She is one of the most loved and judged female celebrities in the Middle East. Singer, actress, and performer, Haifa Wehbe is a household name in the entertainment business. eniGma’s Omnia Zaied caught up with the Lebanese star to find out how she manages to rise above all the controversy…

G01T0187When I contacted Wehbe in Paris to conduct the interview, I found out that she was there to register a brand in her name, the HW brand. She was also holding meetings with her friend fashion designer Roberto Cavalli who is designing her apartment. “He loves me,” Wehbe tells me. And how couldn’t he? The enigmatic singer is not only famous for her acting, vocal talent, and for stirring controversy wherever she goes, she was also on People Magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful People in 2006.

Wehbe’s husky just-woke-up voice comes low yet carries a bit of excitement since the ban on her latest film Halawet Rouh (The Beauty of Rouh) has just been dropped. The movie, which hit theaters in April 2014, was quickly banned by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab for being sexually provocative. “It is a great movie, we worked so hard on it and I knew people would later regret the decision,” Wehbe victoriously tells me. Even though the movie was only in theaters for a few days before it was banned, it was already on its way to becoming one of the biggest blockbusters of the year. “One night, a TV channel aired the movie at four in the morning, all of Egypt was up at the time to watch it. That is what I call success,” she tells me.

G01T9233Listening to Wehbe talk about all her upcoming projects made me forget that for the two weeks before the interview she had been headline news in many newspapers and magazines around the region. A dress she wore on Star Academy which was aired live on TV to millions of viewers caused a lot of controversy. Within a week, the issue had gotten more coverage than the war in Syria. Articles were written, voices were raised, statements were released and an ongoing argument between Wehbe and the TV channel became the talk of the town. Something she is used to and that she would normally just ignore but she couldn’t this time because she believes she was a victim of a series of unfortunate events. Wehbe arrived from Los Angeles and headed straight to rehearsals right before the show. Designer Zuhair Murad had sent the dress straight to the studio too. That is why she didn’t get to try it on before going on stage with its bright lights. So when she came out to perform she did not expect the dress to be as revealing as it appeared on camera. “Do you know what the problem is?” Wehbe asks me not really waiting for an answer. “The problem is that I didn’t know. If I didn’t believe that it was wrong, I wouldn’t have cared, but I really had no idea,” she tells me. “This is the responsibility of the director and the channel, when they noticed they should have solved it or someone should have notified me,” she continues. And the channel’s statement that it was “embarrassed” about what happened made Wehbe even angrier. “We all have dress malfunctions, it happens. But because it happened to me, it turned into such a big deal,” she says.

tiff-cor01T0024And she has a point, everything Wehbe says, does, or wears is always vastly applauded by her fans and severely attacked by her critics. She has always been the centre of attention, ever since she launched her first album Ana Baddy Eish (I Want to Live) in 2005. Maybe it’s because of her fashion choices which some describe as audacious. Maybe it is because of her career choices which were as successful as they were daring. Or maybe it is because of her almost overnight fame, something a lot of people work years to achieve and many of them fail to. Regardless of the reasons, Wehbe’s success cannot be ignored. And with over 2.5 million followers on Twitter and 1.2 million followers on Instagram, she knows it very well. She personally runs her social media accounts, responding to fans and posting personal pictures and updates. “I know if, for example, I tweeted at one of my followers, it will make their day and it would only take a few seconds of my time. People who love me deserve that, so I make the time for them,” she says.

While that persona may be daring and challenging to the rules and traditions; the real Wehbe is quite different. “Those who know me personally, know that the idea people have of me is very different from who I really am. But at the end of the day people will believe what they want to believe. I may be home in my pajamas watching TV and people will refuse to believe that. And that’s okay, I get it,” she says. She is smart enough to take the best out of it and ignore the rest.

She gets her strength from the love that comes with fame and shuns all the noise. “At the beginning I used to get very upset when I was criticised. With time and experience, I developed thick skin,” she says. “I started realising that I get attacked (especially in Egypt) whenever any of my work is really successful. So it can’t be a coincidence, it is jealousy and bullying,” she continues. “So let them give it their best shot, they are only attacking me because I am in the spotlight, because I am loved by a lot of people. And that makes me stronger,” she says.

tif-purpleG01T00822014 was an interesting year for Wehbe. She starred in Halawet Rouh, her second movie after Dokkan Shehata (Shehata’s Shop) in 2008. She also starred in the TV series, Kalam Ala Wara’ (Words on Paper), which was one of Ramadan’s most followed series. Her character, Habiba, got a lot of praise from viewers and critics alike. “The feedback on the series was overwhelming. We all worked so hard, the cast was very talented and director Mohamed Samy did a great job getting the best out of each and every one of us,” she says. Wehbe was also one of the celebrity judges on Shaklak Mesh Ghareeb, (Your Face Looks Familiar) on MBC. This was a great comeback after a very public split from Egyptian businessman Ahmed Abu Hashima in 2012 following four years of marriage.

hen I contacted Wehbe in Paris to conduct the interview, I found out that she was there to register a brand in her name, the HW brand. She was also holding meetings with her friend fashion designer Roberto Cavalli who is designing her apartment. “He loves me,” Wehbe tells me. And how couldn’t he? The enigmatic singer is not only famous for her acting, vocal talent, and for stirring controversy wherever she goes, she was also on People Magazine’s list of the 50 Most Beautiful People in 2006.

Wehbe’s husky just-woke-up voice comes low yet carries a bit of excitement since the ban on her latest film Halawet Rouh (The Beauty of Rouh) has just been dropped. The movie, which hit theaters in April 2014, was quickly banned by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab for being sexually provocative. “It is a great movie, we worked so hard on it and I knew people would later regret the decision,” Wehbe victoriously tells me. Even though the movie was only in theaters for a few days before it was banned, it was already on its way to becoming one of the biggest blockbusters of the year. “One night, a TV channel aired the movie at four in the morning, all of Egypt was up at the time to watch it. That is what I call success,” she tells me.

Listening to Wehbe talk about all her upcoming projects made me forget that for the two weeks before the interview she had been headline news in many newspapers and magazines around the region. A dress she wore on Star Academy which was aired live on TV to millions of viewers caused a lot of controversy. Within a week, the issue had gotten more coverage than the war in Syria. Articles were written, voices were raised, statements were released and an ongoing argument between Wehbe and the TV channel became the talk of the town. Something she is used to and that she would normally just ignore but she couldn’t this time because she believes she was a victim of a series of unfortunate events. Wehbe arrived from Los Angeles and headed straight to rehearsals right before the show. Designer Zuhair Murad had sent the dress straight to the studio too. That is why she didn’t get to try it on before going on stage with its bright lights. So when she came out to perform she did not expect the dress to be as revealing as it appeared on camera. “Do you know what the problem is?” Wehbe asks me not really waiting for an answer. “The problem is that I didn’t know. If I didn’t believe that it was wrong, I wouldn’t have cared, but I really had no idea,” she tells me. “This is the responsibility of the director and the channel, when they noticed they should have solved it or someone should have notified me,” she continues. And the channel’s statement that it was “embarrassed” about what happened made Wehbe even angrier. “We all have dress malfunctions, it happens. But because it happened to me, it turned into such a big deal,” she says.

And she has a point, everything Wehbe says, does, or wears is always vastly applauded by her fans and severely attacked by her critics. She has always been the centre of attention, ever since she launched her first album Ana Baddy Eish (I Want to Live) in 2005. Maybe it’s because of her fashion choices which some describe as audacious. Maybe it is because of her career choices which were as successful as they were daring. Or maybe it is because of her almost overnight fame, something a lot of people work years to achieve and many of them fail to. Regardless of the reasons, Wehbe’s success cannot be ignored. And with over 2.5 million followers on Twitter and 1.2 million followers on Instagram, she knows it very well. She personally runs her social media accounts, responding to fans and posting personal pictures and updates. “I know if, for example, I tweeted at one of my followers, it will make their day and it would only take a few seconds of my time. People who love me deserve that, so I make the time for them,” she says.

While that persona may be daring and challenging to the rules and traditions; the real Wehbe is quite different. “Those who know me personally, know that the idea people have of me is very different from who I really am. But at the end of the day people will believe what they want to believe. I may be home in my pajamas watching TV and people will refuse to believe that. And that’s okay, I get it,” she says. She is smart enough to take the best out of it and ignore the rest.

She gets her strength from the love that comes with fame and shuns all the noise. “At the beginning I used to get very upset when I was criticised. With time and experience, I developed thick skin,” she says. “I started realising that I get attacked (especially in Egypt) whenever any of my work is really successful. So it can’t be a coincidence, it is jealousy and bullying,” she continues. “So let them give it their best shot, they are only attacking me because I am in the spotlight, because I am loved by a lot of people. And that makes me stronger,” she says.

2014 was an interesting year for Wehbe. She starred in Halawet Rouh, her second movie after Dokkan Shehata (Shehata’s Shop) in 2008. She also starred in the TV series, Kalam Ala Wara’ (Words on Paper), which was one of Ramadan’s most followed series. Her character, Habiba, got a lot of praise from viewers and critics alike. “The feedback on the series was overwhelming. We all worked so hard, the cast was very talented and director Mohamed Samy did a great job getting the best out of each and every one of us,” she says. Wehbe was also one of the celebrity judges on Shaklak Mesh Ghareeb, (Your Face Looks Familiar) on MBC. This was a great comeback after a very public split from Egyptian businessman Ahmed Abu Hashima in 2012 following four years of marriage.

Marriage changed a lot in Wehbe. “In any marriage, things always seem nicer at the beginning, then they change, people grow different. And when all the nice things are gone, it kills the marriage. It is very disappointing when you build your dreams based on certain decisions and then realise they were wrong. This changes you a lot,” she adds.

The divorce made Wehbe adamant on pursuing even more professional success. “Now things taste different; freedom has a new meaning. I don’t think I can get married again anytime soon. I don’t oppose the idea but I am not very fond of it either,” she says.

Wehbe has been keeping busy. She has become a regular on the red carpet of the world’s biggest events where the organisers insist on her presence. She is working on launching her own brand. She is planning on going international with two upcoming projects which she has been preparing for. “I love working abroad; they are so punctual and professional. It is an environment that aims at building and empowering new talents rather than attacking and destroying them. That is why a lot of the producers and musicians there are from Arab origins. Because they know that if they had stayed in their own countries, their talent would have been destroyed,” she says.

You can say that Wehbe’s world domination plan is in full effect. The haters are going to hate, but she is just going to continue following her dreams; because at the end of the day she knows nothing can stand in her way.

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