Radio listeners may know Sally Abdelsalam by name but probably would not recognise her face. This is about to change. After three years on the radio, this Ramadan, Abdelsalam made her first appearance on TV on Masaa El Kheir Ya Ramadan (Good Evening Ramadan) on CBC Two. eniGma’s Deputy Editor Omnia Zaied talks to Abdelsalam about her ambition, determination, and talent.
Have you always wanted to be a TV host?
Growing up I always wanted to be a TV host. I would take pictures and videos of myself practicing by interviewing my friends and family. But my father was totally against the idea and I was faced with the choice of either studying business or not attending college at all. So I got a degree in international business and I started working in marketing.
What made you decide to leave your job and turn to radio?
At some point it hit me that I wasn’t very happy in my job. I heard about a competition for new radio hosts on Nogoum FM, and I felt I just had to go for it. So I quit my job and started attending presenting and voice coaching classes at the American University in Cairo. I didn’t win the competition, but I did make it to the top 10 out of 14,000 competitors, which made me realise that I had something I could work with and develop.
How did you land your first job at Mega FM?
I practically stalked Tarek Aboul Seoud who was head of Nile Radio then! I think I called him about eight times. Each time I would ask him to just give me a chance and he’d say they didn’t have any positions available. Eventually he agreed to meet me and after one meeting he told me I would start the following day. On my first year there I won Best Radio Host at the Dear Guest Awards for my show Khally Bokra Ahla with Coca-Cola (Make Tomorrow A Better Day with Coca-Cola), which made me very happy and assured me I was on the right path.
Since you were so happy there why did you leave?
I co-hosted Khally Bokra Ahla with Coca-Cola for three years with Wael Mansour. It was the number one rush-hour show on Egyptian radio. Towards the third year I felt like it was time to move on. The show was very successful and I felt I had done everything I could there. I got an offer from Radio 90.90 and Wael was leaving too, so it just felt like it was the right time to leave.
Tell us about your show on Radio 90.90.
Tarek Aboul Seoud called me and gave me the offer to host my own show, three days a week. It felt like it was the right challenge to take on at the time.
So how did you get to television?
I have been waiting for my entire life for the opportunity to be on TV. I would always say ‘I have done everything I could, why am I not getting any offers to be on TV?’ Well, finally I got a phone call from CBC for casting. A week later they called me to do the competition segment on the daily show Masaa El Kheir Ya Ramadan (Good Evening Ramadan) with Bassem Kameel. But now that I have actually been on TV, I can tell you that even though it’s fun, radio is much better.
Why is that?
On TV you have to follow a lot of rules. You have to sit, smile, and move in a certain way. With radio I am in control. You have this relationship with the listeners and even though they haven’t seen your face and they don’t know who you are, you can influence their mood by playing certain songs.
Who are your role models?
Well I know it’s a cliché but I love Oprah Winfrey’s simplicity. I can’t say I have role models but I tend to take different things from different people. I love how natural Amr Adeeb is, I love it when Mahmoud Saad laughs with his guests, I love how serious and strong Lamees Al Hadidy is. I also love the daring topics Reham Said tackles; I would love to be able to tackle them at some point but differently though.
What’s your ultimate dream?
I would love to host my own TV show at some point, something cheerful, entertaining, and informative. I also want to be the first Arab to host the Oscars.