MUSE: Life lessons from inspirational women — Aida Sahraoui

Aida Sahraoui is the founder and CEO of Dubai-based digital agency WONE. (Supplied)
Updated 01 November 2019

MUSE: Life lessons from inspirational women — Aida Sahraoui

The founder and CEO of Dubai-based digital agency WONE on trust, over-delivering, and the life-changing power of ‘The Little Prince.’

Women are often perceived in a biased way. If you’re too feminine, you’ll be seen as silly, and not taken seriously. If you have a strong personality, you’ll be seen as bossy, whereas a man would be seen as “manly.” The problem is that only women really see this. The biggest challenge for women is simply having to prove that we have brains that actually work just fine, regardless of how we look or how we say things.

People may think I’m being pushy sometimes. When it comes to work, I can be very straightforward. I want the work to be great and I never take no for an answer. So maybe I am pushy — or maybe it’s the only way to obtain the desired results. We all benefit from great work, don’t we?

The best advice I’ve ever had is, “Under-promise, over-deliver.” It’s more relevant today than ever — particularly in my line of work, where, I’d say, 90 percent of agencies over-promise but under-deliver.

I’m so proud and grateful to have my own company; to have transformed a passion into something tangible, to wake up in the morning and create great work with the team for our clients, and to see my team gain independence and confidence in their work. It’s a total blast.

Trust is the foundation of any kind of bonding. When good intentions are there, you can have a lasting relationship — whether that’s a friendship or romance. And, of course, the opposite is also true. But trusting someone else can only happen if you feel confident and good about yourself. When people are jealous, or judgemental, it’s often because they have issues with themselves.

Destructive comments are not part of my life. I choose to eliminate all negativity around me. However, you can realize things about yourself when you are confronted by others, and that’s not a mean thing — it’s a constructive one. There are countless things that I’ve heard that have helped me improve, and I’m proud of it.

I think men need to learn to listen. Really listen. But I also think women can learn from men’s straightforwardness. I do believe we’re highly complementary.

A book changed my life. Ever since childhood, Saint-Exupéry’s tale, “The Little Prince” has been an inspiration. It’s such an interesting read, and it helps me keep in mind that even through the bumpiest times, there’s always the hope of encountering specific characters that will change the way you experience the moment.


From Syria to stardom: Zain Al-Rafeea sheds light on his Hollywood highlights

Zain Al-Rafeea spoke to Arab News about his role in ‘The Eternals.’ (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2020

From Syria to stardom: Zain Al-Rafeea sheds light on his Hollywood highlights

LOS ANGELES: A child is forced to leave home to escape a terrible fate. Growing up in a strange land, he develops a special talent and achieves greatness.

It is a familiar story that could describe the lives of a host of superheroes. But it also applies to refugee and actor Zain Al-Rafeea, and his courageous journey from Syria to stardom.

Al-Rafeea was born in 2004. His family fled the Syrian conflict when he was eight, moving to Lebanon, where they were forced to find shelter in the slums of Beirut.

“Unfortunately, refugees face harsh conditions in Lebanon because the country has so many of them,” Al-Rafeea told Arab News. “I never thought I would be an actor or a famous person. I just dreamt of being safe with my family and that nothing bad would happen to them. I was focusing on making money to support my parents.”

In late 2017, Al-Rafeea’s life was changed by a chance encounter with Jennifer Haddad, casting director and collaborator of acclaimed Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki.

“I was in the street with a group of friends. I saw Jennifer, and she asked me if I would like to act. My first reaction was like ‘OK, I have no problem with that.’ She took a video of me, sent it to Nadine and things went on from there.”

Labaki cast Al-Rafeea as the lead in her 2018 drama “Capernaum.” The film was a hit, and the young actor’s performance was lauded by both audiences and critics.

“I did not imagine in my wildest dreams that I have such an international success,” Al-Rafeea said. “I just thought of it as an acting experience, but things went in a much better direction.”

In November, it was announced that Al-Rafeea will join the cast of Marvel’s upcoming “The Eternals.” The film tells the story of a race of immortal aliens who lived on Earth in secret, and features A-list stars such as Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek.

“The introduction happened through Nadine. Directors and producers from Hollywood talked to her and she put us in touch,” Al-Rafeea said.

The actor met his fellow cast members on the Canary Islands during the early stages of filming. “They were nice and their welcome to me was very sweet,” he said. “They invited me for lunch and we chatted for hours, I felt so happy.

“When we finished the first day’s shooting, Salma Hayek came up and hugged me. That night she gave me an iPad and iPhone, and we chatted and listened to music together.”

The teenage star couldn’t reveal much about his role in “The Eternals,” only that he joins the alien heroes as a human who can speak a mysterious 7,000-year-old language.

Life in the Beirut slums is a thing of the past for the Al-Rafeea family. With their son’s success, they were able to relocate to Norway.

“It is a perfect country, the people are so calm, and there are no fights or even traffic. Having water and electricity all the time is a great thing.” While he is excited about his new home, Al-Rafeea has not forgotten his friends, family and the home he left behind in Syria.

“Work hard for nothing is impossible — look what happened to me,” Al-Rafeea said in a message to children facing situations like the one he endured. “Simply dream big.”

“The Eternals” is due to be released in the US on Nov. 6, 2020. A Middle Eastern premiere date is yet to be announced.