‘We can’t believe what’s happening’: Lebanon’s Mayyas react to ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

‘We can’t believe what’s happening’: Lebanon’s Mayyas react to ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
The group is taking home the $1 million grand prize. (Getty Images)
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Updated 16 September 2022

‘We can’t believe what’s happening’: Lebanon’s Mayyas react to ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

‘We can’t believe what’s happening’: Lebanon’s Mayyas react to ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

LOS ANGELES: The wait is over — Lebanese dance crew Mayyas have won season 17 of “America’s Got Talent” and they spoke to Arab News backstage to say they “can’t believe what’s happening.”

With the audience cheering, Mayyas jumped sky-high and took home the $1 million grand prize.

“We can’t believe what’s happening,” one member of the group said after celebrating the crew’s victory on stage. “We can’t believe what we’ve achieved, giving so much energy, leaving our work and education, dedicating our time to training every day to be here to represent our country and it is what we were looking for.”

(Getty Images)

“We were very stressed out by the fact that we had to (prepare the dance) in two-to-three days, but when we went up on stage and heard the cheers, the audience gave us a push and an adrenaline rush that wasn’t there and we did it,” another member said.

The crew’s choreographer, Nadim Cherfan, said: “This win gave me an opportunity to dream again. When you have a dream and you achieve it, you start to look for another dream. So I’m very happy that there is something to look forward to now, something to dream of, something to fight for.”

“IM SO PROUD, @mayyasofficial YOU DESERVE THIS!!!!” tweeted “AGT” judge Sofia Vergara after the group were crowned winners.

The dancers gifted Vergara a necklace with a symbol of the Lebanese cedar tree that she showed off in her interview with LBCI Lebanon after the episode aired.

“I come from Barranquilla, Columbia, and in Barranquilla we have a gigantic community of Lebanese people, like Shakira for example. So we grew up eating Lebanese food, dancing to Lebanese music. It’s a country that is very close to my heart,” she told the broadcaster.

“I am so happy that, in moments of problems and trouble, every once in a while something so beautiful like Mayyas comes up and distracts everybody,” she added. “I am so happy that this is happening. I am glad. Those girls deserve the world.”

Meanwhile, judge Simon Cowell said: “This is big. I just think for them to represent the country in the way they did, with such talent, dignity and grace, and to do something which the whole world is going to look at, I think is huge. 

“I could feel it in the room, this energy behind me and I thought: ‘No one is going to beat them,’” he added. “These people have the most extraordinary talent and they are such nice people. I wasn’t surprised. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I heard that name.”

Cowell believes that “world domination” is what’s next for Mayyas.

For their winning performance in Tuesday’s final, the group danced to Arabic beats wearing white outfits and using burlesque feather fans and sparkling globes of light. 

The audience held up Lebanese flags in the hall as they cheered for the crew.  

The dancers received a standing ovation from all four judges — Vergara, Cowell, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel.

“Fabulous. Another level,” said Vergara, who awarded Mayyas the golden buzzer after their first audition in June.

“This is what a million dollars looks like,” said Klum. “You brought your A-game every time you came, and tonight it was A-plus.” 

Mandel said: “This is my favorite act ever on ‘AGT.’”

“That’s so great for you. It’s great for women, female empowerment, your culture...” he added. 

The group have received strong backing from their Lebanese fans throughout the competition. The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International launched an advertising campaign in the US with the slogan “Kermalak Ya Lebnen” — which translates to ‘For You Lebanon’ — to promote and support Mayyas.

LBCI backed the group with adverts on its TV and social media channels, and also worked with local and Arab media outlets in the US to support the campaign.

“Lebanese people around the world have shown us huge support,” Cherfan previously told Arab News.  “We’ve been getting tons of messages. Everybody is backing Mayyas. Everybody is rooting for Mayyas. So I’m really thankful for the Lebanese diaspora that is being really supportive for Mayyas.”

Numerous celebrities also helped raise the group's profile. 

“May you return with the title,” Lebanese singer Maya Diab wrote on her Instagram Stories after their final performance. “You raised the name of Lebanon just by showcasing art in this beautiful way that made the world talk about it. We love you and we are proud of you no matter what the result is.”

Superstar Haifa Wehbe also supported the group ahead of the final result.

“Mayyas wowed ‘America’s Got Talent’ judges and audience with a spectacular performance. Keep voting,” she said.

Dubai-based Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen wrote: “Speechless. It keeps getting better,” sharing a clip of their last performance. 

Mayyas have been in the winning habit for some time when it comes to TV talent shows. 

Cherfan, who was 14 when he fell in love with the world of dance, formed the group in order to compete in the sixth season of “Arabs Got Talent,” where the group dazzled, wowing judge and Lebanese pop star Najwa Karam who awarded them immediate entry to the final with her golden buzzer. They were ultimately crowned champions.

“I chose a female crew, because I wanted to deliver a message about female empowerment, as we all know that, even today, Arab women are still called names for being dancers. I wanted to prove how elegant, refined and beautiful dancing is,” Cherfan said in an Arab News interview at the time. “And who better than these gorgeous ladies to do so?”

But winning one of the most prestigious talent titles in the Middle East wasn’t enough. With success came self-inflicted pressure to do even better. “The golden buzzer, the standing ovation, the beautiful comments of the judges, and winning the title itself are challenges, because they are stress and responsibility — in those moments (all I am thinking is) ‘What’s next? How can I do better?’” Cherfan said.

That same year, Mayyas competed in “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions,” a spin-off of “Britain’s Got Talent,” in which the group were the only act from the Middle East to participate.

The response from the judges and audience was overwhelming. “Absolutely genius — brilliant, inventive… (I’ve) never seen a dance like this ever on one of these shows,” said judge Simon Cowell at the time.

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.