Interview: Nina Zandnia

The media queen with the Midas touch
Interview: Nina Zandnia
Nina Zandnia

She can often be seen on the arm of a top designer at the city’s best parties, dressed immaculately and charming the crowd with her infectious laugh and fascinating stories. And within minutes of meeting Nina Zandnia, it’s clear why she’s one of Dubai’s favourite social butterflies. But more than just a socialite with a killer wardrobe, Nina is one of the most influential women in media. As co-owner of U C Productions, a Dubai-based television company which she started with her close friend Tareq Edrees, Nina is getting set to launch the UAE’s first online TV channel in October, an endeavour she’s incredibly proud of. “I am very excited to launch our TV channel, and also very blessed to have one of my best friends and mentors, Raza Beig, CEO of Splash and ICONIC, and his sister Zohar partnering up with us.” Having friends in high places definitely helps, but Nina has had no trouble in the past getting her own projects off the ground, and she credits that to her father.

“Having a father like I do, he encouraged me to reach for my goals and dreams,” she tells us. “He has been my mentor and my best friend and has always guided me through my life to become the woman I am today.” Nina grew up in Sweden. At the tender age of 14, she had her first job, hosting a children’s show at a local network. At 17 she moved to New York to study journalism and TV broadcasting at New York University. She graduated with a Masters Degree before moving to Australia’s Bond Griffith University to complete her Honours Degree in Media Law and Ethics. Finding time for work during her studies, Nina managed to squeeze in jobs at NBC in New York and Sky News in Australia. But then Sweden came a-calling. Returning after 12 years, Nina immediately sunk her teeth into work. “When I was in Sweden I developed a program that was called Top Dog,” she explains. “No one believed in my show and every one rejected it, but I did not give up and I continued to find the investors. The show became a massive success and the format was sold to 26 different countries.” Using that Midas touch, Nina decided to create her own production company, Papalook. “The reason I came up with that name was to say to my father, ‘Papa, look I made it’.”

Living in Dubai now, Nina counts herself lucky to have a close group of friends, something she worried about when moving here initially. And it just so happens that these close friends are some of the region’s most renowned designers who take pleasure in dressing her for every event. “I have to say that one of my favorite local designers here in Dubai is the talented ‘King of Couture’ Ezra Santos. Not only does he dress me, he is also one of my dearest friends. My other dear friends include Michael Cinco, Furne Amato and Rami Al Ali, and I see these three as the most talented and successful designers the Middle East has to offer.”

So what does someone who’s lived around the world really think of Dubai? “Dubai has become my third home, and for each day that goes by I am starting to love the city more and more.”

Nina's top 5 places

Opera Gallery, DIFC - I have always been a very big fan of the Opera Gallery, They present amazing and talented artists.

Okku - They have excellent food, wine and clientele and the owners are very good friends of mine.

The beach - Every second weekend I go wake boarding as I used to compete in it when I was younger.

Sega Republic - I am like a kid, so I love to go to Sega Republic in Dubai Mall and spend my Saturday afternoons there playing games.

The Ivy - The food is fantastic and the service is amazing!