French singer Mennel forced to quit France’s The Voice over terror posts

Mennel Ibtissem, a 22-year-old student was one of the top contestants on The Voice in France. (Screenshot)
Updated 09 February 2018
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French singer Mennel forced to quit France’s The Voice over terror posts

PARIS: A French Muslim singer who became an overnight star after dazzling judges on a TV talent show quit the contest Friday after coming under fire for past Facebook comments about terror attacks.
Mennel Ibtissem, a 22-year-old student was one of the top contestants on The Voice, where her English and Arabic version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah caused a sensation.
But within days of Saturday’s performance she was under pressure to bow out over old Facebook messages that appeared to question the terrorist nature of attacks that claimed scores of lives in France in 2016.
The posts have been deleted but screen grabs of the remarks have been circulated on far-right websites.
In one post after the July 2016 truck attack in the city of Nice, in which 86 people were killed, she said: “Here we go, it’s become a routine, an attack a week, and, as usual, the ‘terrorist’ takes his ID with him. It’s true that when you’re plotting something nasty you never forget to take your papers with you.”
She was referencing a series of jihadist assaults in France in which police quickly named the killers through documents found on their bodies, including the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
In another post, days after two jihadists slit the throat of a priest in his Normandy church, she wrote: “The real terrorists are our government.”
The singer had apologized over the remarks, saying members of her family had been celebrating Bastille Day in Nice when the driver struck and that she had been “upset” by the failure of the authorities to prevent the attack.
But the apology failed to quell the controversy.
With private broadcaster TF1 under pressure to pull her out of the competition, including from relatives of the victims of the Nice attack, she quit on Friday.
“I never meant to hurt anyone and the mere thought that my remarks hurt others hurts me, so I have taken the decision to quit this adventure,” she said in a Facebook video that has been viewed over 860,000 times.
The production company behind The Voice, ITV Studios France, said that despite her earlier apology the atmosphere on the show had become “too heavy” and hoped her decision to withdraw would “soothe tensions.”
But some of her fans expressed disappointment, amid allegations of anti-Muslim bias.
On Ibtissem’s Facebook page, Jihene Ferchiou wrote: “We must not delude ourselves. Your turban, your religion, your origins were the obstacle.
“Clearly we have reached an unprecedented level of racism in France. It’s a disgrace.”


Life lessons from inspirational women — Joelle Mardinian

Updated 17 August 2018
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Life lessons from inspirational women — Joelle Mardinian

The Lebanese beauty mogul talks travel, truth and trust

I loved how my mom took care of herself while busy running around looking after her kids. I love being a mom and I also love to take care of myself. I tell women that if they are happy and healthy, they will be able to take care of their kids better, smile more, and constantly stay beautiful.
I’ve worked with a lot of celebrities, sometimes even for free — this was crucial to building my portfolio. These times taught me the importance of hard work, of persistence, of putting in all you have to become what you want.
I always loved the idea of beauty for all. I truly believe that beauty is a right that everyone should have. Every time I see someone smile because of how much we were able to change things positively for them — when I see people regain confidence and beauty, I feel proud. I speak to my fans from all over the world, I hear stories of how I was able to inspire some of these women and young girls into doing something for themselves. This is my happiness. I love the fact my work allows me to reach out to people on a personal level, inspire them, help them in their lives, regain lost confidence sometimes. It’s the most amazing feeling ever and one that keeps me going.
The more time you give to your work, the more it will take from you. For the first six years of my work life I did not have any such thing as weekend or holidays. I remember it used to be boiling hot in Dubai and everyone used to be on a holiday, but I still had my show to film, my salons to run and I just couldn’t take a lot of time off. Now, I love to spend every minute of my free time with my kids. I work hard all year round, but as soon as schools are off for the summer, I take my kids on holiday. I just love spending time with them, painting, cooking, singing, and just hanging out in bed, watching movies and playing with our dogs.
Travel is an extension of life. You’re discovering a little bit of yourself. Not only do we see how the other people are living, we also feel like we are part of this earth. Because we all live in a little bubble, but travel makes us feel how wide and wonderful the world is and how varied people are.
As an Arab, our great leaders have been a huge influence on me. Sheikh Mohammed is really at the top of my list of idols, and Sheikh Zayed before him. Princess Haya too. These are extremely powerful, intelligent, forward-thinking, and honest leaders. They have changed other people’s perception on how to look at Arabs. We are leaders, we are educated, we are inventors, we are modern, but at the same time we hold on to our culture.
In the fashion industry, I’m a big admirer of Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad. They have taken their Arabic roots to the world, they have dressed international stars. I love Victoria Beckham too. I think this woman just can’t do any wrong! I appreciate her for many things. I appreciate her style, her fashion sense, the way she evolved… I appreciate everything about her personal life, which I see also through her style. Anyone who has actually made a mark in our world, these are the people that I look up to.
People who know me know I never slow down. Once I have got hold of work and things are going smoothly and my team is taking care of everything, then I will create something else to keep me occupied.
People sometimes expect me to be different from how I am on TV. But thanks to social media, I can express and be myself. I’m connected at all times. So my followers know exactly how I react in real life.
I’m someone who always thinks I can trust anyone. I’ve been robbed by people I trusted for years. Of course, I should say that I’ve learned from that, but I still like to think I can trust others and that people are generally good. I don’t like to walk around thinking people are bad because then my heart’s going to be filled with negativity. I’d rather believe in good than evil. And I believe that what goes around comes around. If someone supports me, I’ll be there for them when they need me.
My work revolves around the idea of beauty for all. I know — and have seen — how looks can have a direct impact on a person’s confidence and self-worth. For both women and men. As a woman, I can say that we wear different hats each day, as a mom, daughter, wife, boss and so many other duties. I always ask women to take care of themselves above all else. It’s the same thing I ask from men, from dads, from sons and brothers and husbands. Work for your family, make them proud, be a pillar of strength, but don’t forget yourself. Start from within.