The Tinder Swindler: A life online that can spell doom

The Tinder Swindler: A life online that can spell doom
“The Tinder Swindler” is Netflix’s latest scandal documentary. (YouTube)
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Updated 12 February 2022

The Tinder Swindler: A life online that can spell doom

The Tinder Swindler: A life online that can spell doom

CHENNAI: Social media is a boon that among other things helps to connect people across continents. But it can also be a terrible bane, especially dating sites. Netflix’s latest scandal documentary, “The Tinder Swindler,” is a perfect example of how the gullible fall prey to predators. Wonderfully directed by Felicity Morris, it is seamlessly structured. I could not take my eyes off the screen for a moment as I heard the painful stories of three young women who had walked into a perfectly laid-out trap by an Israeli national, Simon Leviev, who “transformed” himself into a billionaire diamond merchant’s son.

Leviev, whose actual name is Shimon Hayut, lived in the lap of luxury, wore clothes from some of the biggest names in fashion (Gucci, Louis Vuitton and so on), had fancy yachts and fancier cars – but all paid for by his girlfriends. In fact, he stole money from one to give another a dream life – which he also enjoyed. Private jets, first-class travel and five-star hotels were all his.

But why did these women fall for him? I would answer this question with another. Why did they fall for a notorious criminal like Charles Sobhraj? He was venomous, and was nicknamed “bikini killer” because he usually preyed on women basking in the beaches of Thailand and other southeast Asian countries. Now Sobhraj is in a Nepal jail, but his lawyer, a woman from Kolkata, has married him! The lure of money and the great life it brings are too, too hard to resist. The same for the three young women who are featured in “The Tinder Swindler.”

It begins with Cecilie Fjellhoy, a serial dater who calls herself as “a bit of a Tinder expert”. Simon jets to Oslo, where she lives and arrives with a bouquet of the most exquisite roses. He wines and dines her in amazingly plush restaurants with caviar and the choicest of drinks. Then, one night, terror strikes, when he sends her photographs and videos of himself and his bodyguard, bruised and bloodied. Simon tells Cecilie that his enemies are after him, and he had to close his bank accounts and cancel his credit cards. May I use your card, he asks her, and his voice sounds so darned apologetic that she at once says yes. The swindling begins.

The next is Pernilla Sjoholm, a Swedish woman who is a little smarter than Cecilie. Pernilla does not hop into bed with him, but is still talked into being such a great friend that she too begins to part with her money. It is the same sob story he gives of being stalked and attacked. Pernilla, despite not falling for Simon’s romantic charms, develops a weak spot for him. Such is his carefully cultivated magnetism.

The third victim is Ayleen Charlotte, whose story ran along the same track. But it is Cecilie’s that touches the heart. It is so disturbing to see her breakdown in the end, especially after Simon’s story is broken by a Norwegian newspaper, and as shocking as it may sound, many began to accuse the swindled women of being gold-diggers. In fact, they did not make a penny out of this whole sordid business. Perhaps this is what happens when one lives a life online!

But let us not forget that “The Tinder Swindler” has many layers. The plot turns into a thriller with revenge and resilience taking over the three women, whose self-esteem had taken a bad beating. Unlike some Netflix documentaries, The Tinder Swindler is not sensationalist. It is snappy, executed with finesse and narrated with feeling, leaving us wanting more!


Lebanese designer Elie Saab dazzles with menswear designs in Paris

Lebanese designer Elie Saab dazzles with menswear designs in Paris
Updated 12 min 47 sec ago

Lebanese designer Elie Saab dazzles with menswear designs in Paris

Lebanese designer Elie Saab dazzles with menswear designs in Paris
  • Runway features black creations with colored feathers on velvet
  • Zuhair Murad unveils his Fall-Winter 2023 designs titled ‘Les Arts Divinatoires’

DUBAI: Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab blew away attendees at the Paris Haute Couture Week on Wednesday as he debuted an array of dazzling menswear pieces among his signature lineup of red carpet-ready dresses for women.

“People who come to us for this type of style, they want to be spectacular — it’s the same for men and women,” Saab said in an interview with Reuters after the show. “We have a lot of demand from clients, but this is the first time we’ve shown it on the runway.”

Featuring mostly black creations, multi-colored feathers adorned velvet fabrics in the Elie Saab show. (AFP)

The Beirut couturier strutted out eight men’s looks on the heels of the wide-skirted dress that opened the collection, entitled “The Beginning of Twilight.” Featuring mostly black creations, multi-colored feathers adorned velvet fabrics, creating playful-yet-sleek looks. Dramatic coats and capes in black and gold were a highlight, unfortunately drowning out the fabulous women’s collection.

For women, the Autumn-Winter collection turned more delicate and dreamy. Staying within the twilight theme, there were sheer, fitted dresses dripping with lace and glittering beadwork, while long, floor-sweeping ballgowns had puffs of ostrich feathers augmenting the shoulders. Embellishments ran down to the fingertips, applied to sheer, skin-colored gloves.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Spotted at the haute couture show was American model and entrepreneur Olivia Palermo in a lime green Elie Saab creation, featuring an embellished jacket and lace top, paired with grey tweed pants and orange pumps.

Also at the show was actress Kate Beckinsale, who showed up in a striking purple mini dress. The star was in London earlier this week where she was named Best Actress for her performance in “Jolt” at the National Film Awards. Also in attendance were Sabrina Elba, Law Roach and Jessica Azar.

Presenting at the Paris Haute Couture Week alongside Saab was fellow Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad. His Fall-Winter 2023 show was titled “Les Arts Divinatoires.” Vivid colors and bold accents were the highlight of the show, attended by fashion bloggers and influencers including Veronica Ferraro, Mary Leest, Maja Malnar and Steph Adams.

American actress Kelly Rutherford and “The Bachelor” star Tayshia Adams were also spotted at the show.


Highlights from the UAE’s ‘Made in Tashkeel’ summer art exhibition

Highlights from the UAE’s ‘Made in Tashkeel’ summer art exhibition
Updated 17 sec ago

Highlights from the UAE’s ‘Made in Tashkeel’ summer art exhibition

Highlights from the UAE’s ‘Made in Tashkeel’ summer art exhibition
  • The UAE art facility’s annual summer exhibition returns with works by 42 artists from 22 countries

Hadil Moufti

‘Bactrian Princess Small Studies’

The Dubai-based Saudi visual artist contributes this five-panel mixed-media work (a blend of photo collage, pencil, charcoal and silver leaf) to Tashkeel’s 12th annual ‘Made in Tashkeel’ exhibition, which runs until August 31.

Moufti’s work depicts a small figurine from the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection (on loan from the Louvre in Paris) — a statue from Bactria in Central Asia believed to date back around 4,000 years.

“This series was inspired by a talk from art historian Rose Balston about art in the UAE,” Moufti explains in her artist’s statement. “Listening to her explain how and why the Louvre Abu Dhabi came to be, I realized that the French-Emirati collaboration went beyond two countries; its claim as a universal museum was in fact justified. This figurine had travelled from Bactria … and was now sitting under Jean Nouvel’s dome.

“I chose to work on the image of the princess because I like to think of her detachable body parts made from different stones — a symbol of universality, cultural diversity and changeability,” she continues. “Repetition is a meditative process. The photographic image of the figurine, or heroine, is manipulated digitally and physically, printed numerous times, cut out, dissected, then placed in new settings, allowing for variations of interpretation while addressing the subject of identity.”

Badr Abbas

‘Slam Dunk’

The self-taught Emirati artist’s work is often rooted in Eighties nostalgia, portraying various aspects of Emirati culture — both native and imported — in his distinctive cubist paintings. This new work is part of a sports-focused series that, according to Tashkeel’s catalogue, “examines cultural influences from across the world that have been absorbed into Middle Eastern trends, habits and style. Growing up in the 1980s with pop culture (sports, anime series, fast food, et cetera), Badr uses his childhood influences and displays his vision of how they became part of everyday Emirati life.” Basketball was then — and remains — a major influence on Khaleeji culture, and “Slam Dunk” mixes sneakers, caps and jerseys with Emirati signifiers.

Areen Hassan

‘Granada’

Hassan uses “aesthetic, harmonious and abstract shapes” to create silkscreen and digital prints. The Palestinian artist and designer says these gowns were “designed with Islamic motifs, orientation and patterns in a composition that enables one to observe the spirituality of Islamic art as an embodied universe of symbolic meaning.”

The abstract shapes on the dresses come from prayer rugs that Hassan had previously created. “The composition symbolizes spiritual life and communication without a physical space,” she explains in her statement.

Ibraheem Khamayseh

‘Hob’

Khamayseh is the son of a renowned Palestinian calligrapher and is himself a talented exponent of this much-treasured artform — even “reinterpreting” the Naskh font into his own eponymous font. “Hob,” a piece of acrylic mirror that Khamayseh laser cut, is, he explains, “part of my daily Instagram experiment. I tried to explore the connections between the meaning and the calligraphy form.”

Morvarid Mohammad

‘Sunny’

At just 14 years old, Mohammad is the youngest artist ever to have their work included in “Made in Tashkeel.” Mohammad began by working with traditional mediums including oils and watercolor — and has an oil painting, “Flowers in Nowrooz,” included in the show as well — but has recently started to create digital art such as “Sunny,” which she drew on her phone using Ibis Paint X.

Shahd Sumairi

‘Palestinian Fragrance’

The Palestinian-Jordanian designer contributes these two works — acrylic paint on a pottery bowl and on wood — inspired by Ghassan Kanafani’s poem “The Land of Sad Oranges” and “the scent of items that remind us of home: Hummus, maqelooba, kunafa and oranges.” The exhibition brochure states: “The work takes on a new meaning of reclamation and resistance.”

Shareefa Al-Hashmi

‘Fly Me to My World’

The freelance photographer has two images featured in the show taken at Dubai’s Ras Al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, home to numerous flamingos. “I found it difficult to catch the flamingo flying as it’s a sudden action, and I had to wait for the right moment and put the right setting before capturing the image with my camera,” she says. “I felt that it was flying to the sky and forgetting every single responsibility it holds. Flying gave it a feeling of limitless freedom.”

Yousra Wahba

‘Frozen Blue’

The Egyptian artist’s work is heavily inspired by nature and “fleeting moments of streaming energy.” This image is part of a new series she is working on called “Splash,” which — Wahba explains in her artist’s statement — “captures the unexpected, splendid energy and sculptural quality of the splashing liquid.” Through this, she hopes to “push the limits of the materials in a delicate way in order to develop an organic form that evokes movement.”


Review: ‘The Terminal List’: Chris Pratt’s war show lacks a hero

Review: ‘The Terminal List’: Chris Pratt’s war show lacks a hero
Updated 30 min 29 sec ago

Review: ‘The Terminal List’: Chris Pratt’s war show lacks a hero

Review: ‘The Terminal List’: Chris Pratt’s war show lacks a hero
  • This bland, dragged-out military series leaves even Chris Pratt looking apathetic

LONDON: One of the best things about the streaming landscape is the possibilities it offers to take stories that would feel rushed in a couple of hours and fully flesh them out in a way a movie never could — exploring backstories and character arcs with more detail, multiple perspectives, big twists and surprising reveals.

Sadly, it can also mean a story that would have been hard pushed to fill two hours can be stretched so thin as to lose all sense of momentum, purpose and coherence. Amazon’s new military thriller — “The Terminal List,” based on Jack Carr’s series of novels — would have made for a so-so movie (maybe), but instead we’re treated to a beleaguered Chris Pratt struggling to imbue Navy SEAL James Reece with enough depth to fill eight one-hour episodes. He never comes close.

Reece is the sole survivor of a botched covert mission, which leaves the rest of his squad dead. Shellshocked and reeling with guilt, he returns home to the USA, only to find himself the primary suspect in a series of shadowy events which aim to (literally) put him in the ground. Lit up with a burning desire for revenge, he puts his training to work, creating the titular list of those he holds accountable, and systematically crossing them off.

It might have worked better with a weekly release schedule — something akin to the ‘villain of the week’ format of old TV serials — but instead we get the whole, torturous show in one sitting. Where the character of Reese could have been a subtle examination of a traumatized special ops soldier, instead he descends into little more than a deranged psychopath.

Chris Pratt is unable to find any nuance in a character seemingly devoid of humanity. (Supplied)

While his motives may be ostensibly honorable, his means and methods are brutal and gratuitous. It’s hard to root for someone with no apparent redeeming qualities, no matter how much they’ve suffered. Or to get excited by clunky, exposition-heavy dialog that sounds like it was written in a “Call of Duty” chatroom.

Pratt looks as confused as the rest of us, unable to find any nuance in a character seemingly devoid of humanity. In any other show, Reece would be the bad guy — and with good reason.


From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal music, Egyptian singer Basmala Alaa is going places

From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal music, Egyptian singer Basmala Alaa is going places
Updated 47 min 44 sec ago

From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal music, Egyptian singer Basmala Alaa is going places

From 4 million TikTok followers to signing with Universal music, Egyptian singer Basmala Alaa is going places

DUBAI: The 20-year-old Dubai-based Egyptian singer Basmala Alaa — who goes by the artist name Bsmalla — recently released her latest single on Universal Music MENA, having signed to the label after garnering more than 4 million followers on social-media platform TikTok over the past few years. 

At first, Alaa didn’t sing in her TikTok videos, but — as she gained popularity, she decided to test the water with some covers of popular Arabic songs. 

“I’ve been singing since I was 10 years old,” Alaa tells Arab News. “The older I got, the more my voice developed. My parents noticed it and would say: ‘This child has something special.’ They supported me a lot, but I was also training myself.” 

Self-taught Alaa might have inherited her love of music — and talent for it — from her father, who was in a band during his formative years in Egypt. “He made me listen to music and helped me understand music,” she says. 

“I will never forget how my family have always stood by me,” she continues. “Not many people have supportive families, so I want to thank mine.”

Alaa — who speaks with a noticeable Khaleeji accent, despite her Egyptian heritage, having grown up in the UAE — started posting videos of herself covering songs in a variety of Arabic dialects, from the Gulf to North Africa. Her followers were quick to praise her natural vocal ability. “What encouraged me was people’s comments, saying that my voice is exactly what you hear in the recording,” she says. “I’m not ‘faking’ my voice.” 

Alaa says she’s a fan of Sherine Abdel-Wahab, Asala Nasri, and Kadim Al-Sahir, among others. As for Egyptian pop, she enjoys Tamer Hosny and Mohamed Hamaki. 

Self-taught Alaa might have inherited her love of music from her father, who was in a band during his formative years in Egypt. (Supplied)

Her own music isn’t easily classified. She has so far released six Arabic songs with Universal, in a variety of dialects and genres. “I’m exploring what people like. I like to impress my audience. I love it when they like what I’m doing,” she says. “The style of singing that I like may not resonate with people — I love classic, romantic, calm songs with a lot of emotion, but I noticed that my audience love, from me, songs that have more excitement and a love for life.” 

Her latest, “Helo Moodak,” is a perfect example of the latter — a sweet pop song with a light-hearted video that includes touches of quirky animation with a comic-strip feel, stop-motion footage, and includes scenes of Alaa and a large cuddly toy that she’s alternately throwing around then hugging.

“It’s my favorite song so far,” Alaa tells Arab News. “It’s about a teenage girl who’s imagining being in love with someone. And that person is like her teddy bear.”

The song was written for her by lyricist Ehab Abdelazeem and composer Amr Al-Shazly. Alaa recalls feeling a little anxious during recording sessions, imagining how things would turn out. 

“I’m not saying that I’m used to recording ‘officially’ yet, but I have recorded many songs. Still, there’s always that slight nervous feeling of thinking, ‘What will people say? What will their reaction be? How’s my voice? What about the video clip?’” 

As it turns out, her nerves were unfounded. The song has been well-received, and there are already plenty of people posting clips of them singing and dancing along to the catchy track. 

“I see a lot of children playing my song and I see adults imitating them,” she says. “That makes me happy. It makes me smile.”

As a member of the so-called ‘TikTok generation,’ Alaa’s story is somewhat akin to those of Lil Nas X and Olivia Rodrigo, who were also discovered through the video app. TikTok is unquestionably influencing the musical landscape, for better or worse. Alaa, perhaps unsurprisingly, prefers to see it in a positive light.  

“TikTok is a platform for talent,” she explained. “Before I was on TikTok, I was singing on other platforms, but TikTok helped to show my talent more. People see me not just in one country, but all countries around the world.”

So far, Alaa has only performed online. She says she has turned down offers to do live performances, as she feels it’s still too early for her to take to the stage in the real world. “I want to establish myself more first, and I want to have a large repertory of songs,” she says.

The singer currently has 4.7 million followers on TikTok, a statistic she’s still struggling to get her head around. “It’s a very strange feeling. I said to myself ‘Four million people on the planet are literally following me!’ But it’s a very nice feeling at the same time. I’m very happy and I aspire to have more followers,” she says. 

“Music is everything to me,” she continues. “Music always touches something in my heart. I would love to show people what’s in my heart through my music.”


US rapper 50 Cent to perform in Dubai in September

US rapper 50 Cent to perform in Dubai in September
Updated 07 July 2022

US rapper 50 Cent to perform in Dubai in September

US rapper 50 Cent to perform in Dubai in September
  • Grammy winner is on a world tour
  • Tickets available on July 12 and 13

DUBAI: US rapper 50 Cent is set to return to the UAE in September to perform at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.

As part of his Green Light Gang World Tour, the Grammy-winning singer, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, will meet his fans on Sept. 30.

Thomas Ovesen, the owner of TOP Entertainment and the tour’s promoter, said in a released statement: “We are delighted to be bringing what can only be described as rap royalty to the Coca-Cola Arena this September.”

“Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson is a pioneer in the industry and continues to reinvent himself year on year. Having seen the show myself this summer in Europe, I can tell you his fans are in for a real treat,” Ovesen added. “The tour is selling out record numbers across Europe and his performance here will be his biggest in the region to date.”

Tickets will be available for pre-sale on July 12 at 9 a.m. (Saudi time), while the general tickets will be sold on July 13 at 9 a.m. (Saudi time).

The rapper, famous for his hits “Candy Shop” and “I’m the Man,” is performing the weekend before Canadian superstar Justin Bieber hits the Coca-Cola Arena stage.

The “Yummy” hitmaker is expected to perform on Oct. 8 and 9.