Photo credit: Zahra Hemraj
Photo credit: Zahra Hemraj


Bulova BOLD Women Series with Zahra Hemraj

There’s a bold spirit in everyone. And with a bold spirit comes timeless collections that capture the essense of each movement and generation. Bulova reminds us that time is what we make of it, and believes in embodying the legend within. Our Bulova BOLD Women Series connects you with inspiring women who embody being Bold at Heart. Here, we’ll learn about their stories and hear how they are creating timeless moments.  

Meet Zahra Hemraj; Director of Marketing & Data Integration at Citizen Watch Canada

Social Media Handle: @zahrah_24
Favourite Bulova Timepiece:The Duality

Photo credit: Zahra Hemraj

Photo credit: George Pimentel

Much more than a single timepiece, being Bold at Heart is a state of mind. What does being BOLD mean to you?

I would say that being BOLD is basically having the fearlessness of my 4 year old niece!

In all seriousness though, I define BOLD as being fearless, being passionate, and following your heart. Those who are Bold at Heart don’t settle for anything less than what they deserve, and they don’t let themselves be constrained by any barriers.

What are some patterns you have noticed that the BOLD women in your life have?

I’m actually really lucky to have grown up surrounded by so many BOLD women who have all inspired me. In particular, my grandmothers and my great aunt were some of the strongest women I have ever known, and I truly aspire to have their strength. Each of them had unbelievable stories of the hardships that they survived through in their lives. As an example, my maternal grandmother literally told an armed thief who had broken into her home to take his gun and shoot her if he had the guts to do so (he did not and ended up leaving without harming her). THIS is the strength of the women in my life.

However, for today I’d like to focus on my mother. She is what I consider to be the epitome of a BOLD woman.

At a young age, she moved from Madagascar to France with her family (all 13 siblings!). Moving wasn’t new for her at this point, as she had already moved houses, cities, and countries throughout her childhood, but this time it was to a different continent. Her family essentially had to rebuild their entire life, adapting to a very different way of life. But they succeeded. Years later, she met my father and they decided to get married – but he lived in Canada and this meant that she had to move yet again. This time, it would be without her family, and it would be to a completely different continent, with a different language, a different climate, and a different culture. Not only did she not know anyone in Canada, she also knew no English at all. When she moved, she left behind her entire family and everything that she was familiar with – at a time when there was no video calling, emails, or texting. It was rare for her to even be able to call home.  But she persevered. She went back to school, learned English, and even learned to drive.

And speaking of driving, I can still picture my mom driving through a winter storm one day to drop me to school, when she had barely any experience with snow. She was determined to get me there though. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she must have been terrified driving through that – and she never once let it show. She just kept on driving, as if it was nothing. She was fearless when it came to taking care of us.

One of the other memories that stands out to me is my mom taking me to the hospital for my regular check-ups (I had severe asthma that was being treated at Sick Kids). We would drive to the subway station, then we would take the long subway ride downtown, walk to the hospital, spend most of the day there, and then take the same journey back home. As odd as it sounds, I used to actually look forward to those trips. It was so much fun because my mom would turn it into an adventure for me, and we’d make up games to play the whole time. I don’t remember ever being scared of the hospital and I’m sure it’s because of my mom’s creativity. It also didn’t hurt that she would buy me a new Mr. Mugs book on the way home.

After my sister & I were old enough to take care of ourselves, my mother went back to school to further her education. I will never forget the pride on her face the day she graduated. She never stopped pushing herself to be the best that she could be, and I don’t think she ever will. Even today, she is still trying to break barriers – and pushing me to do the same! Literally two weeks ago, we went on a strenuous hike, and despite her age (she’s over 70 now), her arthritis, and her other medical conditions, she was the one encouraging me to keep going. I don’t think I would be half the person I am today if it weren’t for her example.

In summary, the characteristics that I would say define my mom as a “bold” woman would be strength, perseverance, fearlessness, creativity, and drive.

The Bulova Bold at Heart Campaign is all about knowing where you come from and to have the courage to take a new step forward. What gives you courage to live out your story?

Honestly, there are a lot of things that help drive me every day.

First, when I think about where I come from, and those who came before me, I think of all the struggles that they went through to get me to where I am today. How could I possibly give up or not live my life to the fullest when I know their stories? How could I possibly not push myself to be the best when I know everything that my parents, my grandparents and even my great grandparents did for me?

Second, I am fortunate to have grown up surrounded by love. This is not to say that I haven’t had my own struggles, but I am very lucky that I know, no matter what, I have people who love me and believe in me. That alone gives me the courage to be true to who I am, to express myself and to believe in my goals.

Third, I think about my goals – and I know that I’m not done living yet. There is more that I want to accomplish, there is more that I want to see, and, most importantly, there is more that I want to give back to the world.

Photo credit: Zahra Hemraj

Photo credit: Zahra Hemraj

Everyone’s story is comprised of many chapters, what was one of the most influential ones in your journey?

Hmm, that’s a tricky one for me! I know it sounds cliché, but I feel that there have been SO many chapters in my life that it’s hard to choose just one. If I had to pick though, there are two in particular that stand out.

The first would be when I moved to Paris for my MBA in International Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC Business School. Although it was just a one year program, it influenced my life in so many ways. Academically, I believe that it influenced the way that I think and see things. To this day, I still reference some of the concepts and strategies that I learned in school.

It’s also through the MBA program that I started working with a curator at the V&A Museum, which I feel changed the trajectory of my career. I ended up moving to London, starting a new role with Christie’s, then moving to New York, then working on a special project in the UAE and in Shanghai.

This brings us to the second influential chapter in my life – this chapter kicked off on a specific day during the summer of 2018. I lived in New York at the time, I had just moved out of my apartment, and I was staying at my cousin’s place in Brooklyn while she was out of town. On this day, two very important things happened:

The first is that I severely injured myself, had to be taken to the hospital on a stretcher, and couldn’t really walk for months. This injury has taken years to “heal”, and while it’s mostly better now, I still see a PT for it. Due to this injury, my plans for the next few months (and eventually years) had to be reconsidered – from small things such as the way my workouts or my wardrobe, to big things such as where I’d be living or working. I had other plans, but because of my injury, I moved back to Toronto and eventually that led to my current role and my current life. It’s crazy to think that one unfortunate accident led to SO many repercussions. It still amazes (and sometimes frustrates) me.

The second, and most important, is that while I was at the hospital in Brooklyn for my injury, my sister was in the hospital in San Francisco giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. My niece, Noor, is the smartest, bravest, funniest, and most creative person I know – and to think she’s just four years old amazes me. She inspires me every single day, she lifts me up when I’m down, and she helps me see things with a new perspective. My niece factors into a lot of my current day decisions. She also offers unfiltered fashion advice on anything I’m wearing, which I love.

So, two totally different chapters of my life, but both highly influential to bring me to where I am today (and where I’m headed!).

The image we present to the world through our fashion and accessories can help us to feel empowered. What’s one thing you put on that makes you feel BOLD?

Definitely agree with that statement!

You know, prior to my accident, I would have said my shoes are what I feel most empowered by – I have the BEST shoes, but I sadly just haven’t been able to wear most of them again (yet).

That being said, without my shoes as my power piece, I rediscovered my love affair with timepieces over the last four years. These days, whether it’s the Bulova Duality with it’s chic and elegant style, the luxe vintage vibe of the Accutron Legacy “521”, or the feeling of power that comes from wearing the Bulova Marine Star, it’s watches that help me feel like a Bold woman when I’m walking out the door (in my flats).

What would your 15 year old self be most proud of that you have accomplished?

Photo credit: Zahra Hemraj

Photo credit: Zahra Hemraj

Wow, tough question! You know, I don’t think that at 15 years old I would have imagined my life the way that it is now – it is a lot different than what I had thought it would be. I don’t think I could have fathomed the majority of things that have happened.

That being said, I think that 15-year-old me would be the most proud that I launched an online educational art program in the UAE. I had wanted to be a teacher back then, so I think the fact that I helped build and produce this course would have been something that 15-year-old me would have loved.

I also think that 15-year-old me would be super proud that my best friend from back then is still my best friend today, lol!

Our timepieces offer more than functionality, they can symbolize an accomplishment, be passed down as a family heirloom, etc. Do you have a story about a timepiece that holds a specific memory for you?

I’ll start by saying that the majority of what I own has a story associated to it, but rather than speak about one of my personal timepieces, I’ll tell the story of a watch my father owns.

About 15 years ago or so, we had gone on a month-long family trip to East Africa and Madagascar. During our trip, we got into a very bad car accident in Madagascar (I’m talking car flipping upside down multiple times until it stopped on the side of the road). By some miracle, my parents & I ended up being totally fine, but my sister ended up with a spine injury (she’s fine now). While most of our stuff in the car was also fine, my father’s watch ended up getting damaged. About a week after the accident, we were headed home – but not before stopping in Dubai for a few days. While here, my sister & I (mostly my sister) decided to buy my father a new high-end timepiece as his had been broken and as it was Father’s Day in a week or so. Her rationale was that he doesn’t ever buy anything “nice” for himself, and he deserves to have the best of everything.  To this day, whenever my dad wears that watch, it reminds me of our family trip and of how, in spite of her injury, my sister was still so generous and thoughtful.

What do you hope is the legacy you will leave behind?

A few weeks before my grandmother passed away, she told me this folk tale about a king, a queen and love – I won’t get into the details of it (mainly as I don’t think I’ll do it justice), but I suppose I hope that part of my legacy will be this kind of all encompassing love that surmounts all obstacles and continues to exist from generation to generation.

Another aspect of my legacy, which is very important to me, is the hope that I will be able to leave behind a part of my grandparents’ wisdom for future generations. I think that often, in the quest for progress, we forget about the past, and this is not something that I want to see happen. We can not make bold steps forward without remembering where we came from.

Finally, in a more practical sense, I hope to be able to build something in my lifetime that will continue giving back to the world for generations to come – be it in art, music, education, or sustainability.

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