bravo's Lilly Ghalichi

"I did not grow up wealthy, at all. That is actually a huge misconception of me.”

That’s not the first thing you would expect to hear from the Bravo channel’s ex-reality television star, Lilly Ghalichi. And if we hadn’t interviewed her, we wouldn’t have believed her anyway.

Having starred in ‘Shahs of Sunset’, a television series documenting the lives of rich Persian-American socialites living in Beverly Hills, Neelufar “Lilly” Ghalichi quickly developed a reputation as a ‘Persian Barbie’. Her plastic surgery, designer bags, and constant over-the-top looks pushed many to view her as a stereotypical ‘rich kid’ in the mould of Paris Hilton.

And while that probably helped her gain attention across social media — she has 1.7 million followers on Instagram — Ghalichi’s ‘rich girl’ stereotype was missing one thing: she had built a multi-million dollar business empire long before her short-lived television stunt.

Today, she houses over eight lifestyle brands under her firm, Ghalichi Glam. However, she refuses to divulge any further information with regard to revenues, profit, or recent growth.

The one number she does reveal is $10,000. That's the size of the loan Ghalichi got from a friend in order to start her first venture.

“I was born to two Persian-immigrant parents in Texas,” she says. “They taught themselves English, and did the best they could to provide and survive in America. Today, my parents are self-made successful entrepreneurs. But when I grew up, and I started [my businesses], I did not have my family, or anyone’s financial support.

“I started my first business with a $10,000 loan from a friend — which I paid back — and a small amount of my own savings from working as a lawyer.”

She first attended the University of Texas to take a bachelor’s degree in business and then furthered her education at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, where she received her Juris Doctor — with honours — and became a licensed attorney for the state of California.

So why the law degree? It’s a Persian thing, Ghalichi says.

“I grew up in a conservative Persian-Muslim household where you had three choices: doctor, lawyer or engineer — those that Persians can relate. My dreams and passions were always in beauty and fashion, but I never imagined that I would actually be able to pursue them and live them as my career,” says Ghalichi.

The 32-year-old is certainly pursuing them now. Her company, Ghalichi Glam, includes Lilly Lashes, a false eyelashes line; Lilly Hair, a line of hair extensions; Lilly Ghalichi by Avitan, a line of fine jewellery; WantMyLook, an online ‘affordable luxury’ clothing retailer; Glampagne, a brand of non-alcoholic champagne; and GhalichiGlam.com, an online beauty academy that provides hair and make-up tutorials taught by Hollywood celebrity artists.

Last year, she also started ‘Live Like a Boss’, a series of workshops that offer steps and tips on achieving self-made entrepreneurship.

But her greatest achievement is probably Lilly Lashes, which has become the number-one false eyelashes brand in the US, worn by celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Kylie Jenner.

Next year, Lilly Lashes is set to take on Dubai.

“I love Dubai. The Middle East is where my heart is, and in 2016 I will open a store or at minimum a distribution centre in Dubai so that my lashes will be easily accessible to everyone,” she says.

While the lashes currently sell worldwide, they’ve proven difficult to acquire for girls outside the US due to prolonged shipping times and higher transport costs. As a result, Ghalichi plans on making her lashes as easily accessible to women all over the world as they are in the States — starting with the Middle East.

If Ghalichi were to bring her lash store to Dubai, she would be competing against the number one eyelashes brand in the Middle East, Huda Beauty by Huda Kattan. It’s a tough call, but it looks like Ghalichi’s up for the fight. After all, she did start a now-multi-million empire with zero experience.

How did that happen? By refusing to go by the book.

“I graduated from law school and naturally became a lawyer. I was really unhappy practising law and felt very out of place in the legal world. I thought to myself, ‘I would always have my law degree to fall back on.’ I decided I was young, and it was now or never to pursue my real passions and dreams,” she says.

“I quit law and with zero experience I opened my first business, which was a swimwear line.”

Ghalichi is referring to Have Faith Swimgerie, a swimwear line inspired by lingerie. Though the brand name has been halted, the beachwear line is still profitably sold under the WantMyLook marque.

“It only made sense to have my clothing label under one house rather than two brands. WantMyLook.com is now the source of my fashion brands, including my swimwear,” she explains.

Having built a name for herself in the lifestyle space, Ghalichi inevitably gained a large social media following. But it’s not all good news for the glamour girl. Like all good things, social media has its bad side, which comes in the form of cyber hate and bullying, something with which Ghalichi is all too familiar.

“People say the most hurtful things. It’s crazy to me sometimes because I would never, ever write such things, or even feel such things, about a complete stranger. I try not to even read it, and if I happen to read it, I remind myself that that person has no idea who I am, the real me, so they are in no position to judge me. It also doesn’t get to me because I remind myself that haters equal customers. Often your biggest haters are secretly your biggest fans,” she says.

While it’s no secret that Ghalichi has a lot of fans, her number-one fan was always herself. As she says: “If you don’t believe in yourself and your dream — a million percent believe in it — no one else will either.”

Considering her capabilities, the so-called ‘stereotypical Persian Barbie’ doesn’t need to worry about the lack of people believing in her any more.

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