Salma Hayek discusses her Lebanese heritage, political correctness

Salma Hayek discusses her Lebanese heritage, political correctness
Salma Hayek is an actress, producer, philanthropist, and all-around global superstar. (Getty)
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Updated 11 November 2021

Salma Hayek discusses her Lebanese heritage, political correctness

Salma Hayek discusses her Lebanese heritage, political correctness
  • ‘I probably had kibbeh before I had tacos,’ said the actress 

DUBAI: Ever since she was a little girl, Salma Hayek — actress, producer, philanthropist, and all-around global superstar — has felt a strong connection to her Arab roots. Though she grew up in Mexico, far from the small village of Baabdat, Lebanon, which her family left years earlier, her father and grandparents never let her forget where they came from, and the values that entails.

“I was raised and I was educated, like all Lebanese people are educated, to give back to Lebanon, to be a brotherhood. We are raised so that when we encounter a Lebanese person in life, we immediately come together,” says Hayek.

In her house growing up, she was raised on Arabic food, handed the writings of Khalil Gibran by her grandfather, and taught about what her Arab identity meant.




Salma Hayek with husband Francois-Henri Pinault and their daughter Valentina Paloma Pinault in France. (Getty)

“I probably had Kibbeh before I had tacos,” she jokes.

Her background was diverse, and she embraced the richness of what that meant, both in her Latin roots and her Middle Eastern ones, even as she moved to the US from Mexico to pursue a career in entertainment, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen. As much as the richness of her heritage made her who she was, that identity led her down a hard road in a town such as Hollywood, a town in which the faces that were most easily embraced were the ones that conformed to a different standard.

“You have to understand, I am Mexican-Arab in America. It’s a tough one. I’m not British. I’m not Spanish. I’m Mexican-Arab,” she tells Arab News.




In her house growing up, she was raised on Arabic food, handed the writings of Khalil Gibran by her grandfather, and taught about what her Arab identity meant. (Supplied)

She has persevered, however, and made a significant contribution to a wider acceptance not only of ethnic diversity, but of women in roles traditionally held by men in the industry. Take her 2015 passion project “The Prophet,” an animation based on the famous work by Gibran that Hayek produced (as well as voicing one of the characters).

“It’s not a religious book, it’s poetic and philosophical. It’s a book written by an Arabic man, which unites all religions,” Hayek told the Guardian of the film. “That itself I think is important.”

“Through this book I got to know my grandfather, through this book I got to have my grandfather teaching me about life,” she told Reuters at the film’s premiere in Beirut. “For me, this is a love letter to my heritage. Between all the connections of our ancestors and the memories of the ones that are no longer with us, I hope they are proud of this film, because I did it also for them.” Hayek’s father went to Beirut with her for the premiere, and together they went on an “emotional journey” to Baabdat — their ancestral village.




Hayek at the premiere of the latest Marvel movie with director Chloe Zhao and producer Victoria Alonso. (Supplied)

As much as ‘diversity’ has become the buzzword in the new Hollywood, and as much as every studio pushes for diverse hires both in front of and behind the camera, this is something that Hayek remains skeptical of. Why? Because often, she feels, these sorts of moves are made to fill quotas without substance, which don’t represent real change.

“When diversity is done out of political correctness, you feel an interrogation and you don’t feel welcome the same way [as you do when it’s done right]. They’re nervous and speak carefully just so that they don’t make a mistake in anything they say. They’re not seeing you as a human being and celebrating just who you are,” says Hayek.

Her latest film does not fall into that category, she stresses. It is her first venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and she has become the MCU’s first Arab lead.




Hayek with the Gibran statue. (Supplied)

Hayek was particularly excited about the fact that director Chloe Zhao, who won Oscars earlier this year for Best Director and Best Picture for her film “Nomadland,” approached her not to fill a quota, but out of something deeper.

“It’s diversity, but it’s not done out of political correctness, but out of conviction. It didn’t feel contrived and forced. It’s not like, ‘I need one from this country, one from that,’” says Hayek.

Hayek had never been in a superhero movie before — and she’s happy about that. If she had, she says, she probably would have never been cast in this one, as the leader of a group of ancient heroes from another galaxy. For her, having a cast that represents people of so many different backgrounds in such a film is a big moment not only for her, but for Hollywood at large. The message of the film, she says, is that “we can all be superheroes.”

“Before, I was one of those people who, every time something appeared on screen, larger than life, were never included. I’m so happy that they didn’t call me before. Thank you very much. There’s some really bad ones, by the way; this was worth waiting for,” says Hayek. “It’s like my husband (French business mogul Francois-Henri Pinault). I waited a long time, and I got a good one.”

When she first spoke about the film with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige and Zhao, she was surprised to hear that the reason that they wanted to cast her as the leader of the group was for the personal qualities she embodied, above all else.

“I thought I was going to play someone’s mother, frankly. But Chloe said, ‘You’re actually going to be the leader. In the comic books, it’s a man, but we wanted you, so we changed it to a woman.’ You can imagine my shock, right? I thought it was a prank. I asked, ‘Why did you want me?’ She said, ‘The quality I see for this leader is in you. You have a type of strength that I want for this character. You are extremely strong, but there’s a warmth to your strength.’ (The character has a) motherly instinct. And I really liked that. She’s a healer, and if you think about it, the best leaders in the world should be healers. They are followed by the people, and they should heal their pains and their problems, and they should fix what’s broken,” says Hayek.

Because they understood each other so well, Hayek and Zhao’s immediate bond from that first meeting continued throughout filming, lasting until today.

“She’s such a good director. Because of that, there was no preparation required from me, there was just, like, presence, and trust in the director,” says Hayek.

That welcoming spirit continued throughout filming, and as a result, the cast bonded in a way that Hayek hadn’t seen in years.

“We all interacted a lot in the moments when you’re waiting in between takes. That doesn’t really happen anymore. Before it did; actors used to talk about the characters all the time and read lines together and have fights about the meaning of the scene, but now everybody’s on their phone. They’ll come out of the trailers when it’s time to roll. Here, that didn’t happen,” says Hayek.

What was important to Hayek as well is that it wasn’t just her Arab and Mexican identity, or her identity as a strong woman, that was embraced on set. She felt she could wear all aspects of herself proudly.

“I’m a 55-year-old, so that’s a different kind of diversity,” says Hayek, alluding to the fact that older woman rarely get cast as anything other than mothers and grandmothers after their 30s.

She was also able to be comfortable with her dyslexia, she explains. “During our first table read, I had to read it off the paper. I thought I was going to stink, but I knew I could do it alright by the end. And Barry Keoghan (who plays Druig) is dyslexic too. It was nice that we could all sit there and hold hands and be heroes, even then. We all just got to be a family — a proper family — and embrace everything about each other,” says Hayek.

More than anyone else, Hayek has Zhao to thank for that.

“It was very clear from day one, 10 seconds in, that this was different. She’s a brave, strong woman with a lot of clarity and she kept that consistently throughout the film. The way she moved the camera, the smoothness, the curvature, the epic moments that found intimacy at the same time. It was a very clear, specific vision,” says Hayek. “It was a beautiful experience.”


Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara

Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara
The 21-year-old stars in the Weekend Max Mara Spring 2022 campaign. Instagram
Updated 23 January 2022

Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara

Nora Attal stars in summer campaign for Weekend Max Mara

DUBAI: British-Moroccan model Nora Attal is starring in a new campaign for Weekend Max Mara, the sister brand of Max Mara’s mainline collections.

Lensed by Eddie Wrey, Attal features in a video and campaign images set along a rocky stretch of coast in Capo Malfatano, Italy.

The 21-year-old catwalk star features in the stunning video advertorial wearing key pieces from the label’s Spring 2022 collection.

She can be seen wearing a beige knit sweater with yarn tassels worn with matching cream-colored trousers paired with loafers and the brand’s Pasticcino bag.

In the 15-second-long clip, Attal can also be seen wearing a belted trench coat, a flowy shirt dress cinched at the waist with a belt and a matching pinstriped trousers and jacket combination.

According to the brand, the Spring 2022 advertising campaign “portrays the protagonist in the summer wardrobe you have always wished for.”

The collection boasts a wide range of summer-ready styles from reinvented classics and summer-ready essentials to cashmere sweaters emblazoned with butterflies and cotton trousers. Tweed miniskirts, leather pouches and linen blouses are among the other items that jostle for attention in the label’s new collection.

The model has been keeping quite busy. She recently appeared in the holiday campaign for German label Boss, alongside Australian actor Chris Hemsworth.

Attal has forged a position as one of the most in-demand models in the world at the moment — Models.com currently ranks her as one of the top 50 models worldwide.

Based in London and singed to Viva Model Management, Attal has walked for renowned fashion houses such as Prada, Fendi, Dior, Chanel and Versace, to name a few, in addition to appearing in the pages of publications such as Vogue magazine.

Born to Moroccan parents in the UK, the model was first discovered by Jonathan Anderson, founder of the J.W. Anderson label, and shot a campaign for the British fashion house in 2014, before making her runway debut three years later.

Attal is among the growing list of Arab models breaking ground in the industry, including Italian-Moroccan Malika El-Maslouhi, part-Palestinian sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid, Moroccan-Egyptian Imaan Hammam and French-Algerian Loli Bahia, to name a few.

 


Meet the Saudi architect designing the metaverse

Digital artist and architect Sattom Alasad expresses and explores her Saudi heritage through her work. (AN Photo)
Digital artist and architect Sattom Alasad expresses and explores her Saudi heritage through her work. (AN Photo)
Updated 22 January 2022

Meet the Saudi architect designing the metaverse

Digital artist and architect Sattom Alasad expresses and explores her Saudi heritage through her work. (AN Photo)
  • Sattom Alasad wanted to use online spaces dominating people's lives to provide a tranquil, otherworldly escape
  • These digital spaces are also a way for Alasad to express and explore her Saudi heritage

LOS ANGELES: Saudi architect Sattom Alasad has expanded from designing physical buildings to virtual ones.

Collectively known as a metaverse, digital spaces like Alasad’s allow users online to immersively interact with the environment and each other, and the technology world is looking at them as the next big thing.

“A lot of big companies are investing millions of dollars to own digital land so it’s only natural that the digital real estate is also going to go up in value and is going to be in demand,” digital artist and architect Alasad said. “So as an architect, I am trying to actively participate in developing and designing that digital world for us.”

Metaverse development has been pushed forward due in part to the increased number of people working and interacting remotely during the pandemic.

Alasad wanted to use the online spaces dominating people's lives to provide a tranquil, otherworldly escape.

“A lot of what was going on in the world around us was weighing down on us, so I wanted to take that as an opportunity to start developing my dream world,” she told Arab News.

“I’m currently working on translating my designs to be sold as NFTs where the owner can choose to host the spaces in the metaverse or the digital world where they can be experienced fully and immersively through virtual reality.” 

These digital spaces are also a way for Alasad to express and explore her Saudi heritage, incorporating familiar design elements from her home.

Of all her projects, the one closest to her heart was a collaboration with the charitable collective of MENA region creators, Ya Habibi Market.

“Creating and sharing art is an incredible way to meet and connect with other creatives who live in LA whether they’re from Saudi or other parts of the Arab world.

“So in some ways I found it I would say more empowering to try to connect and understand my culture while being away from it.”


US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 

US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 
Updated 22 January 2022

US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 

US social media star Brittany Xavier shows off Arab accessories label 

DUBAI: US YouTuber Brittany Xavier has been spotted wearing a pair of sunglasses from Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen’s eponymous accessories line By Karen Wazen.

The social media star, who has over 1.7 million Instagram followers and more than 4.6 million TikTok supporters, opted for the Ellis shades, a pair of rectangular-frame sunglasses in black. 

The 34-year-old blogger, famous for her fashion, beauty and digital marketing-related blogs, wore a full leather suit, which she paired with a hot purple bag by Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe, as she strolled down the streets of Los Angeles.  

On her YouTube channel, which has around 443,000 subscribers, the full-time content creator documents her life with her husband, Anthony Xavier, and her two daughters, Jadyn and Poppy Xavier. 

She started her career in 2013. “I started my blog as a hobby in hopes of turning this into my full-time career,” she said in one of her YouTube videos. 

The mother recently welcomed her second child, Poppy, whom she gave birth to 14 years after her first girl. 

Meanwhile, Dubai-based entrepreneur and influencer Wazen launched her debut collection of eyewear in December 2018. The first line came in acetate and stainless steel and in an array of colors, from neon to tortoiseshell.

Less than a year after the official launch of her brand, her designs were picked up by major e-tailer Farfetch, which became the first online platform to offer her eyewear collection.

Now with a large collection of stylish shades, the label has gained the nod of approval from international celebrities including British-Albanian singer Dua Lipa, reality television star Kourtney Kardashian, French model Cindy Bruna, and American singer Becky G, along with a number of regional influencers and trendsetters such as Lebanese blogger Nathalie Fanj, Lebanese-Canadian actress Cynthia Samuel, and Iraqi influencer Deema Al-Asadi.

Among her loyal customers is US music sensation Demi Lovato, who championed the designer’s pieces multiple times. 

The two-time Grammy nominee owns Wazen’s Glamorous shades, a pair of cat-eye-shaped sunglasses in green lenses and a clear frame, and a pair of Kennys, which are rectangular-shaped with brown lenses and a transparent frame.


‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74

‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74
Updated 21 January 2022

‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74

‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ singer Meat Loaf dead at 74
  • The beefy Texas-born singer distinguished himself in the late 1970s with his soaring vocal range and lavish stage productions
  • After a career rut, Meat Loaf enjoyed a revival with his biggest success in 1993: the single "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)"

WASHINGTON: US singer Meat Loaf, famous for his “Bat Out of Hell” rock anthem, has died aged 74, after a career in which he sold more than 100 million albums and appeared in scores of movies.
“Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight with his wife Deborah by his side,” read a statement on his Facebook page early on Friday.
“Daughters Pearl and Amanda and close friends have been with him throughout the last 24 hours.” No cause of death was given.
The beefy Texas-born singer distinguished himself in the late 1970s with his soaring vocal range and lavish stage productions.
His 1977 “Bat out of Hell” album, which reportedly sold some 43 million copies, is one of the highest-selling ever.
After a career rut, Meat Loaf enjoyed a revival with his biggest success in 1993: the single “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” topped the charts in 28 countries and won him a Grammy Award.
“We know how much he meant to so many of you and we truly appreciate all of the love and support as we move through this time of grief in losing such an inspiring artist and beautiful man,” it said.
“From his heart to your souls... don’t ever stop rocking!“
Tributes poured in, including from former US president Donald Trump, and stars such as Cher, who tweeting she was “Very Sorry For His Family, Friends, & Fans.”
“R.I.P Meatloaf. Love and prayers to all his family and close friends,” tweeted singer Boy George.
Adam Lambert, the lead singer for Queen since 2011, described Meat Loaf as “a gentle hearted powerhouse rockstar forever and ever.”
“You were so kind. Your music will always be iconic,” Lambert said on Twitter.
Born Marvin Lee Aday on September 27, 1947, Meat Loaf’s early years in Texas were rough.
“I’ve forgiven my father for trying to kill me with a butcher’s knife,” he once told The Telegraph.
But the bullying at school over his weight — the nickname Meat Loaf came early — was followed by the devastating loss of his mother to cancer while he was still a teenager.
Not long after, he was on his way to New York, looking for ways to channel the angst and histrionics into performance.
There, he teamed up with musician and playwright Jim Steinman, who provided the wild, theatrical backing music to accompany Meat Loaf’s bellowing voice.
Meat Loaf’s other hit singles include “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” (1977) and “I’m Gonna Love Her for Both of Us” (1981).
Meat Loaf had started off seeking acting work — winning parts in “Hair” and the original cast of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and its film adaptation.
Throughout his career, he also had several small parts in TV shows and films, including “Wayne’s World” (1992).
His role in the 1999 cult classic “Fight Club” highlighted his acting prowess in one of the decade’s most critically acclaimed films.
In 2016, he released a new album — his first since 2011 — and returned to a busy schedule after a two-year gap in touring, a string of health scares and speculation he would retire.
The singer had collapsed onstage at least three times since 2003, including once in Canada in 2016 after suffering from dehydration while singing “I’d Do Anything For Love.”
He was one of the few major US musicians outside of the country genre to support the Republican Party actively.
In the lead-up to the 2012 election that Barack Obama ended up winning, Meat Loaf campaigned for his challenger Mitt Romney.
Meat Loaf also became friends with Donald Trump after appearing on the latter’s reality television show “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
Trump described the singer as “smart, talented, open, and warm” in a statement Friday.


Syrian arts, culture festival opens in London

Syrian arts, culture festival opens in London
Updated 21 January 2022

Syrian arts, culture festival opens in London

Syrian arts, culture festival opens in London

DUBAI: The Syrian Arts and Culture Festival, a new multidisciplinary event showcasing the country’s creative talents, has opened in London.

The inaugural event, running until Feb. 4, brings together established and emerging artists, filmmakers, performers, and musicians to offer audiences alternative narratives and perspectives on Syria, its people, and its culture.

The SACF is a project by Zamakan, a non-profit platform that aims to create opportunities for artists, cultural workers, and creatives from West Asia and North Africa, and Marsm, a London-based events company.

Upcoming events feature a performance by Syrian musician Ibrahim Keivo. (Syrian Arts and Culture Festival)

SACF is a transliteration of the Arabic word saqf, meaning roof or ceiling, a word which is also used to represent the limit of something. According to the website, the festival, “aspires to be a creative platform where limits can be pushed and boundaries are broken.”

For the opening night, the festival presented two solo performances by the acclaimed Syrian classical guitarist Ayman Jarjour and and Palestinian ney (a type of flute) virtuoso Faris Ishaq.

Upcoming events feature screenings of Syrian filmmaker Omar Amiralay’s movies, a traditional food workshop, and a performance by Syrian musician Ibrahim Keivo.