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.”


Arab Fashion Week to kick off in Dubai in October 

Arab Fashion Week to kick off in Dubai in October 
Updated 27 September 2022

Arab Fashion Week to kick off in Dubai in October 

Arab Fashion Week to kick off in Dubai in October 

DUBAI: Arab Fashion Week, organized by the Arab Fashion Council, is set to return to Dubai next month. From Oct. 10-15, fashion designers from the region and further afield will present their womenswear collections in a series of runway shows to be held at Dubai Design District. 

The six-day event will see designers present their Couture Fall-WInter 2023 as well as Ready-to-Wear Spring-Summer 2023 collections. Here we take a look at 12 designers you should keep an eye out for, among the 35 international labels taking part. 

Amato

The Dubai-based brainchild of Filipino-born designer Furne One, who has dressed the world’s most celebrated stars including supermodels Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks, will present its Couture Fall-Winter collection on Oct. 11.

Ilse Jara

The Paraguayan nature-inspired fashion label, with an aim of creating wearable art, will showcase its couture fall-winter 2023 collection on Oct. 11.

Weinsanto

Presented by the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, the Parisian designer who created non-fungible token wearables for K-Pop group Lightsum will showcase his couture fall-winter pieces on Oct. 11.

Pipatchara

Thai fashion designer Pipatchara Kaeojinda's eponymous label, focussed on slow and sustainable fashion, will showcase its Couture Fall-Winter 2023 pieces on Oct. 12.

Ivan Young

The Malaysian luxury womenswear label, founded in 2017 by two sisters and focused on creating delicate silk pieces, will present its couture fall-winter collection on Oct. 12.

Michael Cinco

The Filipino fashion designer based in Dubai, who launched his eponymous label in 2003, will showcase his label's Couture Fall-Winter collection on Oct. 13.

Ihab Jiryis

The Palestinian designer, known for his evening gowns and couture-wear, will present his label's Couture Fall-Winter 2023 collection on Oct.13.

Yassmin Saleh

The Lebanese fashion designer, who uses art to raise awareness on psychological and sociological issues, will present her label's Ready-to-Wear Spring-Summer 2023 collection on Oct. 14.

Vidhi Wadhwani

The luxe-pret label from India, with a special focus on handcrafted textures, bold colors and creative silhouettes, will present its ready-to-wear spring-summer 2023 collection on Oct. 14.

The Giving Movement

The UAE-based clothing label, on a mission to reinvent sustainable athleisure, will showcase pieces from its FIFTYMADE collection on Oct. 14.

Death by Dolls

Saudi Arabia's Sara Al-Saud, who once designed a Halloween outfit for superstar Beyonce, will present her LA-based fashion label's Ready-to-Wear Spring-Summer 2023 collection on Oct. 15.

Emergency Room

The Beirut-based label, which had its very first live show in Dubai earlier this year and is known for upcycling thrifted and vintage materials, will present its ready-to-wear spring-summer 2023 collection on Oct. 15.


Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain

Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain
Updated 27 September 2022

Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain

Part-Lebanese singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud in Spain

BARCELONA: A Spanish judge on Tuesday approved a trial for Lebanese Colombian pop singer Shakira on charges of tax fraud.

Spanish prosecutors accused the entertainer in 2018 of failing to pay $13.9 in taxes on income earned between 2012 and 2014. Prosecutors are seeking an eight-year prison sentence and a hefty fine if she is found guilty of tax evasion.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shakira (@shakira)

Shakira, 45, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and rejected a deal with authorities to avoid going to trial. Her public relations firm has said that she has already paid all that she owed and an additional $2.8 million in interest.

The date for the trial has yet to be set.

The case hinges on where Shakira lived during 2012-14. Prosecutors in Barcelona have alleged the Grammy winner spent more than half of that period in Spain and should have paid taxes in the country, even though her official residence was in the Bahamas.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shakira (@shakira)

Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, has been linked to Spain since she started dating soccer player Gerard Pique. The couple, who have two children, used to live together in Barcelona but recently ended their 11-year relationship.

Spain has cracked down on soccer stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the past decade for not paying their full due in taxes. Both players were found guilty of evasion and received prison sentences that were waived for first-time offenders.


Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks

Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks
Updated 27 September 2022

Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks

Actress Lyna Khoudri reveals release date for film based on Paris attacks

DUBAI: French Algerian actress Lyna Khoudri’s new movie “Novembre” is set to hit cinemas early next month and the star has taken to social media to whip up interest among film fans.

The actress announced this week on her Instagram account that the movie will be out on Oct. 5 and shared pictures of the posters with her 100,000 followers. 

“‘Novembre’ by Cédric Jimenez on Oct. 5 in cinemas. Let’s go (sic),” she wrote. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by lynakhoudri (@lynakhoudri)

Directed by the French auteur Jimenez, the intense film charts the five days after the devastating November 2015 attacks in Paris that killed more than 100 people.

The movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year in the Out of Competition section.

Speaking at a press conference after the film’s premiere in May, Jimenez said his mission was to show how the anti-terrorist unit experienced five “awful days.”

“The idea was not to turn them into heroes,” he said. “Even though the situation was resolved, there are only losers: the many people who died, the witnesses who are upset forever, the police officers who resigned because it was such a terrible hardship. In this kind of event, there are no winners.”

Khoudri stars as Samia in the film — a charitable young woman who volunteers at a homeless camp. Her flat mate is bankrolling her cousin, one of the terrorists.

She stars alongside actors Jean Dujardin – who plays the leader of the police division — Anaïs Demoustier, Sandrine Kiberlain, Jérémie Renier, Cédric Kahn, Sofian Khammes, Sami Outalbali, Stéphan Bak, Annabelle Lengronne and Raphaël Quenard. 


Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair

Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair
Updated 27 September 2022

Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair

Sotheby’s to showcase rare finds at Riyadh International Book Fair
  • 1840 Victorian globe showing Makkah, Madinah, among 10 pieces for sale
  • Growing Mideast interest in collectibles, says auction house head

DUBAI: The Riyadh International Book Fair returns from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8 presenting some of the most prominent Arab and international publishing houses and institutions. Considered a major cultural event, this year marks greater international participation, notably from Sotheby’s auction house for the first time, in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture.

The auction house’s highlights include a rare album of photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979 — including their welcome at Riyadh’s airport by King Khalid. There is a museum-quality World Globe dating to 1840. The Victorian piece belonged to Oxford University. It shows Makkah, Madinah and the port of Jeddah.

A rare album of photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979. (Supplied)

In addition, an Ottoman carpet once belonging to the great traveler Gertrude Bell, gifted to her by King Faisal I of Iraq is on display. There is also a photorealist painting of a falcon by Nicholas Manning, marking, according to the auction house, the first edition of the finest work on falconry that has ever been produced.

Everything displayed will be on sale.

“Creativity is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s future and there are ambitious plans in this sector — both in terms of grassroots initiatives and government support,” Edward Gibbs, chairman of Sotheby’s Middle East and India told Arab News. “We regularly sell a lot of material that buyers in Saudi are interested in, and there is certainly growing interest in collectibles.”

A rare album of photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979. (Supplied)

Gibbs noted that over the past five years, the auction house has seen a doubling of the number of buyers and bidders from Saudi Arabia — with a high proportion interacting with Sotheby’s for the first time.

“We feel it is important to build on this by physically travelling to the region and bringing the best of what we can offer to the doorsteps of Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Late last year, the auction house was also present at the inaugural Diriyah Biennale. Its participation in the book fair marks increased engagement with Saudi Arabia during a time of great cultural expansion for the Kingdom.

A rare and unusually large 36-inch terrestrial library globe by John Addison and G&J Cary, circa 1840. (Supplied)

“We are traveling with 10 exceptional pieces, carefully curated to appeal to the tastes of collectors in the Middle East, and celebrating the illustrious history of the region,” Richard Fattorini, Sotheby’s senior specialist in books and manuscripts, told Arab News.

“The showstopper will surely be the monumental Victorian globe, which still has its original receipt. Visually and historically, it is the perfect piece to showcase at a book fair. The close links between Great Britain and the Kingdom are also celebrated in a few of the pieces, most notably with the photographs of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit.”


US show ‘Last Light’ shot in locations across Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ shot in locations across Abu Dhabi
Updated 27 September 2022

US show ‘Last Light’ shot in locations across Abu Dhabi

US show ‘Last Light’ shot in locations across Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: A thriller set during an environmental collapse has joined a growing list of US television shows shot in Abu Dhabi with the support of its film commission.

“Last Light,” a five-episode series streaming on Shahid VP in the Middle East, was filmed in multiple locations in the emirate, with the capital doubling as the program’s fictitious city of Luzrah. 

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured ‘Last Light,’ as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert. (Supplied)

The show stars Emmy-nominated Matthew Fox, best known for his role in “Lost,” and Joanne Froggatt of “Downton Abbey,” as well as Amber Rose and Hakeem Jomah. The program also features Paris and London as locations.

The action and drama series is directed by award-winning director Dennie Gordon, who has worked on over 100 hours of network television, including the critically acclaimed American superhero television series ‘Legion’.

“Finding a desert like this, unobstructed dunes as far as the eye can see, is such a privilege,” said Gordon in a statement. 

‘Last Light’ star Matthew Fox shooting a scene in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

The Emirates Palace and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are featured, as well as the expanse of the Abu Dhabi desert.

Scenes were also filmed at the Arkan Cement Factory, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, Al Danah, Mussafah and a military base.

The series, an adaptation of Alex Scarrow’s best-selling novel about a world without oil, is the latest to join the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s extensive roster of supported foreign productions.

The series received location support and a 30 percent rebate on production costs from the ADFC. It was produced by a crew of 145 people, 90 of whom were locals.