DUBAI: Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal stole the show at the ninth Beirut International Awards Festival over the weekend, wearing a stunning ballgown by Lebanese designer Jean-Louis Sabaji.
The US-based journalist was awarded the “Most Influential Media Personality” prize at the ceremony on June 29, as part of the annual event’s bid to honor distinguished personalities from various fields, including art, politics, culture, music, finance and the humanitarian sector.
The journalist, political analyst, author and screenwriter took to the stage — in Beirut’s Nejmeh Square — wearing the “Tree of Life” gown from the designer’s “Mesopotamia” collection.
The delicate embroidery showcases Mesopotamian mythology on silk tulle and the breathtaking gown was completed with twinkling glass beads and ornate sequin work. Harper’s Bazaar Arabia reported that the needlework took 400 hours to complete by a team of skilled artisans.
The artwork-cum-dress hails from Sabaji’s Summer 2018 collection, which is inspired by Istar — pronounced Ishtar — the Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and high priestess of political power, according to the designer’s website.
“In this retrospective collection, Jean-Louis hails inspiration from the arresting aesthetics of a culture at the very dawn of civilization: Mesopotamia. (The collection depicts) the fantastical iconography around (Istar) in opulent adornment sparked by Babylonian astronomy — the earliest recorded,” the website reads.
The embroidery tells the tale of mythical beasts and celestial beings, including sphinxes, symbolizing supremacy, mermen and majestic lions.
It takes a commanding woman to wear such powerful iconography and Sabaji no doubt found the perfect model in the influential media persona.
Jebreal was born in Haifa and grew up in East Jerusalem. She was raised in an orphanage after the death of her mother and graduated with a scholarship from the Italian government to study medicine, according to her website. Armed with a degree in physiotherapy from Bologna University, she went on to make a name for herself in journalism and soon became the first foreign anchorwoman to broadcast the evening news in the history of Italian television.
Since moving to the US in 2009, she has been a foreign policy analyst for MSNBC and a contributor to the Daily Beast, Newsweek and Salon.com and has regularly appeared on CNN and Bloomberg.
In 2010, Jebreal released her first-ever novel, “Mira.” The work of literary fiction, about a young Arab woman who navigates her way through violence in 1948 Jerusalem, was translated into 15 languages and turned into a feature film, for which she wrote the screenplay.