The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.
Today’s Q&A feature is Dena Mekawi, Founder of Style & Resilience. At Style & Resilience, she curates creative communication strategies, & partnerships to engage brands, advertisers and high profile individuals to create impact messages, using the power of their influence with a creative approach. Dena works with family offices on identifying projects that have impact on the economy, as well as for humanity.
Dena is a first generation Egyptian Muslim American living in New York. She ran for Miss Arab USA 2013 when realizing she wanted to be the voice for underrepresented communities. Dena then went on to work for Oprah Magazine, where she was able to use self-expression of fashion and editorial to celebrate her individuality. Dena had struggled with her own identity, as well as self-esteem issues that stemmed from the media that she consumed. She now uses her experience of self-discovery as an Arab American to work collectively, creating space for culture diversity. Dena has been chosen as a representative to the United Nations NGO,DGC which compliments her work as a Social Entrepreneur.
Dena has advised several United Nations Agencies, and has worked with private sector to create strategic communication strategies and partnerships. She was chosen to moderate International Day Of Peace 2016 along side notable Goodwill ambassadors, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stevie Wonder, and former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, and was also personally recognized by Michael Douglas.
An international change agent, Dena has built her company from the foundation of impact. She is involved in business development for high net worth and UHNWI, as well as partners of the royal family in the UAE, and the GCC region. Dena serves as the bridge for multinational companies in the USA, as well as the MENA, and GCC. She believes in the power of investing in human capital.
Dena is an inspiration to the youth that want to get involved in leadership and public service.
We caught up with Dena to find out what leadership means to her and what advice she would give to the next generation of leaders.
Why did you choose this career path?
I started off working in fashion because of my love for creativity. I was known in high school as the stylish girl and never really followed trends that much. I would put my own taste into my outfits depending on how i felt and how I wanted the world to see me.
I studied business management and marketing in college, while working in fashion. I wasn’t really sure of what i wanted to do, but I knew i wanted to be in leadership. Anytime my parents asked me what I wanted to do, I would envision myself sitting in a nice office with a view, while wearing a stylish suit and raising my hand to put my input on decision making. Fast forward, I have Chaired and Co-Chaired many United Nations conferences, leading youth from all over the world, and bringing more private sector partnerships to the United Nations.
I went on to compete for miss Arab USA after discovering my purpose while pursing my masters degree. I was able to brainstorm with a mentor I had at the time, he allowed me to recognize how i can use my experiences, and my insecurities that I once thought were a weakness into something bigger than myself.
I was working at Oprah magazine, when I was also given the opportunity to represent aim organization at the United Nations, which was life a changing experience. I founded my company, Style & Resilience because I noticed the lack of diversity that many Marketing, PR companies had. I knew that if I wanted to people like me represented in mainstream, I would need to be the force behind the company that does so. That is what my company does, serves as the focal point for Impact related PR, Marketing, and partnership development. We also act as the liaison for high net worth individuals in the UAE, AND GCC region within the USA market.
Who inspired you to get involved?
Growing up, my parents were a huge part of my inspiration because they taught me entrepreneurship and resilience.
How do you define a leader?
A leader is someone who uses their voice, platform, and life experiences to serve someone else. Giving someone else what you have discovered, not only brings you joy but gives you a sense of purpose. Purpose is what keeps you going, it’s what inspires you to push through when you don’t feel motivated.
What projects are you currently involved in?
We are constantly creating purposeful projects that inspire, and engage. One of them includes a mobile gaming app, Thunder Pixel, which will have exciting titles and impact driven incentives along with it. I am also on the board of an AR VR machine learning used for human trafficking victims. We are so excited to use technology to help others. We will engage non profits, students and will share more as we go along.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?
My advice is to find your purpose and stay focused. Understanding that failure is all part of the process is key, creating an environment that is healthy for your well being is so important as well.