There is a certain “It Factor” expected from television hosts. They should capture your attention immediately, sometimes from just a short introduction. Lucy Norris has this quality in spades.
Currently a Lifestyle Expert and Contributor to multiple platforms including the FNL Network and WhatTheDoost, Norris has broken into the New York media industry without representation, connections or American television credits.
“I’ve never had a manager, and I’ve never had an exclusive agent,” Norris says. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘you don’t have a large enough following,’ or ‘you’re too British.’ That’s important for me to share because you can do this.”
Lucy Norris by photographer Raven Adams. Hair by Adi Nujeidat. Top by independent designer A.Lynn Designs, bag vintage from @Housingwork
Norris began her television career in London as a
host for a late night pop culture show. Every night from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m., she would produce segments that had been brought in by the audience. “It was the hardest entry level job I could have imagined,” recalls Norris.
From there, she was ready to jump into an acting career. She received a scholarship for Film and Television from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and moved to New York City to start her training. Her focus on becoming an on-camera host spurred from her inability to master the American accent, she jokes.
“I thought – I’ll just be myself on camera,” explains Norris. “I’ve focused and dedicated my career to being a host and a correspondent.”
Norris readily acknowledges that the media industry is over saturated with talent. Her success, she says, comes from her specific self-branding and ability to identify what she’s creating and who she’s creating it for.
“When I moved to America, I realized to stand out I had to be very specific with what I was offering,” says Norris. “When I stepped away from acting, I knew I had to redefine who I was as a TV host.”
It wasn’t long until Norris was being asked to appear as an expert in fashion and lifestyle on-air. Before focusing on consumer trends, she shared her love of clothes and passion for styling on a budget with audiences on different networks and series.
Her interest in fashion and thrifting bloomed from necessity. As the child of a single mother, Norris grew up scouring second hand stores for clothes, something she was extremely self-conscious about growing up.“I remember being embarrassed about wearing second hand clothes. But [my mom] was teaching me about quality and what to look for and the real value of something,” says Norris. “From then on, as an actress and working in this space, I’ve had to present an image of someone who’s very successful.
The only way I could do that was through my clothes. I became very savvy.”
As a host, Norris believes that it is imperative for people to understand the value of what they want. Whether it’s fashion or décor, it’s about expressing yourself and discovering the story. She also clarifies what it means to be an expert in the hosting world.
As a Consumer Trend Expert, Norris dives into macro trends through financial or social impact angles. Photographed by Raven Adams. Hair by Adi Nujeidat.
“The term expert, especially over the last three years, is sometimes overused,” she explains. “When I was starting out in the hosting industry, there was a trend where people didn’t want a host selling them something. They wanted someone who was an expert in their field and able to share, critique and review. I was only really able to become an expert when I started creating my own content that focused specifically on that. I went from an expert to consumer trends.”
Her interests in consumer trends inspired her to expand her research and production efforts to projects involving social impact and sustainability. Norris recently wrapped production for the pilot of a Docu-series on the Conscious Fashion Campaign featuring Kerry Bannigan. The series intends to follow how detrimental fashion, specifically fast fashion, is to the environment.
“Rather than just wanting to talk about the trends and what was happening on the runway, there was something inside me that wanted to speak to the consumer,” she explains. “Why this? I want to dive into the story behind the labels.”
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.