Lebanese actress Darine Hamze and convictions she will never give up on

Darine Hamze is one of the most well well-known daring actresses in the Middle East. She is known for taking on diverse and courageous roles on Lebanese TV shows and movies.

Darine spoke exclusively with Lebanese Examiner about what drives her everyday and the causes that keep her going.

How did you get started in the acting?

I was first introduced to acting during my early elementary boarding school days, at Sabis Ashwicke Hall, England, UK, when I was 8 years old. There I participated in all school plays and first discovered my love for acting. Which naturally lead to me studying drama acting and cinema in University and my MA was also cinema in the University of Westminster, UK.

What are some causes in Lebanon that you are passionate about?

Funny you ask that, since I have just founded an NGO called “Ibram” with a group of friends and family that works on crime prevention and youth empowerment. It is actually a kind of tribute to my father’s memory, since he was brutally murdered by (thieves) on the streets of Beirut. And I feel it is my responsibility now to follow up on this cause since it is very personal.

Hamze has performed in dozens of films where she is known for taking on challenging and complex roles. (Provided photo)
Hamze has performed in dozens of films where she is known for taking on challenging and complex roles. (Provided photo)

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

It saddens me actually to think of it, since separation is always hard experience to live. My brother is one of them, and I think almost every Lebanese family now has a son, or father or husband or daughter living abroad to find better living means. Unfortunately this hs been happening for many many years now, maybe it is the Lebanese’s destiny since our Phoenician ancestors.

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

I have a new series that will be screening starting 2019, and am preparing for a new movie. There is also a lot of activities that I will be participating in for our NGO Ibram in Lebanon.

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

What would you like to say to the younger generation, that consider you a role model?

I say to them, follow your heart and intuition. Be true to yourselves, be creative and never compromise for your integrity cause that is what you will have at the end of your path. And do good not wrong, and be kind as much as you can, and stay courageous when things get bad around you, but know it is only a phase and everything passes.

Meet Donna Shalala: America’s new Lebanese American congresswoman

Florida voters have sent a Lebanese American woman to Congress — a 5-foot-tall powerhouse Democrat who beat out a Latino Republican in a hotly contested Midterm race.

Donna Shalala, 77, is the second Lebanese American woman to hold a seat in U.S. Congress. The first was Ohio congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar, who served from 1977 to 1993.

Shalala is arguably one of the most qualified freshman members of Congress. She previously served as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, and as president of the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015.

The political veteran and fierce Trump critic beat her Republican opponent Maria Elvira Salazar with 51.7 percent of the vote.

Donna Shalala is the second Lebanese American woman to be elected to U.S. Congress. (Facebook/Donna Shalala)
Donna Shalala is the second Lebanese American woman to be elected to U.S. Congress. (Facebook/Donna Shalala)

“Mr. President, ready or not here we come,” Shalala told supporters during a victory speech in Florida. “Tonight I want you to hear a message of unity.”

Shalala was born in Cleveland to a Maronite Catholic Lebanese family — the daughter of Edna Smith and James Abraham Shalala. Her mother, a prominent Ohio attorney, practiced law for 50 years before retiring at age 91.

Her mother is recognized in Ohio as the first female attorney of Lebanese descent to practice law in Cleveland. Shalala, who will serve a large Latino population in her district, told NBC News she has an “extensive network of cousins throughout Latin America.”

“Lebanon has a long history of migration to the Americas, so while her grandparents settled in Miami at the turn of the century, their brothers and sisters settled in Cuba, Brazil, and Mexico,” NBC News reported.

Shalala will be sworn in Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C.

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.

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