So many legendary women have made a mark in the world in this lifetime, by their actions and their words. Truth is, the most inspiring women can contribute towards society, no matter what. You don’t need to be in a specific field, time or environment to make a difference to the world. Let’s take Mother Teresa, Madonna, Michelle Obama, Mary Quant, Helena Rubenstein, JK Rowling and Indira Gandhi. We can also zoom into the island of Malta and you will find so many women who are inspiring others, be it through their kindness, be it through their talents, be it through their motherhood skills or perhaps their success in business. In some cases, all four.
It does not have to be a VIP person to make a difference in other people’s lives. It could be a nurse doing her work relentlessly in a hospital or a teacher in a school who inspires children to bring out their utmost potential. As long as we do what we do with love in our hearts, and we inspire others with our actions, we are on the right track.
Photos by Carlo Jourdan
With all this in mind, this month, I have had the immense privilege to share this blog post about a person I admire very much, a strong woman I have had on my mind to interview for a few years but I just didn’t pluck up the courage to ask. Every time I saw a Facebook post from her, I wanted to cry, I wanted to reach out to her but did not know how to. I just couldn’t type a message to her. I felt I had no right to do so and why would she speak to me? Why do I deserve her time and her sacred space? I was not even her friend. 4 years later, I found the strength within me as a blogger and a messenger of joy (if you will) and with that in mind, I contacted her. This woman is Claire Zammit Xuereb. Luckily she accepted to meet me, a very rare thing for her to be in the public eye these days – she much rather prefers to focus on her businesses and her family.
Very briefly, I will tell you why I have been wishing to meet her. I will ask you all to turn back time and turn the clock back to 2012 when we had heard on the local news about a tragedy. Claire had been woken up in the early hours of New Year’s Day morning, to witness her husband, Duncan, the love of her life, her soul mate, being fatally stabbed by “a man dressed in black”. That night her 32 year old loving husband lost his life. I just wanted to bring up this memory to inform my readers who probably do not follow our local news and have no idea of this tragic fate.
I will keep this interview focused on what happened after this and where Claire and her family are in a much better place. Why I wish to interview Claire is to bring out the messages she has for us related to this event. Surely many of you out there felt so sorry to hear what this woman and her family have been through and I don’t know about you but the thought of something like this happening to me …brings shivers down my spine and makes me feel ill in the stomach.
Let me speak to you out there – all of you – especially nothers, career women, fathers out there. Imagine you feel that you are in a good place, you are strong, happy and successful, everything feels perfect, you have everything you have every dreamed of – and suddenly one night – one night the first day of the year – Everything falls apart! You lose Everything before your eyes in such a dramatic way.
How would you get out of a tragedy like this? What do you do ? Tell me!
Claire is looking beautiful and elegant and greets me with a sparkle in her jet black eyes at The Palace Hotel. Everything is perfect and she looks impeccable, as I always know her. Despite her excitement to meet me, it was not long before we warmed up to each other and we sat for over three hours talking about everything including her children, her fashion sense, her career, her current plans and what she feels in her heart right now in 2018, while Carlo Jourdan our photographer snapped some photos, for purposes of the blog post.
A few questions to break the ice were:
Q: Apart from your keys, what cannot you leave without in your purse/ handbag?
As the organiser that she is, she surprised me saying d she has a bag that she keeps in the car with a number of smaller pockets with for instance a sewing kit, scissors, tights. One of the pockets is a health and safety kit. Yes, this is what she is like – extremely thoughtful and organised.
Q: Are you a shoes or bag person?
Both! I love shoes, bags and accessories and very often I will style my outfit around my favourite bags and shoes and accessories, not the other way round.
Q: Favourite movie of all time ?
Meet Joe Black featuring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt.
Eat, Pray Love featuring Julia Roberts
Q: Something people would never know about you?
• I’m a hoarder, meaning I get attached to my things so much that I find it so difficult to let go of them.
• I love kickboxing sessions as a means of exercising and de-stressing.
• Cooking is something I love to do – but I have to make time for it, I don’t find enough time.
• I love cars – like you!
• I am extremely sentimental. As in I will treasure a little gift from a friend or my children because of the sentiment I feel when I see it every time.
• I’m funny? People see my serious side and they don’t know I can have a good sense of humour 😉
Q: Mention a person who inspires you and why?
Oprah Winfrey – she is a resilient, successful woman who has all the qualities I admire. We need more women like her in this world.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey (1954)
Q: With 3 children and a handful businesses in the AX Group hotel industry to run, what are your tricks to manage everything and to cope with all your activities and those of the kids?
I plan everything way ahead including lunches, dinners, outfit changes. Planning is my no 1 tip. I plan appointments up to two or three weeks in advance. I plan my outfits every Sunday and I also plan the lunches for my three children in advance. I m a control freak. I admit it. (She giggles when she says this) But that’s how I manage to be on top of everything I can control.
Q: Favourite songs you like to listen to?
I like all music genres. I do like “Stars in the Sky” but “Secret Garden” is my all time favourite. She smiled at me saying it is the melancholy song I would like to have played at my funeral.
She is that kind of a person who is not afraid to face subjects that others shy from.
After these light-hearted questions, we got more comfortable and I went on asking her about her career and her hotel business. Claire Zammit Xuereb is Group Hospitality Director for AX Hotels and a Director for AX Holdings. She is the Business and marketing strategist as well as product developer for the groups’ five hotels; as well as the chain of restaurants.
Q: I personally admire you very much for your evident success and determination in your endeavors. What would you like to tell young teenagers who are currently studying for management positions in the entertainment or hotel industry? Give me 3 good tips to keep in mind in the real world.
1. EDUCATION IS KEY. When you learn something at college or university, think of how you are going to apply it, and when you do that, the sky is the limit. Give it life.
2. BE RESILIENT. In business you need to learn how to adopt a thick skin. Be ambitious enough to make decisions that will make a difference. Be different. Be your creator.
3. DO NOT FEAR FROM MISTAKES. If you never fail, you probably will not grow. We learn from mistakes because no one is perfect and current trends are ever-changing.
What are you working on at the moment? Anything important to share with my readers?
I am writing a book, a documentary about what happened in my life and I am writing this dedicating it to my children. It is about making the most of all the things that happen in life I decided to write this book one day after the Tragedy happened to us on New Year’s Eve in 20… I wanted to write my feelings and thoughts down to help myself mourn through the situation and to help inspire others who experience bad patches to keep moving forward and to try to make the best lemonade out of the lemons that were thrown at you unannounced. The title of the book is not yet set in stone but I’m thinking to call it “Bridging the Gap Between Hell and Heaven.”
Q: What do you do to keep calm in situations that disturb you?
I take a very deep breath, an audible one, I digest what was said, I keep calm, think about it for a moment. I think quickly what result I wish to achieve from my reply and then I speak. It’s a process that I find works for me.
Q: Let’s touch upon the two new hotels in Valletta. The Saint John and Palazzo Merkanti Are they similar in any way?
They are completely different actually. Claire believes strongly as an accomplished entrepreneur in the hospitality industry that each hotel must have its own personality to cater for different clientele. Saint John is a business hotel that caters for the demanding traveller on a budget, one who loves his technology and yet loves his independence and is not so fussy about frills on the side.
Palazzo Merkanti that is opening this year, It will be a state of the art landmark in Malta. Expect a dramatic yet contemporary style of décor. It will be the best 5 star hotel in Malta of its scale. This hotel will be bringing back the good old hospitality with a twist, including concierge services and lots of personal service facilities.
WE THEN TALKED ABOUT LIFE AND THE FUTURE WE CREATE
Claire like myself is a believer in destiny and that everything happens for a reason at the time that it happens. It is with this understanding that following the tragedy in 2012, she chooses to be positive and to keep pacing her life forward accordingly. She loves life and appreciates in every single day. She still struggles to find reason to believe why things like this happen but since the tragedy happened she wanted to find new scope for her being here.
She has been keeping on a very low-key on social media for many years because she felt bruised, and in many ways lost. Her life, for a span of a few years, was so tough in every way and she was struggling to find herself again after the tragedy, to patch up the pieces that were shattered. She has hit the most bottom of rock bottom. I cannot even being to understand how she felt after the but what I admire in this strong woman is her warrior attitude and her determination to search that new meaning of life and to spread her findings with others.
“Duncan was not only the most caring daddy but also the most loving husband. I depended on him for everything. He was the one to cook and do the shopping and he always opted to stay in with our little ones if I had to work or run errands. So, when he wasn’t around anymore, I couldn’t recognise myself or my life. I had to start all over. Every time I collapsed, I felt Duncan pick me up and push me slowly to be with our little ones… and that’s what I did. I hear his voice and it gives me the strength to keep moving forward”
She chose the light over the dark, she chose to live for her children and her closest family and she is determined to use her time she has on this planet wisely and not only for purposes of herself but she has learnt that her story must be used for the better good.
In fact she is in the process of writing a book called “Bridging the Gap Between Hell and Heaven”. She decided to start writing this book a day after the tragedy, initially to help herself heal from all the pain she felt in her heart, and eventually she understood that this book would be useful to people who are struggling from heart pain and it might help inspire them to fight through it, like she did. I’m so looking forward to read this book!
I spoke to Claire Zammit Xuereb for many hours and I must say, I almost didn’t want to leave her to go home and I think that she is one of the most interesting persons I have interviewed. Perhaps because I have found her to be so different to what I pre-conceived her to be or perhaps I just want to Thank Her for all the inspiration and good energy.
She is full of love for life, she is powerful and strong, yet I found her to be so funny and outspoken and I have a feeling that we will be doing some interesting work together because we have lots of common interests. She is a strong accomplished entrepreneur, inspired by perhaps her lovely dad Anglu Xuereb who still works passionately in the hotel industry and still achieves awards for best entrepreneur.
What I am sure about though is that she is a self-accomplished person and she takes absolutely Nothing For Granted. I am inspired by her to improve my skills, and if you meet her, you will also be impressed by her. She exudes a powerful aura of determination blended with heartfelt emotions about life and its beauties that she cherishes.
“Watch more sunsets, kiss more frogs, have fun with your children and dance like nobody’s watching because we only have ONE LIFE in this time frame as humans so might as well use it to our most benefit and for the benefit of the generations after us. Be more considerate towards others. Also be more conscious of yourselves and the world around you rather than be carried away by the fast life! That is the message I felt she channelled to me to relate and I’m so honoured to be the messenger to you all today.”
I hope this blog has touched you and if you feel that your life has no sense, if you feel like you have no direction, stop and think because if you have yourself, you have everything you need.
Love yourself enough to get through anything, like Claire did and still does every day. Spread your light.
I loved meeting you and I ‘m sure we will cross paths in common projects going forward, because Together Is Better. So…..Watch out for this space and watch out for Claire and her exciting projects!
Thank you Claire for allowing me to interview you. I wish you so many blessings and I look forward to celebrating more of your successes on a personal and career level.
THANK YOU goes to:
Mangano Malta for our gorgeous outfits
Yana’s Jewellery for our jewellery
Mixa’s Salon for my hair
Vanessa Mansueto for Claire’s hair
Janice Baldacchino for my make up
Gabrielle Zammit Grungo for Claire’s Make Up