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‘RHODubai’s Ayan Channeled Britney Spears, Ariana Madix in Season 2

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Chanel Ayan channeled two inspirational women while filming season 2 of The Real Housewives of Dubai: Britney Spears and Ariana Madix.

“I’m doing a Britney Spears moment, like the way she shaved her head she was, like, a fierce girl going through stuff, but she’s still that girl. That’s my look, you know?” Ayan quips to ET, speaking over video chat from Dubai while sporting a bald head. “I got tired of people saying my wigs are so cheap, so I’m like, you know what? I don’t need wig. I am this glamorous, with wig or without wig.” 

“The vibe for me season 2 is, literally, Britney,” the Ayan Beauty founder makes clear. “I think, season 1, I was more, like, not caring. In season 2, I was more caring. Does that make sense? 

That might have something to do with becoming the breakout star of Bravo’s first internationally-set Housewives spinoff; it’ll be interesting to see how her castmates, the majority of whom also return from season 1, operate around Ayan in the fresh batch of episodes, now knowing she’s a fan-favorite. Her tagline for the season — “If you’re jealous of me, that’s OK, honey. I would be, too” — also offers a hint at where things are headed.

“B***h! That means period!” she reacts after hearing the line for the first time; Housewives cast members often record multiple options for the opening sequence, only finding out what their new catchphrase is when the rest of the world does. 

“If you’re jealous of me, that is your motherf**king problem,” she says. “Not my problem, OK? I’m a Somali girl, hello. It’s not my problem.”

“We fight wars,” she offers as an explanation of what she means by “Somali girl.” It’s no secret that season 2 served as a battleground for Ayan and her longtime bestie, Lesa Milan. The two are no longer friends. 

Chanel Ayan and Lesa Milan film season 2 of Bravo’s ‘The Real Housewives of Dubai.’Yasmin Hussain / Bravo

“I’m really upset, because there was so much love in my friendship with Lesa,” Ayan laments. “She’s like my family. I don’t throw friends away, you know?”

“I’ve never watched Vanderpump Rules before, but Rihanna recently was somewhere and she said, ‘Oh, Vanderpump Rules is the best…’ … so I was like, I’m gonna start watching Vanderpump. So, I watch Vanderpump season 10 and 11 — I think the last one, I didn’t start from the beginning. I started from where the (Scandoval) drama happened, and I feel like I’m Ariana. I’m a good friend. I’m a loving friend. I’m a supportive friend.”

“I was caught off guard a lot,” she teases. “You guys will get to understand why I’m brokenhearted.” 

The trailer features an explosive confrontation between Ayan and Lesa, with Ayan storming away in tears after proclaiming she’s ending their relationship.

“It was over from that time I said that,” Ayan makes clear, meaning the two haven’t been on speaking terms for about a year now. She does, however, say there’s “always hope” for reconciliation, just when that might happen is a question mark. 

While viewers will have to watch the whole season to find out why exactly Ayan and Lesa drifted apart, there’s much speculation, between fans and cast members alike, that Ayan forming a friendship with Caroline Stanbury — who once famously said hell would have to freeze over for her to even like Ayan — is to blame for Ayan’s falling out with Lesa. 

“Stanbury is not the reason me and Lesa are not friends,” Ayan declares. “Lesa and Stanbury are friends, so that cannot be the reason. There’s more to it than that.”

Caroline Stanbury and Chanel Ayan grow close on season 2 of Bravo’s ‘The Real Housewives of Dubai.’Yasmin Hussain / Bravo

Viewers might be a bit confused by Ayan and Stanbury’s newfound friendship, seeing as they were already in it by the time cameras went up on season 2. Ayan reveals the two wiped their slate clean on the 15-hour flight home from New York City after taping the season 1 reunion, and credits Nina Ali — who did not return to the show for season 2 — with making it happen. 

“Me, Stanbury and Nina, we sat down, we had wine, we talked, we put our feelings aside and said, look, I really want to get to know you, because me and Stanbury actually have a best friend (in common), isn’t that crazy?” she rattles off. “We share a best friend, but we’ve never liked each other.”

“Nina always said, ‘You guys will get along. Try to be friends,'” she continues. “And then after that, she would call me, text me, call me, meet me for lunch — we really tried.” 

Ayan clarifies that their friendship is nowhere near the level of closeness she once shared with Lesa, but she’s enjoying bonding with the former Ladies of London star. She’s also getting to know new Housewife Taleen Marie, who slides into Nina’s spot on the ensemble, introduced as a friend of Caroline Brooks.

“Taleen is so outgoing, OK?” Ayan says. “She’s fun, she’s so outspoken and she’s crazy, too … and I like that about her. She’s unpredictable. She’s a girls’ girl, and she just wants to have fun with life and does not care about consequences, and I like that because I’m like that.”

“We start off rough,” she acknowledges. “When she’s with Brooks, I have an issue, because I’m like, ‘Oh my god…’ but if it’s just her by herself, I enjoy her a lot.”

The stars or Bravo’s ‘The Real Housewives of Dubai’ stun on the series’ season 2 poster.Bravo Media

Ayan believes Brooks is “always at the center of the drama” in their group, revealing they “butt heads” all season long; but they’re good now, she says. The same goes for Ayan and Sara Al Madani, whom Ayan was feuding with at the start of filming after Sara told Us Weekly that Ayan was acting like a “victim” after sharing her childhood trauma on the show. On season 1, Ayan revealed — at a therapy session coordinated by Sara — that she experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) at the age of 5 years old. When the women picked up shooting the series, Sara seemed confused by Ayan being upset over the comment. Ayan says Sara now understands the hurt she caused.

“She sat me down and she said, ‘Look, I might have used my words the wrong way…’ because I showed her the messages, that I was getting bullied,” Ayan recalls. “People in the world don’t understand the culture I come from.”

“Nobody talks about what happened to me, because growing up I didn’t think it was that bad until I left,” she explains. “My husband from Idaho was like, ‘What?!’ Like, ‘Oh my god!’ And I’m like, so this is crazy? And then I spoke about it, and I got talked a lot of about it, because people (back home) were like, ‘Why do you want to make it look like it’s a bad thing? It’s not a bad thing. It’s our culture. We don’t claim you. We don’t want you. Go die.'”

Ayan says word even got back to her estranged father, whom she has not spoken to in nearly three decades, and she claims he took out his rage against Ayan on her sister and her mother, who still live in Africa. 

Chanel Ayan puts on a happy face while filming season 2 of Bravo’s ‘The Real Housewives of Dubai.’Yasmin Hussain / Bravo

“It put me into a very, very bad depression,” she shares. “I should have never talked about this, because now look. I felt guilty about it.”

Ayan’s since shed that guilt, realizing there’s more power in sharing her story than holding it back, especially as reports surface about countries bringing back FGM. “This cannot be about me right now anymore,” she says. “I have to speak about it.”

Season 2 delves further into Ayan’s self-exploration, as she (with the help of Stanbury) goes on a journey to find out her real age, after learning her mother was some 15 years older than Ayan thought.

“I used to think that my mom had me when she was in her 20s, OK? So now, I’m like, that means I’m so old,” she laughs. “You get to see me finding out how old I am and, god, I am old. … but thank god, Black don’t crack.”

The Real Housewives of Dubai season 2 premieres on Sunday, June 1, at 9 p.m. ET/PT after The Real Housewives of New Jersey. The show then moves into its regular time slot on Tuesday, June 11, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Episodes stream the day after they air on Peacock. 

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