Model: Maya Nassar / @mayanassar
Photographer/ @Kifah Ballani
Makeup Artist: Elie Semaan
Hair Stylist: Barouyr Harot Gojigian
Stylist: Georges Chamoun
PR Agency: SGG Public Relations
Maya Nassar, born on October 3, 1986, is a multi-talented individual known for her achievements as a competitive fitness model, former TV host, brand ambassador, entrepreneur and currently a radio host. Her diverse background includes being born in Long Island, New York, to a Lebanese father and a Dutch mother. During her early years, she spent a significant part of her childhood in Nigeria and later resided in England before eventually settling in Lebanon during her high school years. Maya’s remarkable journey in the fitness industry reached new heights when she participated in the renowned 2014 Pure Elite UK Championships, which received endorsement from the
Lebanese Ministry of Youth and Sports. She emerged victorious, claiming the first-place title in the highly competitive Bikini Babe category. Maya’s dedication and hard work paid off once again in 2018 when she triumphed at the Pure Elite Diamond Competition, securing the top spot in the Bikini Beach Body division. Maya Nassar is the first female to ever be endorsed by an Arab government to compete internationally in fitness modeling. She has appeared in media all over the world, including TV, radio, magazine covers, and newspapers.
Beyond her accomplishments in the fitness realm, Maya Nassar actively contributes to society through her involvement in various charitable organizations. She serves as a valued board
member at Animals Lebanon, an esteemed non-profit organization dedicated to animal welfare. Additionally, she works closely with the Maryam and Martha Association, an influential NGO committed to supporting women who have sought refuge in shelters. While juggling her successful career as a fitness model, TV host, and entrepreneur, Maya also embraces the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, raising four children. Her ability to effectively manage her time and strike a harmonious work-life balance is a testament to her determination and commitment. Maya Nassar’s inspiring journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring fitness models, entrepreneurs, and individuals striving to make a positive impact. Through her achievements, philanthropy, and dedication to personal well-being, Maya continues to pave the way for success while actively contributing to causes close to her heart.
Can you tell us about your journey as a competitive fitness model? How did you get started in this field, and what inspired you to pursue it? During my early 20s, I grew up with a very unhealthy lifestyle. I was overweight, never did any exercise and had a very poor diet. After seeing my health and confidence decline, I literally changed overnight. I did lots of research online about how to get into shape and I started going to the gym and preparing my own diets. With time, I lost 20 pounds and five jean sizes. This is when I knew I wanted to push to my limits both mentally and physically and get on stage. I was always too shy to walk around on the beach and wanted to be confident to go on stage and compete against other top fitness models. I became the first female in the Arab world to be endorsed by an Arab government to compete internationally and represent Lebanon.
Could you share your experience of winning first place in the Bikini Babe category at the 2014 Pure Elite UK Championships? What was the preparation process like, and how did it feel to achieve such a significant accomplishment? This was my second time competing and the first time I ever won first place. It took me a total of four months to prepare, training up to two hours a day and six days a week and following a low-carb, high-protein diet. It took lots of effort, sacrifice and dedication but it was all worth it the moment I won first place. It made me feel extremely happy, proud and accomplished. It showed me that if you don’t give up and try one more time, then you stand a chance to win.
In 2018, you also won first place for Bikini Beach Body at the Pure Elite Diamond Competition. How did this victory contribute to your career, and what did it mean to you personally? I won this title 11 months after having my first child. It meant a lot to me personally because it showed me that you can be a good mom and maintain your fitness routine. I used my story to inspire other moms to get back into shape. Motherhood doesn’t have to be the end of your hobbies, career, or fitness regime. It also boosted my career in that it has kept me in the media and given me more credibility.
You are the host of your own radio show on Virgin Radio Stars in Lebanon. Tell us more about it? My show is called Start Living Right which is the same name as my gym and online blog. My show is all about helping my listeners to become their best ever self and is all about wellness. Every day I interview experts, professionals, doctors, influencers and opinion leaders about different subjects. I also share my own stories and expertise. We cover mental health, fitness, nutrition, exercise and general tips to feel happy and amazing. I’m really proud of my show which is helping to break the stigma around mental health and also offer my listeners some valuable tips to help them feel happier, healthier and more confident.
As a brand ambassador, what are some of the brands or products that you have represented? How do you select the brands you choose to work with, and what qualities do you look for in a brand partnership? I’ve worked with so many brands, including major sports brands like Nike, Addidas, and Decathlon, as well as beauty brands, such as LUX and SVR, and also mom and baby brands. It is important to me to work with a brand that represents my values. I’ve been approached numerous times to endorse detox teas or slimming machines which are nothing but scams, and for this reason, I have always turned them down. I have to believe in a product and be willing to use it myself in order to have a brand partnership. I’m always happy to work with brands that represent my values and help this brand reach a wider audience.
You are involved with Animals Lebanon, an animal welfare non-profit organization. What motivated you to become a board member, and what kind of work do you do in this role? Could you tell us about your involvement with the Maryam and Martha Association? What inspired you to work with this NGO, and how do you contribute to their mission of helping women in shelters? I’ve been a board member of Animals Lebanon for the last few years and feel very proud to have helped to improve animal welfare in Lebanon. The NGO has done major work including changing the law, shutting down illegal zoos and circuses and rescuing thousands of animals, as well as raising awareness about animal well-being. Our message is that animal welfare is human welfare. I also volunteered with women’s NGOs to encourage women to become healthy, strong and confident. A lot of women in these NGOs have had a difficult life and I wanted to help them feel empowered through fitness. I also offered my gym to NGOs to offer free fitness classes for women and children with special needs.
Balancing your career as a fitness model, former TV host, radio host, and entrepreneur, along with being a mother, can be demanding. How do you manage your time effectively and maintain a healthy work-life balance? I do this by having a set routine that I follow every day. Each day, I divide my time between work and my family. Planning your day in advance is one of the best ways to get things done. I also make sure to have time for myself to do the things I enjoy doing. It’s important to ask for help and support from loved ones in order to reach all your life goals. My best tip is for all parents to put away their phones when they are with their kids. Give them your undivided attention and treasure every moment. Working parents cannot be with their children all day so they need to focus on quality over quantity.
What advice would you give to aspiring fitness models who are looking to make a name for themselves in the industry? What are some key lessons you have learned throughout your career? My advice would be to compete in fitness modeling or bodybuilding. This is what earned me so much media attention. If you make a name for yourself, then you will start to get approached by the media for interviews. Also, focus a lot on your marketing. Now I work with PR agencies, but I previously used to do my own marketing. I would call journalists and send emails constantly until I would find someone who wants to cover my story. It also helps to be very active on social media and share helpful tips. Always reply to your followers and read your messages so you engage with your fans. Finally, giving workshops can be a great way for people to know about you and for you to network. I’ve given workshops for up to 100 women in Russia and this was a great way to make a name for myself in different countries. You can always start offering your services for free to get the ball rolling.
As an entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced in establishing and growing your own brand? How have you overcome these challenges, and what strategies have you found to be successful in your business endeavors? I live in a country that is going through the worst economic crisis in history and also had to deal with Covid for the last couple of years. These have been my biggest challenges but the secret to my success is to always offer amazing products or services at a good price. Sometimes you will have slow days or will be held back, but believing in yourself and not giving up really is the way forward. During hard times, many businesses will shut down but it’s all about surviving these hard times. Also, look at what your competitors are doing and always do what they do but do it better than them. It’s also important to listen to feedback from mentors or customers. Feedback and constructive criticism is a way to learn how you can improve and do better. Also, surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs and people who will support and encourage you. There is nothing worse than negative people who put you down.
You also created the first online pregnancy program for women in the Middle East called XY Pregnancy. Tell us more about it? A couple of years ago, I launched the first-ever pregnancy program for women in the Middle East. I worked with a doctor for two years to create this comprehensive wellness program that any healthy pregnant woman can follow anywhere in the world. It includes diet plans, workout programs, what to expect in every trimester as well as a beauty guide. During my pregnancies, I stayed active and worked out until the day I gave birth with my four pregnancies and I wanted to break this stereotype that pregnant women should not exercise.
Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations in your career? Are there any projects or initiatives that you are particularly excited about? I’m a gym owner with three branches and my goal is to open more branches of my gym. I also published a children’s book a couple of years ago and would like to publish a second version sometime soon. Other than that, living each day to my fullest and being a good mom raising my four children.
Can you share any tips or insights for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle for our readers? What are some habits or practices that you believe contribute to overall well-being? It’s important to see that being healthy is a regular lifestyle and not a short-term thing. We need to spend the majority of our team exercising and eating clean food, with junk food and alcohol in moderation. It can be super hard to get started but it really only takes around three weeks to build new habits. If someone isn’t sure how to start then it’s a good idea to consult with a dietician and a personal trainer to have plans customized to someone’s goals. Always form an emotional attachment to your goals and remind yourself why you want to achieve this lifestyle. Thinking about your why and your motivation can be the secret to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Finally, see health and fitness as a reward and not a punishment. It’s the best gift you can give to your mind, body and happiness.