Father’s Day is celebrated worldwide to recognise the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. For some of us the father figure in our lives is our mother, grandfather, an uncle or a brother. Inspired by our Baxter of California team in the UK and their Non-Traditional Father’s Day campaign today at L’Oreal UK & Ireland we’re celebrating all of the amazing father figures we have in our lives.
Rema Gouyez Benallal, Head of Digital at L’Oreal UKI was raised by her strong, inspirational Mother, an incredible role model in her life who stepped in as both Mother & Father — a Non-Traditional Father. We sat down with Rema to hear her story and about her mother who raised Rema and her sisters to be the strong, career focused & independent women they are today despite the challenges they faced along the way.
Tell us a little about your upbringing?
It was a bit of a rough start. For my mum and my sisters. Mum was a Moroccan native and new to the UK in the late 80's, English wasn’t her first language (it turned out to be her fourth). My dad made some decisions in his life that no woman should stick around for so despite it not being the right thing to do in her culture, she decided to leave. It wasn’t easy. Spending a few years with a new born and a two year old in between temporary housing and barely speaking English was undoubtedly tough, we shared some painful memories. We eventually settled and she did it all on her own. Pushing for whatever job she could until we were old enough for her to go back to university and train as a biomedical scientist. Of course, through all of this she did everything she could to make sure the memories of our childhood were good, and they were!
Who was the father figure in your life?
Without a doubt my mum. She was our mother, father, best friend, sister. She was everything we needed her to be and I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would have been to do this all in a foreign country with no partner, no money, no friends. She refused to let anything hold her or us back and to ensure we grew up right she had to play both roles. The best personal strength she’s given my sisters and I is to NEVER settle for someone controlling us or our happiness, never settle for being treated with anything less than respect and if it’s not happening — leave.
Mum is the definition of GIRL POWER!
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received from your Mum?
Education will give you anything you want in life.
It was true. When you grow up in social housing with not much money and don’t have the industry connections, things aren’t as easy for your career as you’d hope. She was super strict with us when it came to education — she always said it would unlock so many doors and be the key to a successful future. She was right. I just wish at the time I could have known how true that would turn out to be!
Can you share with us a fond memory of growing up with this person in your life?
It’s such a small thing but my favourite memories are when on Friday nights my Mum would take us to Blockbusters (the video rental shop) and tell us to pick a couple of movies to watch. She would let us watch actions and thrillers despite our young age and we LOVED it! We’d get so excited picking the movie, picking our snacks then heading home to order dinner in. We were big on movie nights!
How has your Mum inspired you to pursue your career & reach your goals?
I can wholeheartedly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mum. Looking back, 15 years ago I would be so frustrated with her, we’d argue often because she’d put so much pressure on me to do well in school and I just couldn’t see why it mattered…now I do. Studying didn’t come naturally to me so I had to work extra hard to get the grades I needed. At a young age I knew I wanted to be creative which wasn’t necessarily in line with her ambitions but we found a common ground and eventually she trusted in me that a creative, digital job could exist.
The thing that has me beaming with joy now is that my mum always tells me how proud she is of me. My whole life she’s told me if I applied myself I’d be a star. She always calls me her lucky star!
What message would you like to share with your Mum this Father’s Day?
Mum, looking back I truly think that if we did stick around with ‘’Dad’’, our lives wouldn’t have been as fun, adventurous and empowered as they have been. Not only am I proud of what you went through and what you’ve come out of, I’m proud of the woman you are today. Thank you for being my best friend, my inspiration and the best living-room dance partner ever.