White House appoints Darrell Issa to lead Trade and Development Agency

President Donald Trump has nominated former Congressman Darrell Issa, a Lebanese American, to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Issa will replace Thomas Hardy, who has been the acting director since President Trump took office in January 2017.

The USTDA was established to advance economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle income countries, according to the USTDA website.

Earlier this year, Issa announced he would not run for re-election, which set up a competitive campaign in one of California’s biggest swing districts.

The California Republican is currently the wealthiest congressman in America, with a net worth projected to be around $460 million.

Lebanese-American Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced he would not seek re-election in January. (File photo)
Lebanese-American Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced he would not seek re-election in January. (File photo)

RELATED: Lebanese-American prosecutor runs for California State Assembly

The congressman’s book, “Watchdog,” mentions his travels to Lebanon during a time he traveled to locate buyers for land that his father inherited.

He said his trip to Lebanon was “a blessing,” and he met his grandfather’s brother and sister during the occasion.

Read the official White House press release about Darrell Issa’s nomination, here.

Lebanese music manager Tony Sal listed in Billboard’s ‘100 Power Players’

Lebanese music manager Wassim Slaiby, better known as Tony Sal, made Billboard’s 2018 list of “R&B/Hip-Hop 100 Power Players.”

The 38-year-old entrepreneur was born in Lebanon and currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife former Miss USA Rima Fakih and family.

He runs Sal & Co./XO Records, where he manages big name artists like French Montana and The Weeknd.

Slaiby married former Miss USA Rima Fakih in 2016. (Facebook/Rima Fakih)
Slaiby married former Miss USA Rima Fakih in 2016. (Facebook/Rima Fakih)

Related: Rapper Cardi B wears two dresses by Lebanese designers to VMA’s

Billboard wrote that Tony’s “Achievement Of The Year” was when longtime client Abęl Makkonen Tesfaye notched his third consecutive Billboard 200 No. 1 single.

“Seeing Abel take over that stage and knowing how much it meant to him was very special,” Slaiby told Billboard. He has been working with the artist since 2012.

The entertainment media brand also recognized the Lebanese entrepreneur’s philanthropic efforts to build a Ugandan hospital with artist French Montana that opened in March of this year.

Learn more about Tony Sal and Billboard’s list of Power Players at this link.

This Lebanese-British comedian has empowering message for girls

The year 2018 has been phenomenal for Lebanese comedian Esther Manito. She had the opportunity to perform at the United Arab Emirates’ largest theatre, the Dubai Opera, and was a contributor to the book “Donʹt Panic, Iʹm Islamic.

The UK-based comedian spoke exclusively with Lebanese Examiner about her career and the challenges she faced to achieve her success.

How did you get started in comedy, and how did you grow so fast?

I started doing comedy when my son was 7-months-old. I did a comedy course, I had no idea I would continue to do stand up. The last two years has been a whirlwind. I have worked incredibly hard to take as many opportunities as possible.

What are some obstacles you think you have faced in the industry, both personally and professionally?

Well, doing stand-up comedy when you are a mother to two very small children is physically demanding. However, I feel I am more fulfilled which has made me a better mom. In terms of comedy you will always find you are battling stereotypes as female comic, but especially as a female comic that talks about her Arab roots.

RELATED: Actress Shannon Elizabeth: I’m proud of the Lebanese side of my life

Esther Manito is a Lebanese-British comedian. (Photo provided/Esther Manito)
Esther Manito is a Lebanese-British comedian. (Photo provided/Esther Manito)

As you travel all across the world, what do you think of the Lebanese diaspora?

There are Lebanese wherever you go! We are EVERYWHERE! We are Lebanon. I have Lebanese women approach me after most gigs. They are so supportive and love seeing a woman talk about being Lebanese.

What are some future projects you are working on that your fans should look forward to?

I am writing a book, its an observational look at how comedy can be used to challenge sociological expectations of motherhood.

What would you like to say to the younger generation who are thinking of pursuing a career in entertainment?

Girls! Get out there and take pride in your inner funny. Nothing is more wonderful than realizing you can own a stage.

You can follow Esther on Twitter and on her Facebook page.

Actress, model Jamie Gray Hyder takes pride in Lebanese upbringing

Lebanese American actress and model Jamie Gray Hyder is best known for her role as Lt. Nora Salter — a Lebanese character — in the video game Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.

In an interview with Lebanese Examiner, Gray Hyder talked about her Lebanese upbringing, and her successful career in television, movies and video games.

Jamie Gray Hyder plays a Lebanese character in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. (Facebook/Jamie Gray Hyder)
Jamie Gray Hyder plays a Lebanese character in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. (Facebook/Jamie Gray Hyder)

How did you get started in movies, TV and voice acting?

I have been performing on stage since I was very young, and was a classically trained singer for many years. After getting my degree in Theatre and Film Studies, I moved to Los Angeles and began working in film, TV, and video games.

How has the Lebanese culture and upbringing influenced your success?

My Lebanese father has always instilled a good work ethic in me. He has also promoted the idea of balance, meaning work some, play some, which I think has contributed greatly. The Lebanese culture appreciates good food and drinks, which has always fueled my love of food. I was the only 9 year old I knew eating kibbeh nayeh!

RELATED: Actress Shannon Elizabeth: I’m proud of the Lebanese side of my life

Did either of these have any influence in accepting your role in Call of Duty?

When given the opportunity to represent my Lebanese roots as Lt Salter, I was so excited! There aren’t many roles written for Middle Eastern actresses, so I jumped at the chance. I think it’s important to represent well-rounded characters with diverse life experience, and to move away from archetypes and caricatures.

What are some current or future projects that your fans can look forward to?

I am currently doing the voice for the character Zethrid, in the Dreamworks animated series Voltron (you can find it on Netflix!). Voicing animated characters is one of my favorite types of work to do! You get the chance to play characters very different from yourself, which is always fun.

What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of the entertainment industry?

I love to eat and drink and cook anything and everything I can get my hands on. I grew up eating my sittoo’s hummus, tabouleh, baklava, rice, you name it. I have always had a healthy appetite. That goes hand in hand with my love of travel. I went to Japan earlier this year, and I was in food paradise! A food tour of Lebanon is next on my list.

Actress Shannon Elizabeth: I’m proud of the Lebanese side of my life

As a young girl growing up, actress Shannon Elizabeth always maintained close ties to Lebanese culture. After all, her parents belonged to a local Lebanese-Syrian club in Waco, Texas, and building a strong community bond was central to the family.

“I was really proud of that side of my life,” Elizabeth told Lebanese Examiner. “To be able to experience the food and the culture for me was something I felt a lot of people were missing out on.”

The actress – best known for her iconic roles in American Pie, Scary Movie and American Reunion – was born to a Lebanese/Syrian father and mother of English, Irish and German descent. She says she was always closest to the Lebanese side of the family.

Actress Shannon Elizabeth said she is proud of her Lebanese roots. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)
Actress Shannon Elizabeth said she is proud of her Lebanese roots. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)

“I remember going to my grandparents’ house quite a bit and it was always about cooking and Lebanese food,” she said. “I would get into the kitchen with my grandmother and help make Syrian bread.”

RELATED: Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary: Lebanese heritage influenced my career

Elizabeth now maintains a non-profit animal rescue organization in Cape Town, South Africa called Animal Avengers. She started the organization in 2001 to help in the global effort in saving animals from going extinct.

Ironically, one of her favorite foods growing up was kibbeh nayyeh, or minced raw lamb or beef mixed with fine bulgur and spices. Now, her favorite Lebanese dishes are limited to vegetarian options like grape leaves and falafel.

“My relatives don’t understand it,” she joked. “There are a lot of great things that don’t have meat; it’s just about exploring it.”

Elizabeth initially started her organization as a dog and cat rescue, but expanded to South Africa after learning of the global poaching crisis. Through crowdfunding, she raised $30,000 – and the rest is history.

Shannon Elizabeth is best known for her iconic role in American Pie. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)
Shannon Elizabeth is best known for her iconic role in American Pie. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)

“I loved the people (of South Africa), I loved the culture and I felt like I was closer to the issues here,” she added. “I felt like there was more that I could be doing with my platform.”

Although she is still active in the film industry, Elizabeth said she is dedicated to her organization, which could soon start work in the Middle East. In fact, she already helped sponsor a lion from Lebanon.

“There is a Lion that was rescued that I was told was originally from the Middle East,” she said. “I did a lifetime sponsorship for him to help pay for his expenses.”

She said she still has many connections in Hollywood, and hopes to someday build connections in Beirut.

“I would love to go to Beirut because that’s where our ancestors are from,” she added. “I’m waiting for the right opportunity, but it is very high on my list to get out there very soon.”

Lebanese poker player wins PokerStar tournaments, takes home $700,000

Lebanese poker player Albert Daher recently won the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo Casino EPT €25,000 High Roller tournament and took home over $700,000.

The buy in for the event was about $29,000 and took place over two days in Monaco.

Coming into the final day, Albert was fourth in chips. After he was able to double his chip stack twice, he emerged with a $714,463 payout at the end of the event.

Albert Daher was the €25,000 High Roller Winner (pokernews.com)
Albert Daher was the €25,000 High Roller Winner (pokernews.com)

He was responsible for the two of the last three eliminations to happen during the final day and made a deal with the other two finalists to end the game.

RELATED: Casino du Liban expects $10M in profit in 2018

Daher also won the € 1,100 No Limit Hold’em – Hyper Turbo Freezeout event in Monaco just 4 days earlier.

According to the live poker database The Hendon Mob, Daher has won just over $3 million in lifetime poker earnings and is third on Lebanon’s all time money list.

For the play-by-play of what happened at the event, click here.

Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary: Lebanese heritage influenced my career

On TV, Kevin O’Leary is a staunchly money-driven businessman known for his big investments and blunt off-the-cuff remarks. But when the cameras are off, the multimillionaire is a proud family man who has passed down his Lebanese values to his children.

O’Leary is best known for his role in the ABC television series Shark Tank, where he is one of five ‘shark’ investors who listen to entrepreneur pitches and choose whether or not to invest in their startups. He is also the co-founder of the billion-dollar tech company SoftKey Software Products.

The Canadian-born businessman was raised by an Irish salesman father and Lebanese businesswoman mother. He spoke candidly to Lebanese Examiner about his rapid success in the world of business, and how his Lebanese values still carry on to this day.

“Lebanese culture is one of the most successful entrepreneurial cultures on earth,” O’Leary says. “I’m very proud to say that because it’s true.”

All In the Family Business

Growing up, O’Leary was surrounded by business and hard work. His grandfather immigrated to Montreal, Canada from Hasbaya, Lebanon and built a successful clothing manufacturing company called Kiddie Togs.

“That’s how I learned family values, and I think those things are very important,” O’Leary says. “You don’t realize that until you get older. The work ethic in Lebanese families is legendary.”

Kevin O'Leary and his mother Georgette Bookalam. (Twitter/Kevin O'Leary)
Kevin O’Leary and his mother Georgette Bookalam. (Twitter/Kevin O’Leary)

O’Leary’s mother, aunts and uncle all worked hard to keep the family business running, but they always made time for family. His mother Georgette Bookalam died in 2008, and her sons credit their successes to her teachings.

“My mother Georgette was one of the most influential people in my career,” O’Leary says. “To this day, her wisdom and advice guide me in almost every business choice I make.”

The O’Leary home valued family. Sunday dinners were an important part of his life growing up, and it started a special tradition that continues today.

Kevin O'Leary and his family. (Facebook/Kevin O'Leary)
Kevin O’Leary and his family. (Facebook/Kevin O’Leary)

“I remember every Sunday if you didn’t show up for dinner that (my grandmother) prepared all day long, you would burn down in perpetuity,” he says. “I appreciate that because I have those same rules now. I try to get my family together no matter where we are every Sunday to keep that tradition going.”

Lebanese DNA

O’Leary once lived in Cyprus, and would visit Beirut often in the sixties before troubles broke out in the region. His experience in global investments have taken him around the world – and he always finds a Lebanese friend with an incredible business story.

“Lebanese are very smart investors,” he says. “If you go to any city in the world, you’re going to find that the core Lebanese community is very successful. Very often, they own all the real estate in town and lots of different businesses.”

Through his travels, he always finds a good Lebanese meal, too.

“It’s no surprise to me when I go to South America, Cambodia, Europe, wherever, I always go for a good meal,” he says. “I look for a good Lebanese restaurant.”

Kevin O'Leary on the set of the ABC series Shark Tank. (Disney ABC Press)
Kevin O’Leary on the set of the ABC series Shark Tank. (Disney ABC Press)

The entrepreneurial spirit flows through the Lebanese blood, he adds. Today, when he lectures at universities all over North America, he shares these stories with American and Canadian students.

“Some of us are born to create wealth, and others are meant to work there,” O’Leary says. “That’s just the way it is. They are both noble pursuits, but Lebanese have built businesses, they take risks and they support their families – they have a cultural disposition to do that.”

Kevin O'Leary and his mother Georgette Bookalam. (Twitter/Kevin O'Leary)
Kevin O’Leary and his mother Georgette Bookalam. (Twitter/Kevin O’Leary)

O’Leary believes his grandmother and mother played a central role in his career. He calls them “powerful matriarchs,” and says they exist in every Lebanese family.

“I’m a big supporter of women entrepreneurs – women are very good at business,” he adds. “I think the Lebanese culture was one of the first to support the concept of matriarchal values.”

These values, he says, are part of his career decisions, every day.

Carla Haddad: From 14-year-old model to ‘Dancing with the Stars’ celeb

Lebanese television presenter Carla Haddad was 14-years-old when she recorded her first television advertisement. She fell in love with the camera, and has grown into one of the most popular entertainers in Lebanon.

The television star spoke exclusively with Lebanese Examiner about her rise to fame. She focused on being genuine and performing from the heart, she said.

“I am not a person who just reads the teleprompter,” Haddad said in an Arabic interview. “I consider myself more of an entertainer, who speaks off the cuff, than a presenter.”

Haddad was born in Beirut to a loving family originally from Jezzine in South Lebanon. Her parents recognized her bubbly personality and enrolled her in child modeling programs.

At just 14-years-old, Haddad was modeling for television commercials and print advertisements. Her career only grew from there.

“After that, great opportunities kept rolling,” she said. “I had the chance to be part of a stand-up comedy group, an actress, and even a show host in Los Angeles.”

Haddad’s shows, among the most popular in the Middle East, included Carlalala, Ya Leil Ya Ein, Comedy Night and Helwi El Hayat.

She most recently co-hosted the Arab world version of Dancing with the Stars on MTV with television personality Wissam Breidy.

“I have worked hard in my life on building great content and becoming more of an entertainer,” Haddad added. “It’s not just about your appearance on the outside, but how you can connect with people on the inside.”

Haddad is passionate about keeping her fans updated on social media, and connecting with her viewers on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Sayegh becomes first Lebanese-American mayor in New Jersey town

Andre Sayegh was elected the first Lebanese-American mayor in Paterson, New Jersey during a Tuesday election, officials announced.

Sayegh, a Democrat, garnered 41 percent of the vote in a six-candidate field. His closest competitor Alex Mendez received 21 percent.

According to his online biography, Sayegh, 44, was a Paterson councilman and history teacher before he announced his bid for mayor. He ran on a ‘One Paterson’ platform, where he promised to promote diversity and connect with a cross-section of groups.

andre sayegh family

Sayegh, who speaks fluent Arabic, was born to a Lebanese father and Syrian mother, the Bergen Record reports. Many Lebanese and Syrian immigrants came to Paterson in the late 1800s to work in textile mills along the Passaic River.

Samer Khalaf, national president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Sayegh’s victory meant a lot for the Paterson area, which has a large population of Arab Americans.

“Here you have an old Arab community that’s been around for over 100 years,” Khalaf told the Bergen Record. “We never had a councilman until Andre won his first term. Now we have a mayor.”

Face of Defense: Lebanese-American airman gives back

SOUTHWEST ASIA, April 24, 2017 — Air Force Staff Sgt. Fadi Chreim grew up in Lebanon, a small, picturesque country with nearly 200 miles of Mediterranean coastline to the west. Syria borders the country to the north and east, and Israel borders it to the south.

Lebanon has a rich history, with evidence of settlements there dated to before 5,000 B.C. Throughout its history, Lebanon has experienced many conflicts, resulting in a unique culture that borrows from the Persians, Greeks, Romans and others.

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah, a militant group and political party based in Lebanon, captured two Israeli soldiers, resulting in Israel launching airstrikes on Lebanon. The intense fighting resulted in many deaths on both sides.

“It was the third war for me,” said Chreim, the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operations dispatch chief here. “I’ve seen a lot of bombs and a lot of strikes, so I’m used to it.”

However, it was the first war his wife, Sandra, had experienced. She was born a U.S. citizen to Lebanese parents and spent time in both countries growing up.

“She convinced me to go to the U.S. embassy and apply for an immigration visa to come to the U.S. and give it a chance,” he explained.

Unfortunately, the embassy was closed, so he met with a counselor who gave him an immigration visa. He still had another obstacle to face. The airport was closed. He’d have to find another way of getting to the U.S.

Evacuation

Foreign governments from several countries, including the U.S., worked to evacuate the country during the conflict. Sailors and Marines from the Navy’s Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group helped transport U.S. citizens and family members to Cyprus. Chreim and his wife were among those transported to the small island.

“I said goodbye to my family [there],” he said. “I gave my mom a hug and my sisters. And I said I didn’t know what would happen, but I’m just going to take off from here.”

Their trip to the U.S. took ten days as they went from Cyprus to the Czech Republic to New York and, finally, Florida, Chreim said. They arrived in their new country with the clothes on their backs, a credit card, a thousand dollars in cash and not much else. He knew he had to find a job quickly.

Chreim learned by trial and error how life worked in the U.S., including how to apply for college, rent a house and apply for jobs.

After nearly five months of searching for work, he eventually landed a job at a Walgreen’s pharmacy. He walked into the store and asked the manager for a job doing whatever was needed, whether it be stocking shelves or running the cash register. The manager, however, saw greater potential in Chreim after looking at his resume and decided to offer him a job as an assistant store manager.

He and his wife could now rent a house, lease a car and begin building a life in the U.S.

Growing Family, Responsibilities

A couple years later, Sandra gave birth to their first child, a daughter. It was at this moment that Chreim realized he had a greater purpose to his life, and he looked for better opportunities to provide for his family.

He decided that he would need to attend college; however, since his all of his earlier schooling was in Lebanon, he would first need to attend one year of English classes.

Around this time, Sandra gave birth to their second child, a son. She stayed at home to take care of the newborn while Chreim continued to work and go to school.

“My family counted on me to provide,” he said. “It took me a lot of stress, a lot of dedication, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of nights that I went without sleep in order for me to graduate college.”

Chreim began settling into his new life as an American, especially after becoming a naturalized citizen in 2009; however, he still sensed something was missing. He felt an intense need to give back to a country that had provided him the opportunity to go to college and build a career. It was at this point he decided to join the military.

At first, he wanted to join the National Guard, but his wife was worried about him returning as a soldier to the wars similar to those they left behind when they fled Lebanon. Still, Chreim had a deep desire to serve his country. He and his wife decided the Air Force Reserve would be the most beneficial choice for their family.

Aiming for Commissioning

He took time off work and school to attend Air Force basic training, and decided shortly after graduation that he wanted to become an officer. But to become an officer, he’d first have to finish college.

“I made graduation a must for me,” Chreim said. “I made it a plan. I said I was going to graduate in 2016. I’m not going to take more time. I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

He started taking more classes and pushed himself even harder. It paid off. He graduated in 2016 from Florida Atlantic University. That same year, he applied for the Deserving Airman Commissioning Program, which gives enlisted service members the opportunity to commission as officers.

“I fell shy about ten points on the [Air Force Officer Qualification Test] for the verbal section. Since English isn’t my first language, I struggle with the vocabulary. Everything else — the navigation, the math, the physics — I aced it.”

He is now deployed from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, where he is responsible for the logistics of moving people around base.

On his desk sits a stack of vocabulary flashcards and an AFOQT preparation book. Chreim studies this material as much possible during the deployment and hopes to take the test again next month and reapply for the program.

“If it happens, it’s a dream come true,” Chreim said. “If it doesn’t happen, I gave all and I gave it my best shot.”

And giving it his best shot is what Chreim’s experience in the U.S. has been about from the start. He believes that everyone gets the same opportunity and that it comes down to what a person does with these opportunities that truly matters.

“You hold it and you run with it and it’s about how far you can go,” he said. “That’s what I like about the U.S. It made me want to give back. Part of me wanted to put on that uniform just to say. ‘Thank you.’”

By Air Force Senior Airman Andrew Park, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, US Department of Defense

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