Calling Dubai home for 16 years, Renelyn “Glitzy” Robles had a tumultuous start to her life. Despite facing inequality and racism, her career has taken her from being a beauty consultant to working at a well-known UAE developer and semi-government company. After years of dedicated work and polishing her skillset, Glitzy decided it was time to put a crack in Dubai’s glass ceiling.
With a mission to empower expat women from all over the world living in the UAE through modelling presentation, she founded and launched Niche Modelling Agency alongside Ingrid Aureada. Debuted in 2017, the Filipino-run agency is rapidly building a sparkling portfolio featuring renowned brands like Dior, Alexander Wang, Beaume et Merci, Furne One Amato , Micheal Cinco, Emarati local designers and more.
Tell us about yourself – your professional journey that led to launching the agency.
Fashion is my kryptonite and is what makes me “Glitzy”. After a few years of being a homemaker and raising my infant daughter, I wanted to invest myself in a passion project. I launched Niche Modeling Agency not just for myself, but for my daughter, as a source of future inspiration. I’m hoping Niche will instill the core values of hard work, discipline, resilience, amity, and patience in her.
When was the agency launched and what is the idea behind it?
Niche Modeling Agency was launched in July 2015. A makeup artist friend of mine approached me with the idea and connected me with Ingrid. Ingrid is now Niche’s co-founder and COO. We joined forces and scrupulously planned the agency’s journey from dream to reality over the course of two years.
As a new venture, what have been some of the biggest challenges – at the beginning and presently as well?
Challenges make the company wiser and help it progress. One of the challenges we faced last year was to pitch Landmark, one the prestigious companies, for their Autumn/spring collections. My team was happy and excited, and even though our team has 10 years of experience in full production, we were worried because we didn’t have the profile for full production at that time. As a leader I always believe and trust in my team and we started sharing ideas and helped each other and worked on the pitch from my home as a team. The hard work and teamwork really paid off because we won the pitch and it was our biggest project when Niche was only 5 months old. The other challenge I conquered was maintaining my work and life balance during the time when my husband was facing some issues with one of his businesses. I had to jump in to support him and take care of my business while looking after the children; it required a lot of time management on my end.
My routine was split between taking my daughter to the nursery, going to the gym, prepare for work, take care of business at my husband’s company and manage Niche’s business affairs. It’s very difficult and it’s always been difficult, but I focus on the positives in life, live in the moment and just never give up or think about how exhausted I am. Even with all this going on I make time to motivate my staff, keep them happy and enjoy some relaxing time together. I am a woman of faith so I strongly believe that praying helps and I also believe that exercising is essential part of the mix. Challenges are a part of life and they make us stronger and wiser. It’s also a great way to learn about yourself and what you’re capable of. I think without challenges we can’t progress.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
I became a dreamer after my daughter, Ameera, was born. Both my kids help me become a better person and inspire me to reach my goals and help others reach theirs. There is a saying in the Bible – Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it”.
What has been the most rewarding part of your role for being an entrepreneur?
I’ve learned a lot from balancing my business and personal life. I have learned to improve myself and grow as an individual. I have also gained a wealth of knowledge from the people I have encountered from all walks of life. My experience has taught me that it is never about the destination, but always about the journey. Find your calling and continuously NURTURE YOUR NICHE.
What is your idea of women’s empowerment and more importantly women’s economic empowerment?
To me, women empowerment is equality. It is educating the world about a woman’s potential and that it on par with that of a man.
Empowerment shouldn’t revolve around gender, race, age or nationality – it should be based on a foundation of passion. Women’s economic empowerment, I believe, is highlighting women’s valuable and critical contribution to society through various fields – from modeling and fashion to mining and engineering.
Talking about the fashion industry, it has played a pivotal role in empowering women. What role do you see fashion play in empowering women?
The modeling industry has been underestimated by some and has been equated with excess and shallowness, unfortunately. However, throughout the years, the modeling and fashion industry have opened up a lot of work opportunities, not only for models but also for makeup artists, stylists, photographers and designers. It has also aided in promoting brands and products to their target markets.
What kind of culture exists in your agency, how did you establish it?
From the beginning of our journey, we aimed to have a stress-free and diverse team. We treat each other like family and the same value applies to all our models.
What sets Niche apart from the rest and what is your vision for the company?
Unlike other agencies in Dubai, we go the extra mile to care for our models and clients. We strive for transparency and empathy within our company.
Anything you would like to add.
I have turned my dreams into reality.
From giving birth to my princess to running Niche. It is definitely not easy to balance both worlds, but I make it happen. I hope that my journey and life inspires others.