Lebanese-Australian model Jessica Kahawaty explores Saudi Arabia

Lebanese-Australian model Jessica Kahawaty explores Saudi Arabia
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Updated 05 December 2021

Lebanese-Australian model Jessica Kahawaty explores Saudi Arabia

Australian-Lebanese model Jessica Kahawaty is no stranger to jetting around the world. File/ Getty Images

DUBAI: Australian-Lebanese model, entrepreneur and influencer Jessica Kahawaty is treating her one million Instagram fans to a tour of Saudi Arabia.

This week, the model hopped between Riyadh and Jeddah, with a pitstop in the Saudi desert, for a number of events.

She hit the ground running in Riyadh with a visit to the Times Square entertainment destination in the capital and stopped off at the Echo Beauty department store and the We Cre8 department store in The Boulevard.

“Riyadh. Wow. What a welcome. Thank you #VedaHolding a pioneer in entrepreneurship in concepts like @wecre8.sa and @echobeauty.sa, for your hospitality and thank you to the people of Riyadh who found me in a quick and quiet visit to Times Square late last night after the desert and gave me the funnest welcome ever!!! Can’t wait for what’s to come soon Saudi (sic),” Kahawaty posted on Instagram alongside a carousel of images and videos of her visit.

For the occasion, she showed off a dazzling pink dress by Miu Miu.

Before her 3 a.m. trip to the mall, Kahawaty enjoyed a traditional dinner in the desert and shared a cozy-looking carousel of photos in which she can be seen enjoying kabsa in a desert camp complete with a roaring fire.

“My first Saudi desert experience with a traditional kabsa dinner (rice with lamb),” she captioned the post on Instagram.

The model, who is also an avid humanitarian, then hopped on a plane to Jeddah, during which she was treated to a meal she had been craving — a McDonald’s burger.

“They asked what cuisine I wanted, I said ‘Le McDonald’s’,” she joked on her Instagram feed.

In Jeddah, Kahawaty received a warm welcome as she arrived to stay with Saudi designer Arwa Al-Banawi before the pair enjoyed a spread of pastries and homemade goodies.

When she’s not jetting around the world, the Dubai-based 32-year-old can be found setting up charitable endeavors — evidenced most recently in her online fundraiser to support those struggling in Lebanon amid the country’s shortage of fuel, medical supplies and food in August.

“My name is Jessica Kahawaty and I, like many Lebanese expats, feel helpless watching my country and people drown in despair,” she wrote at the time.

Kahawaty said that money raised was distributed among nonprofit organizations that she personally vetted, individual families and students.


Syrian arts, culture festival opens in London

Syrian arts, culture festival opens in London
Updated 1 min 44 sec ago

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.


Meet Saudi beauty guru Hessa Alajaji: The face behind Han Makeup

Meet Saudi beauty guru Hessa Alajaji: The face behind Han Makeup
Updated 21 January 2022

Meet Saudi beauty guru Hessa Alajaji: The face behind Han Makeup

Meet Saudi beauty guru Hessa Alajaji: The face behind Han Makeup

DUBAI: Saudi makeup artist Hessa Alajaji’s beauty brand Han Makeup, which she has been working on since 2017, is finally here much to the delight of makeup aficionados. 

“Our goal is to have a brand that covers all the products that anyone would need when doing their makeup,” said the content creator who co-founded the brand in an interview with Arab News. “We have started with makeup brushes as we have noticed a lack of sets that give you the requirements that you need.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HESSA ALAJAJI (@han.alajaji)

Alajaji first gained popularity on social media, where beauty lovers flocked to her Instagram account for creative shots of colorful, otherworldly makeup looks and sneak peaks of the artist’s life. With more than 35,000 followers on Instagram, it was time for the creative talent to translate her know-how into a business.  

The pandemic slowed down the artist’s production plan, but she said it allowed her to test the brushes with several leading makeup artists and users who “all praised the quality” of her set. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HAN (@han.makeup)

Priced at 450 SAR, the set features 10 brushes that will help makeup lovers create knife-sharp eyeliner looks, natural looking eyebrows, and softly blended eyeshadows.

The set, which is made out of natural and synthetic hair, also has larger tools that can be used to contour, highlight, conceal or to apply foundation.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HESSA ALAJAJI (@han.alajaji)

The feedback on her release “exceeded” her expectations. “Clients loved the brush set and we have been receiving amazing feedback. We love that our brushes were a part of the most memorable moments of our clients like their wedding day, engagement party, New Year’s Eve, etc.,” she said.

The Riyadh-based entrepreneur, who has collaborated with international brands like Sephora, is currently working on developing three new products. “We want to venture into cosmetics in 2022 and launch a few products,” she teased. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HESSA ALAJAJI (@han.alajaji)

As of now, her products are not manufactured in Saudi Arabia, but the beauty guru said she hopes to produce her brand in her home country one day. 

“We secure different samples from factories across the world like Italy, Korea, China, etc., and we proceed with the best quality we get. Quality is the determining factor not location nor the “made in” label,” she added. 

Alajaji said she has always had a passion for arts. “That passion grew with me as I got older and I started discovering makeup when I was in high school. I fell in love with it from the beginning as it allowed me to express my creativity and art,” she said.


Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’
Updated 21 January 2022

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger discuss all-women spy flick ‘The 355’

LOS ANGELES: US actress Jessica Chastain’s “The 355” just hit theaters to mixed reviews and Arab News sat down with the star to hear more about the game-changing film. 

In early 2018, Chastain pitched studios on a movie about an all-female team of spies — four years later, she’s starring in it. 

Perhaps best known for her dramatic roles, the bombastic action of “The 355” is something of a departure for Chastain.

The story sees a team of spies from agencies around the world uniting to stop a dangerous enemy.

Perhaps best known for her dramatic roles, the bombastic action of “The 355” is something of a departure for Chastain. (YouTube)

“It was never my intention even with making this film to be an action star or that kind of sarcastic one-liner character that you would see in all these genre movies,” the actress, who stars as spy Mace Brown, told Arab News. “I like playing all different kinds of parts as we see in ‘The Eyes Of Tammy Faye’ or in ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ and I just want to do everything.”

The film had a lacklustre showing at the American box office and with critics who cited a generic plot, flat characters and uninventive action. Chastain, however, believes the movie is being held to unfair standards.

“The industry tends to be more critical of a film that may be an ensemble of women or about a group of people that aren’t often celebrated by this industry,” she said. 

“We’re living in a pandemic and there is no sense to anything that’s happening right now because people’s safety is the only thing that they care about. And we need to stop using the pandemic as a way to devalue the stories of others,” added Chastain. 

Co-star Diane Kruger, who plays the role of spy Marie Schmidt, said her cast members helped her to overcome the physical and emotional stress of filming only six months after having a baby.

“It became exhilarating, week after week feeling I was able to kick higher, lift heavier just feeling my body coming back and becoming stronger again and taking control over myself again,” Kruger said. “It felt really empowering. It’s a little silly to say, but it did feel like this movie in a way helped me get back to me.”


‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects

‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects
Updated 21 January 2022

‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects

‘I’m carried by passion’: Syrian actress Kinda Alloush says as she discusses upcoming projects

DUBAI: It’s been five years since Kinda Alloush, one of the most popular actresses in the Arab world, decided to take a prolonged break for the first time in her career. She had dominated Syrian television in one decade and then Egyptian film and TV in the next, but Alloush had found, at the height of her fame, something that mattered more: The chance to start a family with her husband, Egyptian actor Amr Youssef.

Alloush, 39 and now the mother to a 3-year-old daughter named Hayat, has since returned to the screens both big and small, but while she is as popular as ever, the Syrian superstar is not the same person she was in the last phase of her acting journey. With each project she now takes, Alloush yearns for more, and she’s tired of playing it safe.

Alloush stars in “Sittat Bayt Al Ma’adi.” (Supplied)

“For a long time, I played roles that were very similar to each other. I’m not sure why — maybe I fit a type. Maybe it’s my face,” Alloush, who has long played the ‘good girl’, tells Arab News.

“Now, I don't want to just add a new film to my archive, I don’t want to just say ‘I did a new movie, it’s so successful, I’m so happy.’ That’s not what I'm looking for. What I’m looking for is to learn. It’s about how to really make yourself richer on a human level, not just the acting level. I want to go back to my country and to feel that I am now a different person,” Alloush continues.

Each role that she has taken since her break from acting has pushed her in a different direction, stretching muscles — physical, mental, and spiritual — that she didn’t know she had. Currently, she’s filming “Yellow Bus” in Abu Dhabi, an OSN Original about an Indian girl who goes missing after falling asleep on a school bus, and her mother’s search to find out the truth. Alloush plays Mira, the missing girl’s school principal.

Alloush is married to Egyptian actor Amr Youssef. (Supplied)

“I read maybe 10 pages of the script before I knew I had to be in this movie. It’s a human story that could have happened anywhere in the world. I assure you that if anyone watches this movie, they will feel the pain this family felt. And that is what happened to me; I felt the pain, I felt every detail written into this movie. And I felt that I wanted to be a part of this, no matter how busy my schedule was,” says Alloush.

The film also offers Alloush something none of her previous work has — the chance to act in a different language with a multi-cultural cast featuring Bollywood stars Tannishtha Chatterjee and Amit Sial along with an American director in Wendy Bednarz.

“It’s my first time acting in English. I’ve been doing this for more than 17 years in Syria and Egypt, but all my projects were in Arabic. I’ve spoken English for a long time, but it’s different to act in English rather than to just speak it. You need to be so real. I need to make you believe me, to make you feel what I’m feeling. And pushing myself to do that, opposite these amazing actors from different backgrounds and different styles, makes it such a rich and challenging experience,” says Alloush.

The actress stars in the upcoming Netflix original film “The Swimmers.” (Supplied)

And with Mira, Alloush is finally playing against type, abandoning her ‘good girl’ persona.

“Mira is really different. She’s a bit controversial. You can’t really put your finger on her. You need to finish the movie before you have a full view of her many layers. At the beginning, you’ll wonder, ‘Why did she react like this? Why did she do that?’ And your curiosity pays off as you learn more about her story. She’s so unlike anyone I’ve ever inhabited.”

Alloush, who already boasts 10 million followers on Instagram, will also soon be introduced to a wider audience than ever before when she stars in the upcoming Netflix original film “The Swimmers,” based on the real-life story of Sara and Yusra Mardini, the famed Syrian refugees-turned-Olympians. The film was written by BAFTA-winner Jack Thorne and directed by Egyptian filmmaker Sally El-Hosaini.

Alloush stars alongside Ahmed Ezz in 2012’s “El Maslaha.” (Supplied)

“‘The Swimmers’ is so interesting, because every bit of it is true to life, with all the characters still living, including these two famous swimmers. Although my character is pure Syrian, working with German actor Matthias Schweighöfer, Ali Suliman from Palestine, and Ahmed Malek from Egypt also brought a real multicultural spirit to the project, which made for a rich experience as well,” says Alloush.

While Alloush moved to Egypt just as the Syrian civil war began, the actress has devoted much of her free time to the refugee cause ever since, becoming a ‘High Profile Supporter’ of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In another upcoming film, entitled “Nuzooh” (Displacement), Alloush will tackle the country’s trauma from the civil war, giving perhaps the most harrowing experience of her career.

“It’s about a Syrian family, and it’s a very difficult, sensitive subject. We filmed it in Turkey,” she says. “While I’m from Syria, I didn’t live through the war in Syria. With this movie that I’ve just finished, I felt like I was living the war in every small detail. It was a really difficult experience unlike any I’ve had.”

While Alloush is testing her limits as an actor, she’s also never been more fulfilled by her craft.

“I’m collecting experiences. When I enter a new project, I feel like I am empty, and I want to fill myself in some way — to learn, to hear, to talk to people from a different culture,” she says. “I’m carried by passion. Maybe other people have a different approach, but for me, it’s about love. I want this to make me richer on a human level. And it is working.”

With each of her three upcoming movies, she hopes that audiences can take away just as much as she did.

“With a great movie, you feel that you traveled to another civilization. With this craft, I can take you there. I can open your eyes to a new horizon, a new space, and new stories that you've never heard about, and people that you've never met,” says Alloush. “Each of these (films) can do that, I believe.”


Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres

Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres
Updated 21 January 2022

Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres

Review: ‘Brazen’ — bizarre romantic murder mystery combines the worst of both genres
  • Netflix adaptation of Nora Roberts’ novel is a nonsensical mess

LONDON: When Alyssa Milano was announced as the lead in Netflix’s adaptation of Nora Roberts’ novel, “Brazen Virtue,” the author reported that she was deluged with comments from fans infuriated that Milano’s liberal politics did not square with their own. Many even threatened to boycott the movie in retaliation. Roberts, to her credit, welcomed them to exercise their right to do so. As it turns out, giving “Brazen” a miss is absolutely the right thing to do — not because of Milano’s personal beliefs, but because it’s an awful film.

Milano stars as Grace, a bestselling crime-fiction author who receives a call from her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), asking her to come visit. Kathleen has left her creepy husband, kicked her addiction to prescription meds, and retrained as a teacher in a bid to get sole custody of her son. Grace gives her the thumbs up, and concentrates on flirting with Kathleen’s hunky cop neighbor Ed (Sam Page). But when Kathleen is killed, and Ed inexplicably winds up heading the case, Grace focuses her problem-solving skillset on her late sister’s murder.

Milano stars as Grace, a bestselling crime-fiction author who receives a call from her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup), asking her to come visit. (Supplied)

This is the jumping-off point for so many of the film’s inconceivable narrative contortions. Why is Ed, the victim’s neighbor, the only homicide cop available? Why are the police happy to let the victim’s (unqualified) sister be so heavily involved? Why does nobody have any issue with the fact that the lead cop and the victim’s sister are constantly making googly eyes at each other? It’s absolute nonsense.

Milano and Page at least have the good grace to attempt a serious take on this joke of a script, even as “Brazen” — written by David Golden and directed by Monika Mitchell — asks them to plough through an increasingly ludicrous series of plot ‘twists’ and villain reveals. “Brazen” definitely achieves what it sets out to do — take a romance novel and cross it with a convoluted murder-mystery. That might sound like something approaching a compliment; it definitely isn’t intended that way.