DUBAI: Disney-owned US cable network Freeform is launching a new show with an Arab twist that follows three best friends and their new life in Los Angeles.
The show, titled “Ya Bint” which loosely translates to “Hey girl,” centers on Arab-American women Maya, Jumana, and Lara who have moved from their homes in the Middle East to Los Angeles, according to Hollywood Reporter.
It follows the Arab trio as they struggle with the clash of cultures and the idea that “freedom equals happiness.”
Hit series “Empire” executive producers (EP) Danny Strong and Sanaa Hamri will also serve as the show’s EPs, while Dina Shihabi and Rolla Selbak will write it.
Shihabi is a Saudi actress who has appeared in shows such as “Altered Carbon,” “Jack Ryan,” and critically acclaimed comedy “Ramy.” She was the first Middle East-born woman who was accepted into the prestigious acting programs of Julliard and New York University (NYU).
DUBAI: After Lebanese teen Nour Ardakani joined the global music group Now United to become the band’s 16th member – and its first Arab – we spoke to the upcoming star to find out more about her and her new venture.
The 18-year-old artist, who shares singing covers on Instagram playing her piano and ukulele, said that the group got in touch with her after watching her clips on social media.
“They contacted me and they asked me if I can send in tapes of me singing and dancing. Then they kept asking me to send in more, and then we are here now,” the artist told Arab News.
Ardakani was hand-picked by Simon Fuller, the man who managed popular British girl band The Spice Girls and created “American Idol.”
During a video call, which Ardakani shared on Instagram, Fuller told the singer and dancer: “I think you are absolutely wonderful, and I think you would be perfect to join the group. And I would like to invite you to be the next member of Now United.”
“Seriously, it’s me? You picked me?” asked Ardakani, to which Fuller replied: “You got it.”
When speaking about the moment she got the news, she said she was not expecting the group to pick her out from the thousands of people who auditioned.
All through the audition process, which took three weeks, Ardakani thought she was not going to get it. “I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t process everything because I knew what a big responsibility it is, and it is crazy to be able to represent the whole MENA region,” she said. “I don’t know how I got it.”
How did Ardakani discover her passion?
She said she had always had it from a very young age: “My parents saw that in me. Then, they put me into dance, and then they put me into singing lessons.”
The singer is at college, studying nutrition and business – two fields that are different to what she is doing now.
“Singing and dancing have always been my passion and I would love to continue doing that for the rest of my life. Education is really important to me, and I want to have that for myself, and if I end up doing (nutrition and business) in the future it’s going to help,” she said.
Ardakani has got no time to spare. She has already started recording a single with the band.
When speaking to her group-mate, Australian singer and performer Savannah Clarke, she said: “I feel that having a member from this region is so important because it will help Now United grow, and it will show our fans that Now United is truly a global pop group.”
“It will bring more cultures into it,” she added. “You learn so much just by being with Now’s 16 members from all around the world.”