Diff 2017: What stars get as gifts

You think celebrities are a pampered lot? We went to the VIP Lounge to discover they are — much more than we knew

Noha El Chaarani, YJA Reporter
09:53 December 13, 2017

Apart from the perfect weather and the luxurious ambiance at Madinat Jumeirah, there is one more feature at Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) that is a treat for celebrities.

Running for the seventh year, the VIP Lounge is an intricate set-up showcasing the best of local and international creations, ranging from fashion, beauty, organic honey to on-set spa stations and fragrance boutiques. Let us be the first to tell you, it is every child’s wonderland but with a touch of elegance.

Did we mention there is a Maldives trip up for grabs as well?

We spoke to the Diff VIP Lounge founder Katherine Raso, on the ins and outs of what it takes to run a perfect lounge. Raso has worked in this festival wonderland for more than a decade in Venice, Toronto and Cannes.

The point of such a lounge, she says, is to “host celebrities, give them gifts — which seems so tacky — but we try to focus on regional brands.”

“It’s at every film festival. What’s nice about us if you go to Toronto [film festival], there are seven lounges so that’s what makes us different. We’re the only ones in the region and we’re linked to the festival,” she said.

To her, the latter makes the VIP lounge more legitimate and builds its credibility.

“So, we dressed Cate Blanchette and we’ve had her three times over the years. So really it’s all about regional artisans... except perhaps Spanx but everyone needs Spanx,” she added.

Raso explains that such a lounge is a form of activation and engagement. It is also about promoting local talent.

“We try to do things about the region, it’s also an activation. It’s about getting them ready for the red carpet, give them a clean shave etc,” she added.

Among the brands on offer are Arcadia fragrances; Balqees Honey, which is raw Yemeni honey — oh and once you go cedar honey, you never go back — it is that good; Prismologie skin care; House of Fraser fashion; and for some whimsical fun, The Sugar Factory.

— The Young Journalist Award (YJA) at Diff is a training programme for high school and university students who are aspiring writers and reporters. Seven students are competing at the festival this year. One winner will secure a monthlong internship with Gulf News.