At long last fatherhood, for Albert Luiz and Amin Kabani
by Donalevan Maines
Photos by Erin Beckwith
On Father’s Day (Sunday, June 16), five-month-old Magen Sophia Luiz-Kabani will attend her first Miss USA pageant, wearing a “Future Miss USA” sash. A fitting accessory, it seems, since her fathers are a pair of aces in the beauty industry.
Last year, for example, Magen Sophia’s “papa,” Albert Luiz, styled Miss Rhode Island, who won the pageant on her way to becoming Miss Universe six months later. Magen Sophia’s future “daddy,” Amin Kabani, assisted makeup artist Yuko Takahashi in the Fadil Berisha photo shoot of Miss USA contestants.
The fathers live in Houston and own An Albert Luiz Salon & Spa as well as Wardrobe: The Boutique, both in Sugar Land’s Town Center.
Magen Sophia has already attended a Miss Houston-USA pageant and a Miss Dallas-USA pageant. But what appears to be a charmed young life was years in the making.
“It was a roller-coaster ride,” says Luiz.
The couple met twenty years ago on the dance floor at a Montrose nightclub called Pacific Street Station. That both men desired a family with children “solidified” their attachment, they say.
In December 2010, the couple signed a surrogacy contract whereby they would purchase, for $15,000, four eggs from an Australian woman that would be fertilized by Luiz as the sperm donor and carried to term by a woman in India.
“We daydreamed that on our first attempt we would get pregnant,” recalls Luiz. But when it didn’t happen in four attempts, the couple spent another $15,000 for four more eggs.
“Amin and I would have arguments,” says Luiz. “We were both stressed. We thought maybe it was a sign—Mother Nature telling us we should not have a child. We looked at adopting.”
Then, on the seventh attempt, they learned they were pregnant with twins. As it turns out, however, it was an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy, so it had to be ended.
“On the ninth transfer, we decided to change our odds completely,” says Luiz, explaining that they purchased eggs from South Africa. “Sure enough, on the first transfer of embryos, we got pregnant!” says Luiz. “That was just the beginning.”
“First, we had lost twins,” says Luiz, “and the first trimester is very iffy. We were very nervous. Everything felt really hectic.
“We passed the twelve-week mark and thought we were in the clear,” he adds. “The doctor now said he would start testing for any genetic disorders. We thought, ‘Oh, no!’ and the first test showed a sign of a possible genetic defect.
“We would have to wait another few weeks to get a definitive result. So we were not sleeping. The wait was time enough for us to think about it, and we decided we would love our child regardless, no matter what,” says Luiz.
The second test resolved the issue, basically assuring the couple that their child would be born perfect.
“A big sigh of relief,” recalls Luiz. “Now, to prepare for parenthood. We kept vacillating between whether we would rather have a boy or a girl. We knew that with a girl, we would have a broke household because we would buy her all these clothes, all these shoes.”
When their baby was born on January 14, the easiest part may have been naming her. They chose “Magen” and its spelling after Magen Ellis Cherry, who was Miss Texas-USA 2006 who valiantly survived ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, and became a spokesperson for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and president of the leadership council for its chapter in southeast Texas.
“She has proven to have the qualities of a perfect Texas lady,” says Luiz.
Kabani liked the name “Sophia” when he heard it on television. Luiz recalled that Hagia Sophia was a church in Turkey that became a mosque. He calls it a symbol of two cultures cohabitating peacefully. The name, he says, serves as a tribute to Kabani’s family, who are strict Muslims.
The 63rd Miss USA Pageant will be televised live from Las Vegas at 8 p.m., Sunday, June 16, on NBC. Whether Megan Sophia Luiz-Kabani will compete to become a future Miss USA is up to her, say her fathers.
“We do have pageant friends who
are fans, and their daughters have chosen not to participate in the competition,” says Luiz. “We would rather that she first concentrate on physical fitness and athletics. We want to expose her to music and singing, volleyball and soccer.”
Besides, she might simply be the sister of a future Miss USA or Super Bowl quarterback, as Luiz and Kabani hope to build a big family.
“We would like to have five or six children,” says Luiz.
Donalevan Maines also writes about Kristopher Sharp, the Tony Awards, and The Glass Menagerie in this issue of OutSmart magazine.