Hala Shiha

THE REINVENTION OF A STAR

Fearless and fervent are two words that sum up Hala Shiha, the remarkable actress who has overcome countless challenges, only to return stronger than ever every time. Captured in all her glory, Shiha graces this issue’s coveted cover and for the first time, she reveals her captivating story of resilience and reinvention. eniGma’s Farida Elserty sat down with the beloved star for a heartfelt chat about her journey to success, her passion for acting, and how motherhood changed her life.

I began my interview with Hala Shiha rather casually, as she was having her hair done for our cover shoot. Before I knew it, we were in a deep conversation, discussing everything from her fashion sense and motherhood to her love for cats. Oh, and we bonded over her movie Al Sellem Wel Tea’ban (Snakes and Ladders). Surprised? So was I.

During the late 90s and early 2000s, Shiha’s star shone bright, as she turned from the girl next door into a dazzling superstar, a status she still holds. In no time, she soared to the peak of her career, rivalling the biggest stars of that era. Then a shadow was cast over her path, as she made a decision that defied all expectations. In 2007, with the world at her fingertips, she chose to disappear, leaving behind a trail of admirers and a resounding question mark: What happened? Was it a journey to find herself, a longing for a different life away from the dazzling lights? Or were there unseen powers that pulled her into hiding, where she kept her true self hidden away? In fact, she refuses to accept any of these explanations, and in a world obsessed with comebacks, she declines to define what she is doing today as a comeback. “I hate the word ‘comeback’ because I never left to get back,” she insists.

Dress by Alexandre Vauthier from Villa Baboushka

Growing up, Shiha had a deep passion for fashion design, dancing and music: acting wasn’t on her mind. Yet, after finishing school, she unexpectedly decided to pursue her studies at the Higher Institute of Theatrical Arts, thus marking the beginning of her journey into acting. During her studies, in 1999, she landed a small role in the series Kalimat (Words) alongside the renowned Egyptian star, Hussein Fahmy, never imagining that this would be the start of her successful career journey. She caught the eye of the late Egyptian star, Nour El Sherif, and he recommended her for a role in the series Al-Ragol Al-Akhar (The Other Man) that same year. The series achieved resounding success and her career took off like wildfire. “I believe it was all fate,” says Shiha, insisting that destiny shaped her journey.

Shiha fearlessly delved into various genres, proving her mettle, and demonstrating her versatility as an actress. Following her debut series alongside Hussein Fahmy, she was recruited to the big screen, starring in notable films such as Leh Khalletny Ahebak (Why’d You Make Me Fall For You?) in 2000, Al Sellem Wel Tea’ban (Snakes and Ladders) in 2001, which remains one of her cherished projects, Sehr El-Oyoon (The Eyes’ Magic), Tayeh Fi America (Lost in America), and El Lemby in 2002. Then in 2003, she embarked on a brief hiatus from acting, stepping away from the limelight for a year. However, the allure of the silver screen brought her back in 2004, when she appeared in the film Arees Men Geha Amneya (Secret Services Suitor) alongside the legendary Adel Imam. The following year, she starred in Oreedo Kholan (Divorcing a Man) and Ghawi Hob (Addicted to Love).

In 2006, Shiha made a bold decision to wear the hijab while continuing to fearlessly pursue her artistic passions. One of her notable projects during this period was her movie Kamil El Awsaf (Love Triangle), where she shared the screen with the late singer Amer Mounib. However, in 2007, she embarked on another hiatus from her career, only this time her absence lasted 12 years.

Dress by Bronx and Banco from Villa Baboushka

“Balancing the demands of my profession with my role as a mother of four is a constant challenge,” she admits. “I’m a deeply emotional person and being away from my children for extended periods is tough. Yet, I’ve found a rhythm now. They’re living in Canada while I pursue my passion here. It’s all about quality over quantity, and this distance has only deepened my appreciation for them,” she shares, reflecting on her journey of motherhood and career goals. With Mother’s Day around the corner, she reflects on her role and declares that motherhood has made her shift her focus entirely to her children. “My children’s well-being and happiness are always my top priority,” she says.

And does she have any advice to give to other mothers? “I think the best advice I can give mums out there is that you should embrace every moment with your children,” she exclaims. She adds that, in general, motherhood is about unconditional love and support, even if you are not with each other all the time. “Try to shower your children with affection, tell them stories, and make them feel cherished and valued whenever you are together,” she adds.

Top from Villa Baboushka

With her 12-year disappearance still an enigma in the halls of showbiz history, Shiha surprised everyone with her return to acting in 2019, when she set screens ablaze with her Ramadan series, Zelzal, alongside the charismatic Mohamed Ramadan. But that was just the beginning. In 2020, she took on a jaw-dropping role in Kheyanet Ahd (The Betrayal of Ahd), starring alongside the legendary Youssra. Audiences were in awe as she unleashed her inner villain, showcasing a side of her talent never seen before. She also graced the silver screen in the captivating movie Mesh Ana (Not Me), alongside Tamer Hosny in 2021, before embarking on another temporary farewell.

Shiha’s perceived impulsiveness may spark curiosity, but the truth runs deeper. She is a soul driven by emotion, unafraid to follow her heart regardless of others’ opinions. It is this authenticity that sets her apart and resonates with audiences. “I immerse myself in everything, embracing life with my heart,” she confesses.

Like a phoenix emerging from the ashes, Shiha returns this Ramadan, in the highly anticipated series, Embratoreyet Meem (M Empire), alongside Khaled El Nabawy, Nashwa Moustafa, Nour El Nabawy, Hagar El Sarrag, Mayan El Sayed, and many more. “I wanted to do something that matched my personality, that is not too different from me, and that is authentic, so that everyone can relate to it,” she says joyfully. “When I heard the story from Mohamed Salama, the director, I loved it because I felt like we had some things in common. I thought people would enjoy seeing me play a character like the real Hala,” she says.

Suit by Alexandre Vauthier from Villa Baboushka

Shiha remains open to the power of constructive criticism, recognising its potential to help personal and artistic growth. “At first, negative comments used to affect me, as I believed they held some element of truth,” she confides. Yet, with time she realised that most online judgments were baseless, and much was fabricated and unauthentic.

Shiha believes that women possess remarkable strength to forge their paths and achieve success independently, despite the degree of oppression she finds within the entertainment industry. She thinks that the industry often favours men, leaving little space for women to showcase their brilliance. “With all due respect, women in this industry deserve respect and equal treatment,” she passionately asserts.

Suit by Alexandre Vauthier from Villa Baboushka

Besides the Ramadan series, Embratoreyet Meem (M Empire), in which she stars, Shiha is looking forward to getting the chance to portray motherhood freshly and uniquely in a role that is different from those that have come before. “I’m inspired by strong women who possess genuine stories to tell and meaningful human connections. I hope to work on a project like that soon,” she concludes.

Enigma Questionnaire

What is the best quality in your personality?
That I accept everyone with no judgement.

What is motherhood to you?
Unconditional love defines the essence of motherhood for me.

What activities do you enjoy with your children?
I love going to the cinema, sharing sushi meals, and baking with my children.

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your career?
I’ve learned the art of patience and its significance in my journey.

Do you prefer working in cinema or on television?
Cinema, all the way. It feels like home to me, and I find that my acting style flourishes in the cinematic realm.

What is the highlight of your career thus far?
The highlight of my career is having the opportunity to work on numerous exceptional projects alongside industry luminaries.

Who are the women who have had the greatest influence on you?
My mother. She epitomised love, selflessness, and unwavering devotion. I am grateful that I do many things like her in my life.

What aspect of acting do you find most captivating?
I love acting merely for the sheer ability to take over different personas and convey the emotions of others, which resonates deeply with people.

Which roles do you prefer?
I believe actors should explore a wide range of roles. However, I have a particular fondness for light comedy and socially impactful characters that resonate with everyone.

Could you share something you admire about each of your sisters?
I love Hana’s strength and clarity, Maya’s infectious humour and Rasha’s ability to simplify and ease any situation. These are qualities I deeply admire in each of them.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Abdallah Sabry

STYLIST: Mohamed Ashraf

MAKEUP: Laurice Matta

HAIR: @mr.bishoo from Al Sagheer Salons