UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off

UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off
Yasmine Al-Bustami — who plays Agent Lucy Tara on ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ — was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and Filipina mother. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2022

UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off

UAE-born actress Yasmine Al-Bustami ‘proud’ to be Arab as she stars in ‘NCIS’ spin-off
  • The star of ‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ struggled to embrace her roots as a child in Texas, but that’s all changed now

DUBAI: There are few television franchises as mammoth in reach and longevity as “NCIS.” For nearly 20 years, the crime series, which follows the US’s naval criminal investigative team, has brought in tens of millions of viewers a week, with new franchises regularly blossoming across the country. Now, in Yasmine Al-Bustami, “NCIS” has its first Arab star—and she’s already inspiring young girls across the world.

“I'm always taken aback whenever I find out that I've reached people,” Al-Bustami tells Arab News. “I didn’t really think about the capacity for something like this show to reach people all over the world. Now, I'm seeing these responses all the time, I’m getting messages constantly. When I finally sit down, take some time to read them and take them in, it can be overwhelming. I see that people are taking notice, feel represented and feel seen, and suddenly I know for sure that I can contribute to that in some way. And I’m so grateful for the people who like it."




Yasmine Al-Bustami on the set of ‘NCIS: Hawai’i.’ (Supplied)

Al-Bustami — who plays Agent Lucy Tara on “NCIS: Hawai’i,” the second season of which begins in September and will air on Starzplay in the Middle East — was born in Abu Dhabi to a Palestinian-Jordanian father and Filipina mother, but moved to Texas at a young age. There, she struggled to embrace her identity, surrounded by people who didn’t understand her heritage, and had never heard of the place on the other side of the world that she came from. 

To fit in, she did what a lot of people in a position where there are no strong role models in pop culture to anchor their identity to — she buried her identity inside her.

“In Texas, I didn't personally grow up with a bunch of Arabs around me. We had some Arab families that we knew that were in school with us, and they all kind of flocked together, once they find out that they were also Arabs. I would hang out with them, but (there weren’t) a lot, really. I tried very hard to fit in with the majority white folks at our school, and tried really hard to just fit in and just be a white person. Whatever that means,” Al-Bustami says. 




Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant, Tori Anderson as Kate Whistler and Yasmine Al-Bustami as Lucy Tara in ‘NCIS: Hawai’i.’ (Supplied)

That led to turmoil at home, as her Arab father worked to instill in his daughter the cultural and religious values that he held so dear, knowing that he was the only strong influence in her life that would do so. It was a mission she rebelled against. 

“Whenever I would approach my dad with the things that I wanted to do, that my friends who were not Arab were doing, we would butt heads. He’s very big on culture, very old-school, and  would just not allow me to do some things. He was just trying to teach us about or faith and our culture,” Al-Bustami says. 

When Al-Bustami went to her father to tell him she wanted to be an actor, he was against the idea, which pushed them even further apart.

“When I expressed to him that I wanted to act, that was something that became a point of contention between us — depending on the project and the role. Honestly, it still is sometimes. That all led me, at the beginning of my career, to not wanting to embrace my identity,” says Al-Bustami.

 

 

Ironically, even as she tried to escape who she was and where she came from, it was acting that brought her closer to her identity. 

“It was only through storytelling and being thrown into stories where I was forced to embrace it because of how I look and because of the opportunities that were given to me,” she says.

But as she got to know other Arab actors, she also started to learn the boundless beauty that her heritage contained, and the amazing stories and true adversity that her colleagues had endured to get to where they are today.

 

 

“The roles I started playing were stories of Arabs and Arab-Americans being surrounded by other Arabs and Arab-Americans. The other actors were so proud, and they taught me so much as I heard their stories and their journeys. It was that motivation that I felt like I needed — that I didn't have growing up. It pushed me to want to learn more. And thankfully, now I’ve built up a strong place in that community, especially in the acting world,” says Al-Bustami.

That love for who she was grew even stronger when she saw how much it meant to people, and when she witnessed what she could accomplish when she wasn’t trying to fit in with the majority, and instead embraced her differences.

“It’s been such a journey. I don't think I’ve ever been prouder to be Arab,” she says. “I now understand how important representation is, and without the ups and downs I’ve been through, I don't think I would have understood that to the depth that I do.

“It’s made me want to learn more about my heritage and my culture and just be more openly proud,” she continues. “I feel like I'm not doing it alone. I feel like there's so many people who are also helping me do it. And it's all Arabs, and Arab-Americans. All of that truly inspires me.”

Most importantly, she’s also learned about diversity within the Arab experience, and as representation increases in Hollywood, the world can see that being Arab means many different things, both in America and across the world. And that there are an endless number of stories to tell.

“The important thing is to make people open-minded, and stop them from being closed-off in terms of understanding the different kinds of stories that I think are important to tell in the Arab world and the Arab-American world. That's helped me so much,’ says Al-Bustami.




Yasmine Al-Butsami (left) in ‘I Ship It.’ (Supplied)

On “NCIS: Hawaii,” Al-Bustami is pushing herself like never before. While her breakout roles in “The Originals” and “I Ship It” prepared her for the grind of weekly television, the stunts and physicality of her current role require intense training and choreography, something she’s worked hard at and is proud of what she’s accomplished, especially in the fight scenes.

More than anything, though, what she’s happiest about are the relationships she’s built on set, and the found family that has made her breakout moment something she can truly be proud of on every level.

“It makes such a big difference when you really enjoy the people. Thankfully, the people that I'm surrounded with every day are amazing. They make it super fulfilling in so many more ways than just work,” she says. “This is such an enjoyable experience for me, and I can’t wait to continue that, and keep trying to make the Arab community proud across the country, and world.”


Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh
Updated 03 October 2022

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh

Art exhibition ‘Tales of Nostalgia’ debuts in Riyadh
  • Exhibition reflects upon notions of time and memory in an era of rapid change

RIYADH: The Misk Art Institute launched a new exhibition in Riyadh titled “Tales of Nostalgia” on Monday.

The exhibition showcases the works of 12 Saudi and international artists who reflect upon notions of time and memory, and nostalgia, exploring alternate narratives through emergent technologies.

Curated by Marnie Benney and Misk Art Institute assistant curator, Alia Ahmad Alsaud, it will be on display at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Art Gallery until Jan. 15. 

“‘Tales of Nostalgia’ is both a reflection upon and a conversation about where we are, as a species, in our endless, intertwined relationship with time and technology,” the organizers said. 

Featuring immersive digital soundscapes, the exhibition aims to shed light on an increasingly technological and digitized world, particularly the increasing importance of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks, workshops, and opportunities to listen to and engage with participating artists over the course of several days.

 


Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November
Updated 03 October 2022

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

Middle East Fashion Week set to return to Dubai this November

DUBAI: The second edition of Middle East Fashion Week (MEFW), organized by the Middle East Fashion Council (MEFC), is set to take place from Nov. 7-10 at The Agenda in Dubai Media City.

The event will also hold the second edition of the Middle East Sustainable Fashion Forum –  a panel of speakers leading discussions on environmentally responsible and financially viable ways to integrate sustainable practices into the design process and the supply chain.

Keeping this theme in mind, the choice of venue becomes more apparent. The Agenda’s vision is to become the world’s first carbon-negative performance venue. “The sound and lighting industry is historically very power hungry, and coupled with AC and facilities, traditionally a large CO2 footprint would be in place for an event such as this. The Agenda will be using the latest technology to reduce power consumption,” reads a description on the event's official website.

Guests attending the event will be able to see their individual carbon footprint for attending the shows and how it is offset.

Designer applications for Middle East Fashion Week are open until October 10, 2022. To apply, email [email protected]

 


Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show
Gigi Hadid hit the runway in an all-denim look. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2022

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

Givenchy taps Gigi Hadid for Paris Fashion Week show

DUBAI: Supermodel Gigi Hadid hit the outdoor runway at Givenchy’s latest show at Paris Fashion Week on Sunday.

The US Dutch Palestinian star showed off an all-denim look, featuring a button-down jacket along with a below-the-knee jean skirt with oversized pockets.

Gigi Hadid hit the runway in an all-denim look. (AFP)

Hadid walked the runway amid less than perfect weather as VIP guests, including US singer Olivia Rodrigo, survived torrential downpours only thanks to helpers clutching transparent umbrellas. But the show had to go on. For Matthew M. Williams, a designer who has garnered lukewarm reviews of late, this collection was a little like crunch time, The Associated Press reported.

For spring, the US designer moved his street aesthetic in a dressier direction — likely trying to bring himself to the safer ground of the age-old house’s traditional aesthetic.

An oversized tweed black bolero cut a creatively surreal silhouette atop a pencil-thin mini dress, twinned with Matrix-style shades. Elsewhere, features such as rouching on a silken top, or draping on a fluid skirt, resembled thick organic sinews or human ribs.

This felt like a positive, gently transgressive, direction for the house immortalized by Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress.

However, many of Williams’ design elements still felt out of place on the Paris runway, such as 90s low-slung cargo shorts that seemed unflattering, clashing with the black silken ruffled cuffs that dangled down.

Earlier at Paris Fashion Week, Hadid hit the runway at the Isabel Marant show, wearing the French label’s Spring-Summer 2023 collection. 

She strutted down the runway in an oversized cameo print jacket in neutral hues and was joined by her sister Bella, who showed off two looks. The first featured a white cut-out top embellished with silver studs, white pants, stilettos and a handbag. The second look was a black flowy mini dress with cut-out detailing across the chest.

The sisters also walked the catwalk for Italian brand Versace at Milan Fashion Week.

Donatella Versace’s collection conveyed female power in a way that only the label can.

“I have always loved a rebel,’’ Versace said in show notes. “A woman who is confidence, smart and a little bit of a diva (sic).”

The show conveyed a strong sense of female ritual as models traversed a runway lit by dark candles and lined with stained-glass windows with the Versace medusa head, before exiting through glass-enclosed spaces where bathrobe-clad men lounged on gilded chairs amid purple columns, underlining a shift in the power dynamic.

 


Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards
Updated 03 October 2022

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

Why Egypt isn’t submitting any films for the 2023 Academy Awards

CAIRO: Despite playing host to two of the Arab world’s most prestigious film festivals, as well as being famous for its storied film industry, Egypt has decided not to submit any titles for the Best International Feature Film category at the upcoming Academy Awards, with industry insiders telling Arab News the decision was a difficult one.

The members of the film selection committee, which falls under the Cinema Professionals Syndicate, decided to opt out of the running for the Oscars, which will be held on March 12, 2023. However, some critics did voice their support for a clutch of films.

Art critic Faiza Hindawi, a member of the committee, told Arab News that one film which generated huge buzz was Nadine Khan’s “Abu Saddam.” However, the film failed to make the cut due to strict regulations about its release date.

“‘Abu Saddam’ was not on the list of the four films closest to nomination due to its non-compliance with the conditions and regulations stipulated in the awards, including the date of the screening. One of the conditions is that the film was shown in the year 2022 and, unfortunately, ‘Abu Saddam’ was shown last year,” Hindawi explained.

“We are bound by conditions that must be met in the works that are nominated, procedural conditions (as well as) technical conditions, meaning that the films that meet the procedural conditions are presented to us to choose from, and the list did not contain ‘Abu Saddam,’” she added.

A few of the titles floated for consideration this year included “Kira Waljen” directed by Marwan Hamed; “Qamar 14” directed by Hadi El-Bagoury; “The Crime” directed by Sherif Arafa; and “2 Talaat Harb” directed by Magdy Ahmed Ali.

Egyptian producer, scriptwriter and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Mohamed Hefzy added that despite a bevy of commendable films released in 2022, none were nominated due to the high standard of films that will compete from around the world.

Mohamed Hefzy shared his thoughts on the lack of an Egyptian submission this year. (AFP)

“The committee that made the decision included more than 30 filmmakers, and it is clear that the films presented to them did not live up to their expectations to be nominated for the Oscars,” he told Arab News.

“As a person who is a member of the Academy, and those who vote for the best international film, I can say that the level of the 90 films that compete every year for Oscars from all over the world are well-made films, so the competition is very tough, and in my opinion when there aren’t any Oscar-worthy movies worth nominating it’s better to not nominate any,” he added.

Previous films submitted for Oscars consideration by Egypt include “Soad” (2019), “Youm El Din” (2018) and “Sheikh Jackson” (2017), among others.


US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi

US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi
Updated 03 October 2022

US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi

US band OneRepublic to headline new music festival in Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Just when you thought Abu Dhabi’s event calendar couldn’t get any busier, events organizer Live Nation has announced a new music festival headed to the UAE capital. Amplified Music Festival will take place on Yas Links from Nov. 11-13. Coming to the UAE for the first time, the three-day-long event will see international headliners OneRepublic, Ministry of Sound and CAS perform.

Performing on Nov. 11 will be American pop rock band OneRepublic, most famous for their smash single “Apologize.” The band recently released a new single, “I Ain’t Worried,” featured in “Top Gun: Maverick.”

On Nov. 12, festival-goers can witness the 15-piece Ministry of Sound Funk & Soul band presenting their celebrated live show, “Ministry of Sound Disco.”

On Nov. 13, alternative pop phenomenon CAS, who sold out two shows on their previous visit to the UAE earlier this year, will take to the stage as headliners.